Plan for FrLv! May 10, 2019

Adaptive Courseware in Higher Education

  • Actual (not merely intended) successes? disappointments?
  • Adopt/Avoid/Adapt?  Why?  Who?  How?
  • (Especially: Math 101, English 101, Chemistry 101)

2:00pmET Introduction – Begin recording– Steve Gilbert

Why “Adaptive Courseware”?  “Killer” Gateway Courses

Recap and Discuss Articles:  

I. Historical perspective: “Programmed instruction” Edutech Wiki

II.  Recent:  Higher ed publisher acquires company with “…affordable courseware …and… adaptive learning capabilities”
Wiley Signs Agreement to Purchase the Assets of Knewton,” Monday, May 6, 2019

III.  Current:  “New Frontiers of Adaptive Learning,
David Raths, Education Trends, Campus Technology, 04/24/19

Discussion:  Examples and Factors

What might support or impede the effective integration of adaptive courseware into “Killer” Gateway Courses such as Math, English, Chem 101.

  • You are welcome to ask questions and to offer your own opinions, especially those based on your past experience and current activities at institutions you know.

Discussion:  Claims, Hopes, Disappointments

2:45pmET  Closing


  1. What was most useful today?
  2. What was not clear enough?
  3. What would be a useful follow-up?
    Requests and Recommendations?
  4. How might you contribute to the follow-up?

Next Week:  THEME:  ….

Identify Specific Activity, Date, People


Excerpts from: “Programmed instruction” Edutech Wiki

“Although Skinners [Skinner’s] initial programmed instruction format has undergone many transformations, most adaptations retain three essential features:
(1) an ordered sequence of items, either questions or statements to which the student is asked to respond;
(2) the student’s response, which may be in the form of filling in a blank, recalling the answer to a question, selecting from among a series of answers, or solving a problem; and
(3) provision for immediate response confirmation, somtimes [sometimes] within the program frame itself but usually in a different location, as on the next page in a programmed textbook or in a separate window in the teaching machine. (Joyce, Weil & Calhoun, 2000:332)”

Subtopic headings from article (selected excerpts available further below):

  1. Definitions
  2. Theory and history
  3. The architectures of programmed instruction
  4. Additional topics
    4.1 The role of the teachers in Skinner’s thoughts
    4.2 Technological progress
    4.3 Open-contents and programmed instructional texts
    See open educational resources.
  5. References and links

Excerpts from “New Frontiers of Adaptive Learning,

by David Raths, Education Trends, Campus Technology, 04/24/19,

“…use of adaptive courseware in the humanities.

” U. of Miss. …using adaptive learning to help first-year writing students grasp rhetorical concepts…used ..locally contextualized personalized learning courseware to address the readiness gap…in first-year composition,

“…working with adaptive learning is not intuitive to composition instructors.

“Collaborating for Student Success

“…effort to scale up the use of adaptive courseware to increase student retention and graduation rates. The eight universities have been guided by the APLU’s Personalized Learning Consortium and funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  (In January 2017, Campus Technology interviewed university leaders involved about ramping up these efforts; see “Scaling Up with Adaptive Learning.”)

“Oregon State U. APLU project …college algebra, …the most commonly failed course in the country. ‘Our DFW [grades of D, F or withdrawals] rates have gone down significantly since we started, so we know that at least for the course we are using it in it is working.’  …uses a McGraw Hill courseware product called ALEKS…. ‘we started with it as our math placement test,…then ALEKS has learning modules they [students] can work on to improve their placement…students…were performing well in the courses they were placing into’,…

“Choosing the Right Courseware

“…some platforms created by publishers have proprietary content, while other digital learning platforms are content-agnostic, and faculty members can use open educational resources or their own content with them.
“…it might make sense to choose the courseware first and then the textbook.

“One of the biggest complaints from students about digital learning platforms, O’Sullivan added, is that the courseware may be attached to a textbook, but the professor is not using it. …It is best when everything aligns exactly and students are applying what they are learning in the courseware directly in class.’

“Adaptive Learning in the Humanities

“‘I would have thought before getting involved in adaptive learning that English composition might not apply, but they have applied it beautifully and I see other applications in the humanities where people are using it. I know the inclination is for STEM to use adaptive courseware, but I can’t think of a discipline that [it wouldn’t be useful for].’

“‘Students who are less prepared use them [“micro modules”] as a way to learn this content and strategies. Students who are well prepared use them as a way to refresh their understanding. If the courseware tells us they understand the strategy, but it is not showing up in their papers, as instructors we try to figure out how we can help them apply that. The courseware allows us to assess whether they have a basic understanding of the concepts, even if they can’t apply it in their papers.’

“Asked about how adaptive learning could be applied to other humanities courses, Forgette suggested that patience is going to be key. ‘Before we figured out how this could work with composition, we had a lot of failed projects…We had to step back and look at how we could use this locally and how it could benefit our students. That is when we got a project that we felt was successful.’…adaptive courseware can free up instructors to spend time on what they see as most valuable.”


EXCERPT from news release  Monday, May 6, 2019:

“John Wiley & Sons… to acquire the assets of Knewton, a provider of affordable courseware and adaptive learning technology

“…knewton… has developed an advanced learning system demonstrated to deliver highly-personalized learning experiences that drive superior outcomes. The Company’s Alta courseware platform delivers high-quality, Open Educational Resource (OER) content to more than 300 colleges and universities, with course offerings in key subject areas, including math, chemistry and economics.”

“Wiley Signs Agreement to Purchase the Assets of Knewton,” Monday, May 6, 2019 8:00 am EDT,