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Understanding Adaptive Learning

Adaptive Learning is a technique or style of delivering learning tailored to the responses and behavior of the learners participating in a course. It is an alternate solution to a template-driven, standard, and one-size-fits-all learning program. This blog will offer a quick introduction to adaptive learning and examine its benefits. We will also explore different scenarios where adaptive learning will work better.

What is Adaptive Learning?

Some of the popular definitions of adaptive learning are given below:

Adaptive learning — or adaptive teaching — is the delivery of custom learning experiences that address the unique needs of an individual through just-in-time feedback, pathways, and resources (rather than providing a one-size-fits-all learning experience).

This definition is from the Smart Sparrow website.

Adaptive learning in general means tailoring learning to fit the individual needs of each learner, and in reference to learning tech, means the use of technology such as algorithms and artificial intelligence to curate learning.

This definition is from Al Thompson’s article on the Thrive Learning Blog.

Let us simplify this further. Have you taken any online tests like the IELTS, the GRE, or GMAT? The tests are designed in such a way that the difficulty levels of the questions keep increasing as the student gives correct answers to the questions. When the student answers multiple questions incorrectly, the subsequent questions that are presented are easier. This combination of presenting tough and easy questions based on the student’s answers is the easiest way to explain adaptive learning.

How Can L&D Teams Benefit from Adaptive Learning?

This TEDx Talk given by Pranav Kothari at TEDx Gangtok offers some interesting insights on how adaptive technology is beneficial for both students and teachers. Though this video focuses more on adaptive technology from an academic perspective in schools and colleges, the concepts explained hold good for corporate learning as well.

Have you observed how some eLearning programs resonate really well with the employees whereas some eLearning programs seem to be a drag and employees plod through them to complete them? What could be the reasons for this?

The obvious answers about lack of learner engagement, poorly designed content, and mismatch between content and requirements, are just some of the points. Have you also considered the fact that not all the learners were at the same level of skills and competence? Some of the learners would be aware of the content of the program and may have had prior knowledge about the contents of the program. Whereas others would be exploring the topic for the first time.

This is where adaptive learning comes into play. Learning experience designers can focus on creating content and assessments in such a way that the content varies in complexity as per the learners’ skills and offers a personalized learning path. This can be done by setting up a small questionnaire that learners can answer before they progress to the actual eLearning program. By providing content that matches the knowledge levels of the learners, L&D teams will be doing a great service to the learners, and ensure that all employees complete the program as per schedule.

The Benefits of Adaptive Learning

Some of the key benefits of adaptive learning are listed below:

  • Learners are able to fix a pace for their learning and choose the modules that they wish to complete.

  • Proper progress charts and visual representations of their course progress motivate the learners to complete the program faster.

  • There is a clear indication that courses designed with adaptive learning as a framework ensure greater retention of learning and higher learner engagement.

  • Personalized assessments ensure that learners are tested clearly on the concepts that they learned in the course.

  • Comprehensive data collection from answers submitted by individual learners that helps L&D teams refine the course content and structure.

  • Success rates and real-time application of knowledge acquired through adaptive learning courses are greater than in non-adaptive learning courses.

In the following video, Nick Howe from Area 9 Learning offers a quick overview of the benefits of adaptive learning.

Using Artificial Intelligence to Design Adaptive Learning Systems

Looking beyond the actual eLearning course, L&D teams should also look at the delivery platform on which the eLearning courses are deployed. Be it an LMS, an LXP, a website, or a mobile learning app, how can it be made smarter using AI and algorithms to help run adaptive learning courses with ease?

The answer lies in proper data collection and management. The larger the organization and the number of learners, the scope for collecting information and employee insights are better. Development teams should work in close partnership with HR and Project Management teams to run skill tests for employees and map appropriate reskilling and training courses for them.

The data that is collected should be neatly structured and fed into a centralized repository or system, which should be linked to the LMS, LXP, website, or mobile app on which the training content is deployed. By analyzing this data, the system should be able to predict which learner will be able to finish the course faster and provide personalized learning paths and assessments for all learners.

Some of the popular adaptive learning platforms that are available in the market now are:

  • EdApp

  • Adaptemy

  • Knewton

This article shares a longer list of popular adaptive learning platforms.

Scenarios to Apply Adaptive Learning

Adaptive learning courses will work really well in courses that are focused on helping learners gain skills and certifications in a programming language, a sales automation tool, product training, or even learning a new language like Mandarin, Japanese, or German. Duolingo is a language learning app that is built on this very premise of adaptive learning and is one of the most popular language learning apps in the market.


At S4C, we believe in offering powerful and meaningful learning experiences that deliver results for our clients. Adaptive learning is one model or strategy used to design and deploy digital learning solutions. If you are looking for a trustworthy partner to design adaptive learning programs for your organization, write to us at


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