Monday, June 13, 2016

Adaptive Courseware Doesn't Work But Blended Instruction Does

Yarnall, Means, and Wetzel (2016) analyzed the results of trials of adaptive courseware, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Adaptive courseware uses data on student progress and provides feedback to the students and instructors to improve learning. However, this report found that the majority of trials of adaptive courseware had no discernible impact on grades and did not improve student completions. Curiously the report suggests pressing on with adaptive courseware, even though it does not seem to have much positive effect.

The most interesting point for me was that switching from lectures to adaptive blended instruction improved student learning. But the authors did not draw the obvious conclusion: it was likely the switch from lectures which made the difference, not the adaptive courseware. There is no mention of "flipped classroom" in the report. The evaluators were out to see if adaptive courseware worked (impact evaluation) but perhaps forgot the overall goal, which is to improve student learning.


Yarnall, L., Means, B., Wetzel, T. (2016) Lessons Learned From Early Implementations of Adaptive Courseware. Menlo Park, CA: SRI International. Retrieved from

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