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Adaptive Learning

National Louis University Launches Adaptive Learning Program

Using technology developed by Acrobatiq, a Chicago university has created a blended learning alternative intended to help first-time, first-generation college students complete their degrees.

National Louis University students are using adaptive learning to earn college degrees.

Last fall, National Louis University in Chicago launched a new adaptive learning program for 78 students designed to alleviate the challenges that keep some first-time, first-generation college students from completing their degrees.

Using a platform devised by Acrobatiq, NLU created the Harrison Professional Pathways Program (HP3), which employs a flipped learning model with a significant online component. Additionally, each student has a coach who helps guide him or her toward achieving academic goals.

The model blends online and face-to-face instruction with students meeting in class twice a week. Acrobatiq has worked with NLU officials to create 14 freshman and sophomore courses that that are sequenced into general studies, education or business pathways. Each can lead to options in majors during students' third and fourth years.

The model allows students more latitude to work at outside jobs and to approach their academic studies at their own speed. For example, in a beginning biology class, students will get an introduction to a concept online and are able to apply what they learn in a practical sense in the classroom.

"They get that foundational knowledge, they do a little bit of practice and they know areas where they have gaps," said Assistant Professor Stephanie Poczos.

NLU professors can use Acrobatiq's Smart Author Adaptive Learning Platform to adapt the presentation of educational material according to students' learning needs. It integrates data-driven instructional design with Web-based tools that incorporate outcomes models, rich content and assessment.

Acrobatiq's technology was developed through Carnegie Mellon University's Open Learning Initiative, an effort started in 2002 to generate free, high-quality online courses designed with the guidance of the latest learning science. Its approach is based on research in cognitive science, human-computer interaction and statistical analysis.

NLU officials said the HP3 program costs a student about $10,000 a year, considerably less than similar bachelor's degree programs at most Chicago area universities and a sum that students can apply for federal and state financial aid to complete.

While the HP3 program is only in its second semester of implementation, the majority of students have remained in the program and plan to earn their degrees.

About the Author

Michael Hart is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and the former executive editor of THE Journal.

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