Screen Shot 2013-09-04 at 12.32.20More interesting news from adaptive learning technology provider Knewton today, as they announced their latest publisher partnership, this time with Cambridge University Press, and the opening of a new office in London. The partnership will see the Knewton API integrated with the Cambridge LMS platform, which currently serves over 250,000 students and teachers globally. The move enables Cambridge to start incorporating recommendations and analytics into their LMS-based courses.

The deal would seem to cement Knewton’s position as one of the hottest tech partners out there right now for educational publishers. In addition to the Cambridge partnership, which will focus on ELT, Knewton already has partnerships on board with Pearson (for US higher ed), Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (for US K12), Macmillan Education (for international ELT), Triumph Learning (for US K12) and Wiley (for international higher ed).

The use of analytics is a tricky area in education. At a conference several years ago, I watched a representative from IBM receive a very frosty reception when he presented an analytics-based tool designed to predict student failure; the tool was based on software used to predict where and when crimes might happen (I think it ended up being a tougher sell than he’d imagined). But at eltjam, we’re very interested in the possibilities that adaptive learning could bring to ELT. If student engagement is the goal — and for many of us it is — then good analytics can be one tool that helps us achieve it.

One of teachers’ biggest bugbears is that publisher-derived ELT content is too generic, too impersonal, too divorced from the realities of students’ lives. A more adaptive approach — one that allowed learners to focus in on their interests, their weaknesses, and their goals — could offer a solution to that. We’re very excited to see how Knewton’s expertise will feed into ELT content, both from Cambridge and Macmillan. As soon as we get to try some of it out, we’ll report back.

Here’s Knewton’s announcement about the CUP partnership.

3 Comments

  1. I think the jury is very much still out on adaptive learning in general and Knewton specifically. They certainly have great PR but they are making a big switch from B2C to B2B by partnering with all known publishers. The fruits of the partnerships are still to be seen, I believe.
    Thought adaptive learning undoubtedly has the potential to be very powerful, I do not think it will take away the need for teachers. In fact, until computers can truly interact with people, there will continue to be a need for teachers. We teach language, language is about communication between people, so you cannot remove people just yet.
    Far more of a threat for ELT, if we take the chicken little approach, is the advance of Google translate and voice recognition. Once these work proficiently and we essentially have Douglas Adams’ Babel Fish, learning a foreign language will no longer be necessary and the only learners we will have left are the ones who do it for the love of English – anyone hazard a guess what percentage that would be of the current total?
    On a side note, the last I heard was that Deep Blue ended up being used to issue airline tickets, while humans are still playing chess.

  2. Interesting developments – but is a system like Knewton really only providing Adaptive Testing? That is, it recommends Step 2 depending on how you performed in Step 1’s formative assessment of an activity.
    It’s not clear whether the degree of personalised learning includes letting students choose the topic (eg an A2 text about cars instead of the coursebook text about zebras) to make a truly personalised pathway. Need more info on the pedagogical approach these engines facilitate

  3. Adaptive learning is an educational method which uses computers as interactive TEACHING devices (source: Wikipedia) and not LEARNING devices (my own opinion).
    The implicit assumption behind adaptive learning is the redundancy of teachers. Quite an audacious bet for a publisher like CUP that has built his success thanks to all the teachers around the world, especially for an unproven technology.
    Adaptive learning is to teachers what Deep blue is to human chess players. Adaptive learning with the current state of the art is the last trick to maintain high margins and high prices for the students (Margins are shrinking for most of the players in the ELT industry).

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