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Investigating the effect of an adaptive learning intervention on students’ learning


Educators agree on the benefits of adaptive learning, but evidence-based research remains limited as the field of adaptive learning is still evolving within higher education. In this study, we investigated the impact of an adaptive learning intervention to provide remedial instruction in biology, chemistry, math, and information literacy to first-year students (n = 128) entering a pharmacy professional degree program. Using a mixed methods design, we examined students’ learning in each of the four content areas, their experience using the adaptive system, and student characteristics as related to their choice of participating in the intervention. The findings showed the adaptive learning intervention helped address the knowledge gap for chemistry, but the same effect was not observed for the other three content areas. Math anxiety was the only student characteristic that showed a significant relationship with students’ participation. While the students reported an overall positive experience, the results also revealed time factor and several design flaws that could have contributed to the lack of more student success. The findings highlight the importance of design in adaptive learning.

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We would like to thank Daniel Robinson, Ph.D. and Adam Sales, Ph.D. for their helpful advice on the quantitative analyses of this study; and Phillip Long, Ph.D. for his support to this project.

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Correspondence to Min Liu.

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Liu, M., McKelroy, E., Corliss, S.B. et al. Investigating the effect of an adaptive learning intervention on students’ learning. Education Tech Research Dev 65, 1605–1625 (2017).

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  • Adaptive learning
  • Personalized learning
  • College teaching
  • Mixed-methods
  • Math anxiety
  • Design