By Brian Fleming, Senior Analyst
When beginning the search for an adaptive learning technology vendor, start with one question: Do you want to build or buy your adaptive model? Your answer to this question will lead you down one of two paths in the selection process.
The Buy Option: Adaptive Content Publishers
This option includes publishers that produce their own content and make it available through their proprietary adaptive platforms or for purchase through integration with another platform. Content may include online courseware, e-textbooks, open digital resources, supplementary learning materials, simulations, games, and assessments.
The benefit of this approach is access to a rich repository of turnkey resources, coupled with a platform (or platform integration) to enable an out-of-the-box adaptive solution with little to no work on the part of an institution. This option appeals to institutions that lack the resources (or interest) to develop their own adaptive content or that prefer to use adaptive learning at the individual learner or course level, rather than adopt an enterprise-wide approach. Its drawback is that it requires ceding control of content to a third party, which is not desirable for every institution and often quite controversial among college constituencies like faculty and academic leadership.
The Build Option: Adaptive Platforms
This option includes companies that only supply the engines to enable adaptive learning. Their platforms are usually branded as “content agnostic” and allow you to plug in either your own content or other third-party standalone resources, including publisher content and open educational resources. While they offer access to support services, including workflows, it is only to help with the process of content discovery, development, and deployment.
The benefit of this approach is that it offers a vehicle for building a model from the ground up, including the freedom to develop digital content and complete institutional ownership over adaptive learning. This option often appeals to institutions that want greater versatility in shaping curriculum and control of the process. Its drawback is that it requires heavy involvement from instructors and in-house content designers and a hefty time and resource investment, especially at the enterprise level.
Realizeit: A Platform that Enables Institutions to Build their Own Adaptive Model
Some companies are banking on a growing appetite within higher education for a platform-led approach, including Realizeit which currently works with 12 institutions (seven of which are in a piloting phase). We recently spoke with Manoj Kulkarni, CEO of Realizeit and former Chief Technology and Innovation Officer of Career Education Corporation (an Eduventures client), in order to better understand his company’s approach to the market as a pure play adaptive platform.
Here is a snapshot of what we learned from our conversation:
- Platform led means product focused. Realizeit does not dance around the fact that it is a platform-only solution, which allows its product team to focus foremost on the stability, scalability, and usability of its system and services. In other words, Realizeit focuses on what it does best, leaving content decisions to content experts and respecting the integrity of the learning ecosystem without defining the ecosystem itself.
- Content agnostic means curriculum neutral. Realizeit intentionally leaves curricular decisions to instructors or other content developers. Its team helps manage workflows and only weighs in so far as its platform can improve learning optimization. It only offers support with content discovery and development and does not assign value to content, generally leaving the core of teaching and learning untouched from vendor influence.
- Control enables instructors themselves to adapt learning. Realizeit offers the engine for adaptivity, but not the adaptive experience itself. This is determined by instructors using the engine to deliver content they choose to employ. In other words, the platform is the channel used to place learning materials in front of students, but it is not the program. It is a supporting actor in the delivery of adaptive learning, not the leading role.
The Bottom Line
In a climate characterized by deep suspicion of vendor influence over core aspects of teaching and learning (especially in the mainstream higher education market), a platform led approach will appeal to institutions that want to retain ownership over content. Eduventures believes that in an edtech market brimming with overzealous and oversold products, companies like Realizeit bring a refreshing and compelling value proposition through its singular product focus and acknowledgement of an institution’s need to build its own approach to adaptive learning.
On the Horizon
We have been busy over the past few weeks! We have met with executives from Adobe, Civitas, Cisco, Course Tutor, D2L, ED MAP, Examity, Education Dynamics, Kaltura, Netbase, Next Thought, NovoEd, Panopto, ProctorFree, Rafter, Ranku, Respondus, Software Secure, TracX, Verificient, and Work America. Keep an eye out for our analysis to follow.