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Helix Uses Storytelling, Adaptive Technology To Personalize Learning

Altius Education has launched a developer preview of Helix, an online learning environment designed to personalize higher education.

The new tool "combines the powers of storytelling, big data, cognitive science, and current technologies to fundamentally change the way students experience online learning," according to information released by the company.

The storytelling aspect of the platform is designed to add relevance to courses and improve engagement and retention by creating a narrative framework for students based on their interests and educational goals.

At the beginning of a course, students are asked to choose a story that applies to them. To use an example from the Altius Web site, students taking an introductory photography course are asked if they are interested in sports, wedding, or safari photography. It then provides information about why the course is important to their aspirations and what topics within the course they should pay special attention to.

"According to cognitive science, our brains are wired to learn best through stories," Said Altius CEO Paul Freedman in a news release. "Stories are fundamental to the human experience. They help us organize information and make sense of the world. Helix acts on this knowledge and uses stories to create a narrative context for learning that's relevant and engaging."

The platform's adaptive capabilities include the ability for students to self-test on a topic so that Helix can adapt to their needs, feedback about the pace of their learning to help in scheduling, and competency goals that are tailored to their degree, major, and expected graduation date.

Other features of Helix include:

  • Forums for students to interact with instructors and one another;
  • Collaborative learning pathways for group work with the ability for student's to rate the performance of their collaborators in various skills;
  • A built in grading rubric designed to allow teachers to provide detailed feedback quickly;
  • Tools for live tutoring and chat for students having difficulties;
  • Tools for measuring horizontal competencies, such as critical thinking and quantitative reasoning; and
  • Learning widgets to further personalize the environment.

To learn more about Helix, or to request an invitation to the developer preview, visit

About the Author

Joshua Bolkan is contributing editor for Campus Technology, THE Journal and STEAM Universe. He can be reached at [email protected].

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