Millions of dollars and hundreds of hours of conference presentations have been invested into how adaptive learning technologies create personalized learning experiences and help persistence, retention, and graduation. Much of this effort has focused around programs targeted at adult learners seeking career focused education. In this provocative piece When Personalized Learning Is a Logical Fallacy, the author Michael Feldstein proposes that you cannot measure the value of an adaptive educational technology product to students outside of the teaching context, in other words apart from the teaching intervention the product supports.
The author begins by pointing out that both education practitioners and education technology companies are confusing tools and teaching.
"The distinction between adaptive learning and personalized learning, between a tool and a teaching technique, is necessary to the basic logic that enables us to understand how the various parts of any teaching intervention work together to make a difference."
Later in the article the author argues that it is critical that we get this right.
"When we conflate product talk with learning-intervention talk, we lose our ability to distinguish the factors that are critical to achieving the learning outcomes we want.
Until we make this distinction clearly and consistently, we can throw unlimited amounts of money at researching, developing, and promoting the spread of educational technology and still fail to make a difference in students’ lives."
As more colleges move to competency-based learning models, focused on mastery not seat time, we must be especially cognizant of how technology supports the teacher, the learner, and the process they use together. At Sagence Learning we do not "provide" adaptive learning, personalized learning, or competency based education. Our platform supports teaching techniques for personalized learning strategies within a competency-based learning model in a CBE Certificate Program, CBE Degree Program, or CBE hybrid model. Our product has value within CBL strategies and it works to support and enable those strategies.
The author cites leading researchers in the field who offer their thoughts on the effectiveness of technology.
“A product cannot be evaluated outside of its educational context. The contextual factors are huge. So a product just can’t be efficacious or not. It always has to be contextualized.”
The author argues its not the technology, its the teaching. Technology itself does not insure success.
"Distinguishing between talk about a product and talk about a teaching intervention matters because we care about understanding how well what we try will work with an actual set of students in an actual classroom. To evaluate the efficacy of a product independently of the actions taken by students and teachers in the context in which the product is used is to commit a logical fallacy."
Sagence Learning's technology exists for one reason: to give colleges and universities the tools and a blueprint for delivering robust CBE programs. Our product was created to support our partners' programs and teaching techniques that provide adult learners with the flexible but focused learning experiences they need to achieve their academic goals leading to real-world jobs and career achievement.
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