Gates Foundation underscores value of adaptive learning in new report and grant program, cites ALEKS among examples of adaptive learning’s early success

Published April 25, 2013

By Communications Team

It’s no secret that McGraw-Hill and ALEKS Corporation are big believers in the power of personalized learning through adaptive technology to help improve student performance. For years, our adaptive solutions have been helping educators deliver unparalleled personalized learning experiences that are boosting student grades and retention, as well as enabling instructors to dedicate more class time on covering advanced concepts.

Now, it seems that we’re not the only ones.

Writing about the potential of adaptive learning in a blog post, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation had this to say:

Today, more than ever, a college credential is critical to obtaining a middle class job and career. The historical and economic data are very clear – an education beyond high school is an important stepping stone toward success and economic independence. Yet we know that nearly half of all students who start higher education will not succeed or finish.

What if approaches to learning and instruction were individualized to better serve the needs of the individual learner? What if students could access more personalized and immediate feedback and instruction – just enough to help them succeed through a course and give them the confidence to know that they can succeed in college? We believe that potential – which we call “adaptive learning” – exists.

In March, the Gates Foundation began to solicit proposals from U.S. colleges and universities for ten $100,000 grants to help those schools launch adaptive courses over the next two years. We commend this decision because we’ve seen the benefits of adaptive learning first-hand and are eager to see more colleges and universities across the country experience the same impressive results.

We’re also proud to report that the foundation’s call for grant proposals highlighted Cal State Northridge’s success in using ALEKS, an artificially-intelligent, adaptive learning program distributed by McGraw-Hill for math, as an example of the impact that adaptive learning can have on students, instructors, and institutions.

ALEKS® (Assessment and Learning in Knowledge Spaces) was developed by a team of software engineers, mathematicians, and cognitive scientists, and is a pioneer in adaptive learning. ALEKS, uses research-based, artificial intelligence to rapidly and precisely determine each student’s knowledge state, pinpointing exactly what a student knows and doesn't know in a course. ALEKS then instructs students on the exact topics they’re most ready to learn, constantly updating each student’s knowledge state and adapting to the student’s individualized learning needs. Millions of students around the world have achieved success in math using ALEKS.

If you’re looking for more evidence of the benefits of adaptive learning, a 2012 independent study of the adaptive learning program McGraw-Hill LearnSmart® showed that LearnSmart can have dramatic effects on student performance and retention— including turning C students into B students and B students into A students.

That’s only part of the story. In January, McGraw-Hill launched LearnSmart Advantage, a suite of adaptive learning products for higher education that takes adaptive learning beyond the realm of course study tools—providing students with more dynamic, personalized learning experiences across the learning experience. Included in the suite is SmartBook, the world’s first ever adaptive e-book, which revolutionizes college reading by focusing students’ attention on the content that is most critical to their learning. Also included in the suite are LearnSmart Prep, a “before-the-course” adaptive resource designed to prepare students entering complex courses that are critical to the completion of their major or degree, and LearnSmart Labs, a photo-realistic virtual lab experience that enables meaningful scientific exploration and learning while eliminating many of the practical challenges of a physical lab setting.

We’re excited about the prospect of extending adaptive learning in all areas of education, and we’re eager to see many more schools experience the benefits it can provide. If you’d like to read more about the benefits of adaptive learning, you can check out a new report from Education Growth Advisors that was commissioned by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and a group of innovative higher education institutions.