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Tech Geniuses Say Adaptive Learning Software Won’t Replace Your Kid’s Teacher Anytime Soon

Adam Mesenbrink

Your kid doesn’t have to know anything yet for you to worry about their education — and there are plenty of things to worry about. Adaptive learning software, which employs algorithms that adapt to individual educational needs, is viewed by some as a potential solve for some of the more vexing problems. But not everyone is convinced, including the decidedly not-technophobic folks at the Bill And Melinda Gates Foundation.

They just released a massive study that finds this state of the art educational software might not be worth getting that worked up over, because it doesn’t necessarily work. SRI International, a nonprofit research institute, analyzed data from 20,000 college students, 300 instructors, and 14 universities using some of the most popular adaptive learning software out there (ALEKS and Open Learning Initiative, to name a few). Students either used the software as the sole method of learning, combined with instruction from a teacher, or not at all. In a majority of instances, students who used the programs were no more likely to pass courses or receive better grades than students who learned from a human — like you did back when you’d walk uphill both ways for the privilege.

Adaptive Learning Software Might Not Work

The education innovation experts at The Hechinger Report call the study the most rigorous of its kind and  note that overall the takeaways are more constructive than critical. For example, the report suggests that students are best served when technology is combined with face to face instruction from the teacher. Then again, researchers made a point of noting that technology moves fast and by the time this data was analyzed, several advances in the software had already been made. Like the rest of education, there’s room for improvement, and like the rest of technology, they’re working on it.

[H/T] U.S. News & World Report