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Knewton's "Adaptive Learning" Technology Spreads To Tens Of Thousands Of Students At ASU, Penn State, SUNY, More


At the Venture Capital in Education Summit yesterday, Jose Ferreira, CEO of Knewton, announced the first big partnerships that will have tens of thousands of students trying the adaptive learning platform he's been building for the past five years.

What he calls a "data interoperability engine" promises to take any kind of educational content, break it down and present it to students at exactly the sequence and pace they need, while giving detailed feedback on performance to both students and professors. "We can classify students by ability level down to the concept," Ferreira tells Fast Company. "Professors get a profile and they know exactly what people know coming in."

Using content from giant publisher Pearson, Knewton built a math "College Readiness" course that is both remedial and diagnostic. It's online and self-paced so students can take it prior to registration or in their first semester. Students at Penn State University (PSU), University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV), the State University of New York (SUNY), and the small private Mount St. Mary’s University will be trying it next fall.

Arizona State is going further, using Knewton to create introductory math classes that blend online with in-person instruction, and in more classes in a different department to be announced later this year. "Knewton’s tremendous potential has a viral effect," Phil Regier, Executive Vice Provost and Dean of ASU Online, said.

Adaptive learning is a buzzword in educational technology these days. Simply put, it means any kind of software that responds to the learner as she puts in answers, much as a video game moves you on to harder and faster levels. Khan Academy's math modules work on similar principles. Brainscape, a showcase startup at the VC in Education Summit this year, offers an adaptive flashcard platform that promises to improve speed and retention.

[Image: Flickr user iouning]