Digital Directions: Subject-Specific Solutions
Educators and publishers have wasted precious time pursuing a vision in which technology adapts to different learner styles. In other words, if a student is determined to be a visual learner, they would have a different experience than one that is more responsive to a narrative-driven approach, and from a third student that benefits from “social-constructivist” project-based work. The pursuit of this Holy Grail has borne little fruit. The time would have been better spent creating effective approaches for different subject areas than pondering the nuances of individual learning styles.
Subject-specific learning technology presents a challenge for large educational publishers. (And in this present area of consolidation, that would include most.) Large publishers leverage their market reach and capital resources by acquiring, integrating or developing technology delivery platforms that they can use for all of their subjects. However, if the most effective use of technology is subject-specific, this one-size-fits-all platform approach is less competitive. In fact, this allows smaller, new entrants (the Aplias of the future) to successfully compete against larger incumbents with more effective subject-specific approaches.
If history repeats itself, these new entrants will continue to get acquired by larger players (in order to take both technology and the competitive threat of the new players) who will then unsuccessfully attempt to apply this approach to subject areas for which they are not intended. Far better to leave such programs alone to continue the pursuit of teaching and learning excellence within their specific domains.
Educational publishers can improve the efficacy of their educational offerings by avoiding the trap of attempting to use a common technology platform or delivery model for all subject areas. Publishers must understand at the outset of product development the potential scope of a delivery model, and to not attempt to apply the model outside of that scope. For example, an adaptive learning platform may be well suited for a range of courses within mathematics, but be less effective outside of math.