What is Adaptive Learning in Professional Development?

Adaptive learning, utilizing technology and data, tailors education to individual needs. Explore its definition, technology, methods, types, and advantages in this article.

Technology Trends
  • Release Date: 19 February 2024
  • Update Date: 15 March 2024
  • Author: Speaker Agency

In 2020, Training Magazine reported that companies invest about $1,100 per employee each year in training. For small businesses, that's a significant expense for professional development despite the benefits it brings.

So, why does this matter? Adaptive learning is about using technology and data to tailor education or training to each person's needs. It adjusts the content to fit each learner's style and preferences.

In this article, we'll explore what adaptive learning is, the technology it relies on, different methods and types, and the advantages it offers.

Adaptive Learning 690X460

What is Adaptive Learning?

Adaptive learning recognizes that everyone learns differently, so one-size-fits-all methods need to be revised. These systems gather data from how learners engage, like their answers, progress, and preferences, to tailor the content and delivery of instruction. This personalized approach gives learners the right support and feedback for their level and goals.

Basically, adaptive learning uses technology to customize education and training. It collects data before and during learning to create programs that fit each student's needs. The best platforms use data mining to optimize content for each learner, using information gathered from their interactions with learning materials.

Does adaptive learning work?

Essentially, adaptive learning software evaluates how well a student understands a topic in real-time and adjusts the next lesson or activity accordingly, leading to better learning outcomes.

For instance, picture a college course unit with ten new concepts and a quiz at the end before moving on to the next unit. Let's say there are 100 students, and historically, the average quiz grade is 70%.

Educators know that while there's an average score, there's no one-size-fits-all reason why some students score lower. It could be:

  • Person A struggles with the last few concepts.
  • Person B has trouble with different concepts.
  • Person C might struggle with one key concept, affecting their overall score.
  • Person D finds the new material repetitive and loses interest.
  • Person E might miss important lessons due to family or work obligations.

Adaptive learning adjusts to each person’s needs, helping them succeed regardless of their individual challenges.

How does adaptive learning compare to traditional learning methods?

  • Personalization: Adaptive learning focuses on tailoring education to each learner's needs, while traditional learning tends to be more one-size-fits-all.
  • Self-pacing: With adaptive learning, students can go at their own speed, spending as much time as they need on each topic. Traditional learning usually follows a set pace.
  • Engagement: Adaptive learning tools are often more engaging because they adapt to each student's level, helping them master skills more effectively.
  • Time-saving: Creating customized lesson plans for each student would take a lot of time for instructors. Adaptive learning technology saves time by providing personalized resources without requiring significant input from instructors or employers.

How does adaptive learning help with professional development? 

Here's how it works:

  • Pre-assessment: Before you start learning, there's a test to see where you stand and what you want to achieve.
  • Content adaptation: The system picks the best material for you to learn based on your test results and ongoing progress.
  • Feedback and scaffolding: You get instant feedback to help you improve and reach your goals.
  • Progress tracking and reporting: You can see how far you've come and get tips on what to do next.
Adaptive Learning Meaning

Types of technologies used to support adaptive learning

There are different types of adaptive learning technologies to support learners on their educational journeys. Here are some examples:

Machine-Learning-Based Systems

These systems use advanced technology like machine learning to adapt to each learner's needs. They analyze patterns, predict outcomes, and provide real-time feedback on performance.

Advanced Algorithm Adaptive Systems

These systems evaluate how learners are progressing in real-time. They analyze feedback and content to adjust the learning path accordingly. They also compare data from different learners to improve the learning experience.

Rules-Based Adaptive Systems

These systems follow a set of rules to customize learning. They provide different information based on each learner's responses and behavior, helping them progress at their own pace.

Benefits of Adaptive Learning

Personalized Learning

Traditional teaching methods often focus on the average student, leaving high and low performers with too much or too little instruction. Adaptive technology changes that by letting each student learn at their own speed. 

High achievers can move ahead quickly, while those who need extra help can go over lessons until they understand. This way, every student gets the right amount of attention, and teachers can focus on each person's needs.

Technology in Education

Technology in education means positively using technology to make learning more interesting and diverse. It helps students not only learn their lessons but also how to use technology itself.

With technology, students can easily find information, learn faster, and have fun practicing what they learn. It lets them explore new topics and understand hard ideas, especially in subjects like science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). By using technology in and out of class, students can learn important technical skills they'll need for jobs in the future.

Learning Paths

One great thing about adaptive learning is how it tracks students' progress and identifies where they need help and where they excel right away. This means we can improve education apps by tailoring them to each student's needs. Students can master a topic completely before moving on to harder stuff, thanks to this personalized approach.

Educational technology

Companies and schools use educational technology like adaptive learning to give employees personalized training. This helps each person learn what they need to know, making them more engaged, better at their jobs, and more likely to stick around.


Overall, getting adaptive and personalized learning right takes careful planning and execution. Schools and companies must collaborate closely with technology providers to create learning environments that work.

Adaptive learning tools are still new in the business world but are catching on quickly. If schools' experiences are anything to go by, we'll soon see more of them. As learners get more personalized learning, training courses will change for the better. This means a workforce that's more skilled and adaptable. 

So, companies should start looking into adaptive learning now and create a professional development plan– it could be the future of training.

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