Stage 3 – Adaptive engines

In the late 1990s some game manufacturers started to build “game engines.” These provided all of the key programming components of the game – the way the characters and objects interact, the “physics” of the world, and so on.

Game designers could create a “world” that characters could wander through at will, and could then devote most of their effort to plot, characters, artistic features of their “world,” etc. The underlying “magic” was done by the game engine. The days of having lots of programmers and few artists and storytellers had passed. The amount of time needed to create a game reduced considerably.

Finally, the storytelling was the focus rather than the computer coding.

Education is about to discover this “magic” phase. Just as “gaming engines” revolutionized game making, adaptive learning engines are about to revolutionize education.

Adaptive learning engines will do the hard work, such as

  • discovering what students know and don’t know
  • providing paths to learning resources that are needed by a students at a particular time, and guiding him/her to those resources
  • suggesting alternative learning resources when the initial ones provided in the course need supplementing
  • evaluating the effectiveness of learning resources and moving students to the more effective ones while moving them away from less effective ones.

Teachers will have to compile the appropriate resources, but the system will individualize the learning pathways.

Just as gamers now take for granted that they can wander anywhere and interact with any object in a gaming world, students will take for granted that they can access many paths and many objects in a way that suits their individual needs…and the time when this can happen is getting much closer.

Stage 4 – Walled gardens Vs Open systems

Walled gardens

Adaptive learning is already available for some disciplines. The areas that are almost universal, with a common core of knowledge, and that are similar around the world have a number of providers of web based resources for personalized learning…and the number is growing. (Mathematics e.g. Dreambox, Science and basic Literacy e.g. SuccessMaker).

Some text book providers, particularly in higher education, provide adaptive learning capabilities for courses that use their text books.

However, these are self-contained systems. They usually do not share data with others easily through open standards such as LTI. Thus, an organization with a heavy online presence through its own Online Learning Environment (such as a LMS) has difficulty integrating the data from multiple systems, and has difficulty integrating its own learning materials.