by John Mullin, Enlearn CEO

In GSV Media’s ROBOED blog, Michael Moe concludes, “Powerful software that gives teachers, parents, and students real time information about how well you understand a subject — as well as timely prescriptions to fill gaps and optimize learning — are a game changer.” We of course agree. The platforms and applications reviewed in the article are a good start, but current offerings fall short of what will actually change the game for all students.

Adaptive applications and platforms today, such as those reviewed in GSV’s article, collect student data at a relatively coarse level. Students are pushed through multiple choice questions, after which their final answers are used to drive content recommendations, branching adaptation, and/or to populate teacher dashboards on student progress.  While this was at one time exciting and may provide some aggregate information for teachers, final answers to multiple choice questions offer teachers little insight about a student’s thought processes and specific misconceptions in real time during class. We know the student got the answer wrong, but we don’t know why or what specifically we can do about it.

As the article indicates, today if a student gets a problem wrong, “the system presents a slightly easier exercise, repeating the process until it finds a match.”  It’s an iterative guessing game to determine the underlying student misconception that led to the wrong answer, forcing the student through a series of problems that may have no benefit to his or her immediate learning need and which may lead to frustration and disengagement by the student.

Furthermore, telling a teacher where a student missed a problem or series of problems is very different from identifying the next best activity, instructional strategy, demonstration problem, or other intervention most likely to overcome each student’s misconceptions.  Teachers don’t need yet another data dump or pie chart on what students don’t know; they need support in identifying what to do next in real time to help each student succeed — how they can best use their limited instructional time to the greatest benefit of students.

At Enlearn, we encode the entire thought processes within each problem. This enables us to identify, while the student is working the problem, specifically where or how they are getting off track.  We can then use this diagnosis to provide hints or scaffolds to get a student back on track within a problem and to deliver a subsequent exercise or series of problems that focus on the specific misconception identified.  Simultaneously we can provide teachers with real-time data on the specific struggle for each student and recommendations on instructional strategies or interventions shown to be most effective in overcoming the misconceptions identified.  No guessing game, no student working in isolation, no unactionable teacher dashboards.  We’re enabling personalization and adaptivity within each problem, and throughout every classroom.