Students deserve the opportunity to be successful in their educational career. Access to resources and materials along with adequate technology is necessary for their academic success. All students, especially at-risk and special populations, must be afforded the opportunity to access curriculum at the same level as their grade-level peers.

Now that a large population of students has experienced an academic set back from the pandemic, it is imperative that educators provide them with the tools and resources needed to be successful. Adaptive technology can be implemented with fidelity to narrow achievement gaps and provide students with the support they need to mitigate the loss of further learning deficits.

What is Adaptive Learning Technology?

Adaptive learning technology helps students to process information and curriculum content with a variety of tools which also may include computer-based programs. Adaptive technology equipment may consist of the use of computers, iPads, tablets, and other devices that aid students in meeting their academic goals.

Computer-based response programs can also be classified as adaptive technology and are designed to track student performance and growth over time.  Many commercial vendors may partner with school communities to provide academic programming consisting of adaptive technology.

Additional tools along with computer-based programs for student use may include the use of timers, reading guides, calculators, speech-to-text and text-to-speech features, graphic organizers, animated text, overlays, etc. Computer programs may be independently used when exploring new instructional content or completing assignments. It is imperative for educators to be trained to use adaptive technology efficiently and effectively to ensure they are able to close learning gaps for students.

How Do Students Benefit from Adaptive Technology?

Adaptive technology helps students read, hear, and comprehend literacy and numeracy concepts. Visual and audio supports may help students gain a deeper knowledge of the concepts in which they can then apply knowledge in new situations. Providing students with adaptive technology to better guide their understanding of concepts helps students to set academic goals that are attainable. Concepts and skills are scaffolded so that students may learn at their pace.

Additional features of adaptive technology may be used to help students process and understand content. The aforementioned tools of computers, tablets, and iPads with technology features and computer-based tracking programs allow students to learn at their own pace without the pressure of keeping up with their peers. With the additional assistance, many students can perform beyond their expectations and meet or exceed learning standards beyond their peers.

Ways to Utilize Adaptive Learning Tech for Student Success

Adaptive learning technology can be used to guide students during classroom instruction, interventions, and for tutorials and homework. During classroom instruction, students may access computer-based programs to reinforce skills they need additional assistance with or explore new content as a preview before receiving direct instruction from their teacher.

Adaptive technology can also include computer-based intervention programs that target specific skills that students may not have mastered and may also align with priority grade-level learning standards. In the computer-based programs, students practice specific targeted skills and can complete more complex skills as they meet mastery of the initially assigned content. Skills may be assigned by the teacher after an initial pre-assessment or computer programs may automatically assign students skills based on the outcomes of their preassessments.

Teachers may also assign homework using adaptive computer-based programs to ensure students are able to practice and retain information over periods of time. The differentiated assignments and progress monitoring allows students to make steady gains while learning content. According to Guido (2016), differentiated learning platforms can increase learning outcomes for students.

Students become more independent and in control of their learning when they have adequate support, understanding, and guidance from their teachers and are able to interpret the data produced by adaptive technology via computer-based programs. It is also important to increase response times to better utilize adaptive learning technology for students (Mettler, Massey, & Kellman, 2011). When data is reviewed, analyzed, and shared in a timely manner, students can set realistic and attainable goals.

Planning for Obstacles of Adaptive Technology

Ultimately, it is also important to anticipate the challenges of using adaptive technology. Johanes and Lagerstrom (2017) stresses to anticipate and avoid the pitfalls of adaptive learning when planning instruction for students. Adaptive technology should not replace instruction but supplement the initial delivery of content provided by the classroom teacher. Overall, additional support and adequate technology resources must be provided to at-risk students.

The data from the computer-based programs should be used to guide instruction, provide targeted interventions, and not to place students in isolated categories. Last, but not least, student data must be securely stored and protected to ensure unnecessary labels are not placed on students.

Students and teachers need adequate training to effectively use adaptive technology and the tools needed to explore content. They may also need training on prerequisite skills if they are not accustomed to many features with computer hardware, software, or programming databases. Anticipating for obstacles and implementing systems is key to ensure students and teachers have a strong foundation for successfully using adaptive technology.

Ultimately adaptive learning technology is a beneficial tool to promote student achievement, close learning gaps, and a great way to progress monitor students. When students perform at higher levels, they are afforded realistic opportunities to access post-secondary education and career options. With adequate resources and adaptive technology tools and programs, all students can have access to an equitable educational experience and will be afforded the opportunity to become productive, life-long learners.

Guido, M. (2016). The ultimate guide to adaptive learning technology.

Johanes, P., & Lagerstrom, L. (2017, June), Adaptive learning: The premise, promise, and pitfalls Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2–27538

Mettler, E., Massy, C. M. & Kellman, P. J. (2011, July 20-23, 2011). Improving adaptive learning technology through the use of response times [Paper presentation]. Grantee Submission, Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society 33rd, Boston, MA, United States