Personalized Learning Without People?

It’s clear that adaptive learning is here and it means big business.

One of the greatest ironies of useful technology is that the more we interact with it, the less we seem to interact with each other. One of the latest trends in education is adaptive learning. This concept is based upon emerging technologies that allow learning content to adapt, based upon the response of the student or participant. This technology also tracks learning performance over time, creating a dynamic profile of learner trends and progress.

In Time magazine (June 17) , one of its articles entitled, “‘A’ is for Adaptive, ” highlights how rapidly adaptive learning tools are being developed to transform education around the world. The article says:

“It’s impossible to provide one-to-one teaching on a mass scale, but technology enables us to get closer than ever before. As schools increasingly invest in computers and other digital products, students have access to a wider range of study materials, and teachers and administrators have the ability to view precise analyses of how they respond to that material, adjusting as needed. Proponents claim that these tools will allow teachers to help struggling students before they fail a test rather than discovering problems too late. The promise of these predictive metrics has set off a gold rush in education technology.”

It’s clear that adaptive learning is here and it means big business for those that are able to integrate it into existing education systems within both the public and private sectors.

But there is a great risk here. If educators and employers rely too much on technology to tell them how their people are performing, they will be making decisions without a complete picture of their student or employee. What are missing are the individual, human factors.

Complex algorithms and big data are great for providing relevant performance data. But if the data is not assessed and interpreted by an expert who understands the human factors at play, there is a high risk that people will get labeled, pigeon-holed and put on the wrong track early in their educational or career pursuits.

The key is in finding the balance between intuitive technology and the human elements that can’t be measured or easily assessed using automated data analytics.

You simply can’t take the person out of personalized learning and development.