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Friday, August 4, 2017

National U. Rethinking Personalized Learning

National University, a California-based nonprofit that primarily enrolls adults students, has launched a $20 million, four-year project to create a personalized learning platform that combines adaptive learning, competency-based education learning (CBE), and predictive analytics. The goal is to use the new platform in 20 general-education courses by next year.

The three elements would combine in courseware that would adjust to each student’s abilities and progress, while providing data to track that progress for faculty, advisors, and the students. Incorporating CBE will make it possible to drop conventional grading and divide the course and its credits into skills the students have mastered.

As part of the project, National has also established a research-and-development department to support faculty members and will make its research available to the public.

“How do we create a university that truly tries to adapt to the needs of its students?” asked National’s president, David Andrews. “We have to have a better model for serving adults.”

Fitting all the pieces into one cohesive platform won’t be easy. Getting the CBE portion right could be the biggest challenge because it requires approval from accreditors. Providing financial aid may also prove troublesome, in the view of some industry observers.

“There’s a huge risk that you don’t understand the problem. Will they truly learn and adjust as they go along?” said Phil Hill, co-publisher of the e-Literate blog, about designing academic programs around adult learners. But he also added, “It’s definitely interesting. It’s a relatively large university that appears to be going all in on personalized learning.”

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