Why do we need adaptive educational technology?

The most important question i raise early on, as i’m starting my thesis on an adaptive learning game is, Why do we need adaptivity?

The short answer to the question is that we are inherently different from each other, and as a result we learn in vastly different ways. As a result educational technologies need to adapt their content based on learners’ needs and preferences. Shute & Zapata-Rivera (2007) point out that the differences among learners can be classified as:

  • Differences in Incoming Knowledge, Skills & Abilities
  • Differences in Socio-Cultural and demographic variables
  • Differences in Affective variables

Studies have shown that factors like prior knowledge (Alexander & Judy, 1988; Glaser, 1984; Tobias, 1994), emotional states such as frustration, boredom, motivation, and confidence (Conati, 2002; Craig et al., 2004; Picard, 1997; Qu et al., 2005) and differences in demographic and sociocultural (Conchas 2006; Desimone, 1999) are strong predictors of learning outcomes of students. These differences raise a big concern and need to be addressed by educational technologies.

Adapting educational technologies based on these differences and providing each learner an optimal path to learning hence becomes a big necessity. With the advent of learning games in educational settings it’s important that we as designers cater to these needs in educational games. With my thesis i try to address this need by developing an adaptive learning game and exploring the effects of its adaptiveness on learning outcomes.


Shute V. & Zapata Rivera, D. Adaptive Technologies in Bishop, M. J. (Ed.). (2008). Handbook of research on educational communications and technology. New York: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

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