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How New Technology is Changing the Face of Education (Part 2)

What happens when you add cutting-edge technology, analytics and Big Data to the education sector and apply them to a student’s learning experience?

Answer: You get a radical new concept called “adaptive learning.”

And it’s turning the traditional school model on its head.

The key to adaptive learning centers on the fact that with a massive (and increasing) number of connected devices on the market, millions of data points can be captured and analyzed. Algorithms also allow us to extrapolate information and predict outcomes.

In short, everything electronic is measurable. And it’s changing the whole makeup of the classroom…

The “Flipped Classroom”

We all know how the traditional classroom model works: Kids go to school, learn the material that their teachers present, and then do homework to reinforce the lessons.

But what if that model was “flipped”? In other words, the conventional classroom experience is inverted, so students use online video and other electronic resources to learn at home, and then use classroom time to work on examples that reinforce the lessons.

In this way, students who grasp concepts faster end up helping slower students and teachers take on more of a coaching role.

One of the most publicized resources in the online education video market is the Khan Academy, where founder Salman Khan narrates nearly all of the 3,000-plus free “chalk talks” on a variety of subjects.

If you think this sounds a bit far-fetched, Clintondale High School, located just outside Detroit, has employed the “flipped classroom” model and Khan content with resounding success.

Before the flip, more than half of their freshmen failed English and 44% failed Math. After the flip, however, those numbers fell to 19% and 13%, respectively. The new model even reduced disciplinary cases by two-thirds.

But this kind of adaptive learning is really taking hold in the crowded eTextbook market…

Connected, Interactive Learning

Goodbye stuffy, oversized textbooks; hello eTextbooks.

And technology is propelling this relatively young market forward quickly.

The latest crop of eTextbooks feature chapters where students can pinch and zoom graphics to see them in greater detail, and manipulate 3-D graphics. Many books are also brimming with supplemental video and audio content.

It’s a more flexible, tidier way to learn, too. No need to lug heavy, book-laden backpacks around, as texts are stored in the Cloud. That way, students can use multiple mobile devices to pick up where they left off.

As for scribbling in the margins… yep, you can still do that. Except digitally. Same goes for highlighting key terms or quotes in the text. Students can also create virtual flash cards and study guides and quiz themselves by double-tapping a chart.

In some cases, books are available to buy “a la carte” – i.e., buying individual chapters, rather than the whole book, which significantly reduces the considerable financial sting of textbook buying.

So who’s driving this market?

Old-School Textbook Publishers Are “Adapting” to This Growing Field

This spring, McGraw-Hill (MHP) will launch the SmartBook – an adaptive eTextbook for laptops, desktops and tablets that adjusts to students’ comprehension and speed.

Basically, instead of quizzing yourself, the SmartBook assesses knowledge as students complete topics, highlighting crucial, need-to-know content along the way.

In fact, the book will actually talk, offering voice instructions and coaching students on the most effective way to read the material. If students answer incorrectly, it guides them to material that they need to re-read.

Collectively, the SmartBook will cover 90 different subject areas and cost $20 per title.

But McGraw-Hill isn’t the only publisher in the market. Far from it.

Startups like Kno and Inkling have partnered with about 80 other publishers, including Pearson (PSO), Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Jon Wiley & Sons (JW.A) to produce over 200,000 titles so far.

And they’re just as interactive and adaptive.

For example, Kno’s “Kno Me” analytics dashboard allows students to view real-time statistics on their study behavior, time management, interaction levels and progress.

And Knewton – a New York-based startup founded in 2008 – takes a similar approach to its Adaptive Learning Platform.

Founder and CEO Jose Ferreira bills the company’s product as a “recommendation engine,” which uses algorithms to pinpoint students’ optimum study times. For example, “You learn math best in the morning between 8:32 and 9:14 AM. You learn science best in 40-minute bite sizes. At the 42-minute mark, your click rate begins to decline, so we should pull you from that and move you to something else to keep you engaged.”

Add it up, and you’ve got an education sector that’s gradually embracing innovative new technologies to change the playing field for students and teachers alike.

You could say, it’s learning to adapt to adaptive learning.

Ahead of the tape,

Elizabeth Carney