Adept’s Guide to Innovative Learning

by Alex Malloy

Teaser image credit: Cambridge University Library / Leader image credit: ELT Jam

We’ve been fluttery-eyed for education over the past couple of years, and our love for all things learning doesn’t look like it’s going to dwindle any time soon…

After completing two University of Cambridge projects – one for their central platform and another for Cambridge University Centre – we’ve now partnered up with their publishing arm, Cambridge University Press.

They’re the world’s oldest publisher and the second biggest university press, and we’re building them an adaptive learning platform called Adept which will aid teaching and learning of English as a foreign language (EFL).

An adaptive learning platform is a type of computer-based learning that provides responsive teaching and guidance for its users, evolving with them through the process. In short, it listens and adapts to students’ learning styles. Many of their publications have focussed on teaching and learning EFL, so this movement over to the virtual world will allow them to share this (huge!) knowledge base. Also, global audiences will be able to use it with a flexible and accessible approach. The aim is to have a cross-continent audience and reach out to all levels of teachers, students and institutions.

‘The Press’, as they’re often called, have an existing learning management system– the adaptive learning platform we are building will extend and leverage the learning content. The upgrade from standard LMS to adaptive learning platform will aim to parallel their half-a-millennia of experience.

They came to us with some solid aims and requirements for this project. A lot of work had already gone into mapping out ideas for the adaptive platform project before we became partners. Though of course, once we confirmed the partnership, it was time to pool ideas from both sides in the form of a discovery phase. All sorts were discussed at the discovery, one aspect being integrations… Enter Knewton.

Who are Knewton?

Based in New York, Knewton have really taken the lead in the adaptive learning field. The Knewton system integrates into online platforms and leads, directs, and curates the learning experience for its users, ultimately producing better results for them. By collecting data and generating insight, it focuses on the individual, understands different learning types, personalises digital courses, and profiles its users – watch this Knewton video to find out more. In terms of topic, this project marks the first time they’ve integrated with a platform for language learning.

Cambridge University Press recognised the benefits that can be achieved by using a complex system such as Knewton, especially for their global user base to-be. The decision was made for Cambridge University Press and Knewton to partner a year ago, and now that we’re involved, it’s time to get on with the phase one build.

How does it all work?

Knewton usually work with directly with their partners; this is the first time Drupal has been involved with one of their adaptive learning partnerships. So, now there’s a third party involved (us) instead of just the teaching body and Knewton. The diagram below shows how all three of us communicate the relevant data to make the adaptive learning platform work properly.

Adaptive learning overview with Cambridge University and Knewton

What’s the point of adaptive learning?

When it comes to learning online, who says we have to share the same techniques? Why not learn in a way that suits us as individuals instead of taking a one-size-fits-all approach? If we all learn in the same way as each other, it could be argued that the individual outcomes of our studies may become less varied… The Knewton and Cambridge University Press collaboration addresses this by allowing loads of variation on learning methods, adjusting to the learner’s style and creating a personal experience. You keep the learning styles you need and work with best; Adept achieve their aim to support your learning.

To leave you with, here are a few great benefits of adaptive learning platforms:

  1. Manage resource: Nothing can be lost – all study resources, information and learning trends are stored in one place and are easily accessible
  2. Monitor: Teachers and institutions can easily monitor the progress of their students
  3. Support: Adaptive learning platforms support teachers with setting goals for their students
  4. Interact: Forums can be used to communicate and make asking questions easy, whether it’s student to student, teacher to student or vice versa
  5. Globalise: Geographical restrictions don’t come into play
  6. Combine education styles: Adaptive platforms can be used in conjunction with face to face learning and textbooks
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