Knewton: an EdTech startup driving academic transformation

Anthony Mosavi
July 30, 2019

***This article is a story curated by SparkAmpLab that can be shared or modified for re-post***

Education technology startups are driven by the realization that effective learning cannot be achieved through traditional and non-adaptive approaches. Adaptive learning is a form of eLearning that strives to convert the learner from a passive receptor of information to an active collaborator.

Adaptive Learning: The Way Forward

Adaptive learning has been a prevalent term since the 1970s. "The concept of differentiating instruction on the student level has been around for years. That's sort of the holy grail of what teachers are supposed to be doing," says Adam Newman of Education Growth Advisors.

In simple words, it’s the use of computer algorithms to organize the interaction with the learner and provide customized resources to address their specific needs.

The concept of adaptive learning incorporates eLearning principles and development of intrinsic e-courses. The idea has been embraced by education reformers who visualize the scope of a virtual academy and predictive data analysis to solve the most common shortcomings in the existing education system.

With technology, it’s possible to deliver one-to-one teaching on a mass scale. As schools and educational institutes increasingly invest in computers and digital infrastructure, students benefit from having access to a plethora of study materials. At the same time, teachers and administrators have the capability to analyze how they are able to respond to the e-course and study its impact on the students.

With eLearning tools, teachers can help struggling students by discovering where they lag behind before they fail a test. The scope of predictive metrics has embarked a gold rush in this domain. 

Impact of EdTech Platforms

From developing a platform to understand the way teaching is done to facilitating the interaction between a tutor and the students, education startups have transformed the education industry through eLearning.

Such platforms act as a virtual academy for students to hone their skills in a non-traditional way.  

EdTech Startups like Knewton develop intrinsic platforms to help students learn in a better way. The company is one of the frontrunners in marketing ‘adaptive learning’ technologies to use data to customize education by ditching the one-size-that-fits-all curriculum. 

Knewton has developed Alta, a math program that helps students learn the core math skills in a highly interactive and simplified manner.

Imagine a situation, where George, an eighth-grader is using a computer in his library, he logs on to his eLearning dashboard to discover something he has never witnessed before. He hasn’t been taught about units in his class, but the digital program knows he’s ready. The first question pops up quickly: “Anna is writing birthday cards for her friends and family. She wrote for 36/9 hours and managed to create 40 cards. How much did she take to write one card?”

After some quick arithmetic in his mind, George comes up with his answer and selects the option C on the computer screen. His choice is bounced back to cloud servers to an algorithm developed by a team of software developers that determines the time taken by George to answer the question, the answer itself, and thousands of other answers given by thousands of other students, in a matter of milliseconds!

The company has made bold claims about its potential to change the way students learn through eLearning. However, the Alta algorithm requires a mass level participation of the students to accurately predict how they will best perform.

It remains quite early to tell if Knewton will become an important component of students learning. However, as more and more students would use its program, the company would make more profit and in return create more sophisticated and student-centric products.

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