Learning is Adapting – are you?

The higher education learning landscape is continually evolving.  Michigan State University and the HUB for Innovation in Learning and Technology strive to understand this evolution and inform stakeholders regarding the latest market intelligence and global program opportunities.  One of the ways we maintain this intelligence is through our connections with leaders in the online and digital learning industry.

Manoj Kulkarni

Manoj Kulkarni, CEO, Realizeit

I recently had the opportunity to interview Manoj Kulkarni, CEO and Ashley O’Connor, Senior Director, Strategic Partnerships from Realizeit and discuss the five key-principles of an effective adaptive learning system.

We all know that every student is different in aspects and attributes related to learning such as prior knowledge, knowledge gaps, rate of knowledge acquisition, motivation factors, learning preferences, learning habits and styles. Yet our curriculum designs and instruction methods treat every student the same and provide a one-size-fits-all teaching and learning mechanism. By design – they work for some and not for all. The current systems are not designed to help students learn to their full potential. Wouldn’t it be great if we were able to design an approach that respects the uniqueness of every learner? That can deliver a learning experience adapted to the uniqueness of every learner? This forms the basis of the notion of adaptive learning.

Now admittedly, this is what great teachers have always done. In essence, the Realizeit system emulates these model behaviors and makes them available to teachers via its intelligent system capabilities. It allows institutions and teachers to do what would be nearly impossible or extremely difficult to achieve at scale – helping every student individually to success. The goal at Realizeit is to provide a system that can help every teacher become an effective teacher for every student; a system that can truly enable the shift to student-centered teaching and learning. And that leads to improved student engagement and satisfaction which ultimately leads to learning success. We need to give all students a chance to achieve to their maximum learning potential..

Adaptive learning receives a lot of attention in a technology context, however, the key underlying principle is that is first and foremost a concept and method of providing differentiated learning experiences across the student’s educational journey in service to improving student success. Technology should then enable the concept to be implemented so that high quality outcomes can be consistently achieved, at scale and affordably. Various technology systems provide that differentiation in different ways to varying degrees of scale and value.

Realizeit’s experience demonstrates that success from adaptive learning can come only when implemented at scale. While initial implementations at institutions will likely start on a smaller scale, such as select courses developed by interested faculty members, these initial implementations must be purposefully designed and supported by the institution for seamless scale building ranging from growing to a connected sequence of courses at a department level all the way to the full program level and multiple programs in an institution. To achieve success at scale, the five key principles that must underpin an effective adaptive learning architecture are

  1.    Connect knowledge elements across subject domains and across the student journey rather than treating them as disconnected, artificial silos of courses.
  2.    Start each student at their optimum point of need, by quickly determining what they already know and don’t know as it relates to the specific subject matter at hand.
  3.    Adapt the content and instruction to suit every individual student, instead of expecting every student to adapt to one version of content and instruction. Embed and fit adaptive learning to make it seamless
  4.    Continuously measure student learning and behavior and dynamically calibrate their pathways to success – i.e. a personalized navigation system to guide them optimally to their destination.
  5.    Enable teachers with insights and tools to quickly understand the strengths and gaps in the knowledge of their students and tailor their instruction and interventions accordingly.

Realizeit serves the higher education and K-12 learning as well as professional and corporate learning clients.  Colorado Technical University operates Realizeit at scale and has one of the largest implementations of adaptive learning in higher education in the world. From their first pilot in Math and English in 2012, CTU has seen improvements in student engagement and learning. Early on the University branded their use of the Realizeit platform as “intellipath” to help differentiate the student experience. Today, intellipath is being used at all levels of the institution from orientation to general education to upper level courses and CTU’s entire online MBA program.

The University of Central Florida implemented Realizeit in Fall 2014 with three subjects in the fields of Psychology, Nursing and Mathematics.  College of Nursing Faculty and Coordinator Dr. Julie F. Hinkle shared:

“I have been very impressed with the both the potential for Realizeit to drastically change how I can deliver my course to my students and with the professionalism of the Realizeit team members . . . this is the first time I have felt that I now have the tools to deliver a truly adaptive learning and testing experience.”

Ashley O'Connor

Ashley O’Connor, Senior Director, Strategic Partnerships at Realizeit

To learn more about how Realizeit’s customers are using adapted learning in their institutions please contact Ashley O’Connor, Senior Director, Strategic Partnerships, ashley.oconnor@realizeitlearning.com, 847-363-2929.  

Posted in Adaptive Learning, Higher Education, Online Learning | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Might isn’t Measured in Height

I recently interviewed Ta’Dajah (Dada) Solomon’s Mom, Tamesha Stewart about Dada’s incredible journey and development as a basketball player.  I had the pleasure of coaching Dada during several seasons in East Lansing.  I hope you will find her story inspiring.  I am particularly hopeful that youth players will read this article and identify with some of the same struggles and use this as inspiration as they work to achieve their goals in sport and more importantly life.


Ta’Dajah Solomon – 2008 City of East Lansing Parks & Rec Basketball

In the Beginning

When my daughter Ta’Dajah Solomon (a.k.a. Dada) was 5-years old, I wanted her to run track, she did for one meet, receiving a medal for the long jump. One meet and her track career was over.  At the age of seven, she started playing basketball.  We had just moved back to Michigan and she played Lansing Parks and Recreation Basketball.  During 3rd grade, we moved to East Lansing and Dada played several sports including soccer, lacrosse, volleyball and tennis.  However, basketball is the sport that she seemed to focus on the majority of the time.  When basketball season came around, Dada participated in the East Lansing Parks and Recreation basketball program.  It was there that she met Coach Jerry Rhead.  Dada spent the next several basketball seasons with Coach Rhead and it is with him that she seemed to find a passion for the sport of basketball.  She enjoyed playing with her friends, her coach and the game.  She learned the basics of basketball and what it was like to be part of a team.  Dada continued to play basketball throughout elementary school.



Time Flies

When she entered Middle School, she was still learning and growing on and off the court.  She would play basketball outside everyday with my brothers who spent many of their afternoons working with her on her game. 6th grade found her playing for the Michigan Roadrunners travel team and she continued to play with them for several seasons.  Before I knew it, she was a freshman at East Lansing High School.  Dada tried out for the East Lansing School team and played junior varsity basketball as a freshman.  She continued to progress in the sport and did very well over the course of the season.  During the summer, she played for another travel team called Mid-Michigan Excel.  It was here that she really grew as a player.  Her team was extremely competitive and probably more advanced then she was, but she was able to keep up and continued to excel.

Shattered Dreams

Dada was now a Senior in high school and measured 5’ 2” tall. Not all things were as good as they may have seemed.  She could always work on getting better at the game but she couldn’t control one thing, her height.  She was cut from several advance travel teams because she “just isn’t tall enough”.  Dada would tell me she was fine and not upset but as a parent I could tell how hurt she was.

Dada did not let this “perceived” height issue stop her, instead it pushed her to work harder.  She focused on her dribbling.   She attended basketball camps.  She would join in pick-up games at the park with boys who were much taller and stronger.

Dada recalled her 8th grade middle school season when two teams (A & B) were created with the talent distributed across the two teams.  Dada was on the A-team, but when a teammate who was injured early in the season, was given the all-clear to return, the decision was made to move Dada to the B-team.  Later that night, I received the following e-mail from Dada’s coach:

“I wanted to make sure I let you know how awesome it has been to see Ta’dajah’s development over the course of this year. She took a really hard situation (getting moved to B) and turned it into a positive. I have been really impressed at the way she immediately took on a leadership role on the team and I know that was a huge factor for the elevation of everyone’s play on the team. Many players might have sulked and not attempted to raise their game in that situation but it is a credit to Ta’dajah (and you) that she worked extremely hard to get better every single day and work on being a leader and a facilitator on the team. This was evidenced perfectly on Monday as Ta’dajah played outstanding the whole game and particularly in the last 3 minutes to will her team to victory. She elevated her level of play every single day in practice and during games and she is a better basketball player as a result. As a person that played high school sports, I know that there will be times where a player is not given the fair credit they feel they deserve. It is how a player responds to that that really determines the will and might of a player. I hope Ta’dajah and you can see the positive in all of this going forward. Like I said at the time it happened, it was unfortunate and my mistake for the way it happened but I hope she still looks back at this season fondly.”

This experience was truly a defining moment for her as a person and a basketball player.

During high school she had to deal with juggling a more difficult learning environment as well as the pressure of being the “leader” of her team as a freshman playing for Junior Varsity. She continued to work hard and do the best she could.

Despite all of her hard work, Dada did not make the varsity team the following season.  She was frustrated to see many of her teammates and friends make the team mainly because of their height.

In her Junior year, we had to move out of East Lansing to be closer to my job.  Dada was now a Portland High School Raider.  It wasn’t easy for her to make this transition but she benefited from the smaller setting particularly in the classroom.  In 2015, work had us moving again, this time to Nashville, Tennessee.

The transition to another new school was not easy.  I had researched the schools and basketball programs.  Dada’s new school had a good season the previous year so we felt comfortable that she would be in a good place.  Her team had a rough season and not everyone in the basketball community had good things to say about my daughter joining them.  Dada was upset too.

The following season, Dada was moved from the shooting guard position to point guard.  This move had her playing a whole different game.  The biggest factor was that the Coach believed in her and would complement her on her play and the play of the team instead of always focusing on the negative.  Dada averaged 12-points a game that season and in one game she scored 21-points.  She received All City Team and Honorable Mention All Team awards that season.

The Future:

Dada has had to deal with so many challenges throughout her basketball career but has accomplished many things as well.  At the forefront, she makes sure to focus on her education and her family.  She has learned to be a leader.  She has made so many amazing friends along her journey.

Dada will be graduating in the class of 2017 from John Overton Comprehensive High School.  She has received collegiate scholarship offers from several schools and has narrowed it down to three:  (1) Belmont Abbey (D2); (2) Indiana Tech (NAIA) and (3) Martin Methodist.

Posted in Girls Basketball, Youth Sports | Leave a comment

The Role of OPM’s in the Ever-changing Online and Digital Learning Landscape

The digital and online learning landscape is continually evolving. Michigan State University’s HUB for Innovation in Learning and Technology (http://hub.msu.edu) works to understand this evolution and informs MSU stakeholders regarding the latest market intelligence and global program opportunities. One of the ways we maintain this intelligence is through our connections with leaders in the online and digital learning industry.

I recently had the opportunity to interview Josh Fauske, Sales Director for All Campus (www.allcampus.com) and discuss the role online program managers (OPM’s) play in assisting universities in the delivery of online and digital learning.

Q: What key roles do OPM’s and related service providers play in today’s online/digital learning landscape and why is it important?

A: Third party Online Program Managers (OPMs) – e.g., All Campus, 2U – assist universities that want to offer their higher education programs in an online environment, but lack internal personnel, capital and expertise to do so. The OPM provides the up-front marketing and recruitment investment, marketing assets, enrollment and retention support, and, in some cases, course development so that universities can focus dollars and personnel on their core area of expertise – teaching and research.

The OPM is responsible for raising awareness of a university’s online offering and assisting students with pulling together the application materials required. The University, not the OPM, evaluates the applications and admits students they deem to be qualified. Once admitted, the OPM then supports the university with retention efforts, e.g. re-registration, outreach etc. from enrollment through graduation.

The OPM is awarded a share of the tuition for each admitted student throughout the time the student remains enrolled. This model is success-based in two ways: 1) the OPM will only receive compensation if the prospective students they bring to the school are accepted and 2) the more successful a student is within the program – i.e., the longer they retain – the more compensation the OPM will receive. This model aligns the incentives of the OPM with that of the university – to recruit quality students who will graduate. This is an important aspect of the relationship that differentiates the OPM/university with other “for-profit” providers in the online higher education space that have developed a reputation for predatory recruitment practices.

In a nutshell, these partnerships are the classic business case for outsourcing to create a better overall experience for the customer, which in this case is a student. The vendor focuses on their expertise in marketing, enrollment, and retention, which allows the University, to focus on its core mission – research and teaching.

Q: How does All Campus help organizations advance their online/digital Learning initiatives?

A: All Campus, with its many years in the OPM space and a robust client portfolio, has developed an approach to marketing student recruitment that pairs specialists in key areas – paid search, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), enrollment, etc. – with sophisticated software that produces results. In short, All Campus is able to generate several million dollars in tuition revenue for a school, incremental to what the institution is able to produce today, without the university having to take on any of the financial or human resource risk.

All Campus also assesses the programs a university is currently offering, and would like to offer, to determine how each would be able to compete in the market based on factors like university brand awareness, the cost of the degree, the overall market size and projected growth of that market. This enables the partner university to make informed decisions regarding the factors that will make a program successful both in the marketplace and for students. A thorough market review also enables All Campus to reasonably project the amount of qualified applicants it will be able recruit on the school’s behalf.

Q: What will online/digital learning look like in the next five years?

A: There will be more students that choose fully online classes, and there will be more students that select hybrid options (part on campus, and part online). The trends are clear. In 2005, 6% of master’s students in the U.S. were fully online. In 2014, the number of fully online master’s students grew to 15%. By 2020, it is estimated that 20% of the master’s student audience will be fully online.[1]

In addition to the size of the market, advancement in technology continues to progress allowing faculty to collaborate with students (and students to collaborate with each other) in more engaging ways. For example, Madrid’s IE University is piloting a new wall display that allows faculty to see 80 online students at once across the world. San Diego State University is also implementing a new technology called Learning Glass that “allows instructors to write lecture notes while maintaining face-to-face contact with students”. While these tools may be cutting-edge now, these and others could be commonplace in the online classroom of 2020.

Q: What is the biggest advantage of online/digital learning?

A: Many students seek out online/digital learning for its convenience, especially adult learners who are attempting to complete a degree or advance their career while managing work and family obligations.

Online has the benefit of being highly interactive. Though many think of the campus experience as the ultimate in interaction with the professor – this just isn’t true. Online learning utilizes discussion questions, message boards, group assignments, and other engagement technologies to ensure students participate and interact.

According to a guide published by UMass Amherst on online teaching and learning, online learning can also be advantageous to faculty. It can help them bring fresh approaches back to their traditional classrooms and expose them to a more diverse student population. The convenience factor that appeals to students also can extend to faculty members who can teach and/or conduct office hours from home.

Q: What are the biggest challenges facing higher education and education in general?

A: The biggest challenge facing American higher education is the cost of tuition. In 2014, 24% of alumni said the cost of their education exceeded its value[2]. Universities cannot increase tuition at rates that price the next generation out of the system. This has already created a scenario where we’re limiting access to higher education due to its cost. Fortunately, online offers a more efficient delivery mechanism than brick and mortar, so that should help curb the tuition cost growth rate.

The second issue is balancing providing well rounded students versus a laser focus on in-demand career paths (e.g., STEM). Employers prefer that new graduates have specific skills required to be successful on the job from day-one, with a need for limited training; however, there is clearly a value in the well-rounded education a liberal arts degree provides.

Josh Fauske, Sales Director for All Campus can be reached at (312) 525-3095 or by e-mail: jfauske@allcampus.com Gerald Rhead, author of this article and Director of Academic Entrepreneurship for MSU’s Hub for Innovation in Learning and Technology can be reached at: rhead@msu.edu.

[1] Eduventures Report 2015 – National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), U.S. Census Bureau

[2] Borysenko, Karlyn. “Five Critical Issues Facing Higher Education Leaders in 2014.” Eduventures. N.p., 10 Apr. 2014. Web.

Posted in Higher Education, Online Learning | Leave a comment

Expanding the Rankings Value Set: Pushing for a Reprioritization

The Evolllution is currently doing a special feature on Student-Centricity as a Benchmark for Success. An article I wrote regarding the college ranking system was featured this week entitled:

Expanding the Rankings Value Set: Pushing for a Reprioritization

I hope you will check it out and I would be interested in any feedback or additional thoughts you might have.

Posted in Higher Education, Online Learning | Leave a comment

Your Job as a Coach Doesn’t End

I have been coaching youth in baseball and basketball for a long time.  I am constantly trying to improve.  If you have read my other blog posts you see that I have interviewed coaches that I admire and believed they coached the right way.  I go as often as I can to our local high school games.  I sit as close as I can behind the bench and observe and try to learn.  I am fortunate to work and live close to a major university and one of the top basketball programs in the country.  Their practices are open, so I go as often as I can to observe and try to learn.

This season I had the incredible opportunity to coach an 8th grade girls’ team and I am currently coaching a 6th grade girls’ team.  The 6th grade piece will become relevant as the story goes on.  The 8th grade season came first.  A condensed season, squeezed in at the end of the year before the middle school season begins in January.  I had not coached this age group in a while and due to the condensed nature of the season and the long layoffs due to holiday breaks, I knew I would need to revise how I normally prepare players.

To complicate matters, these young 8th grade ladies had not had the best coaching experiences in the last couple of years — as relayed to me by most the parents.  Many of the girls had considered not playing and just waiting for the school season.  I watched them at tryouts and had brief interactions with the players.  Numbers were light so all who wanted a spot on the team were offered a slot.

This story is about one young lady in particular.  A point guard, a ball-handler with skills that exceeded her 8th grade level, but with plenty of room to grow.  To sum up her psychology, she was disillusioned.  A myriad of “life” variables and bad basketball experiences had put this player in an interesting place.  She is an incredibly passionate player but at the same time her basketball psychology is bi-polar.  Riding high when things are going well and dysfunctional, at best, when things are not.

This team and this player in particular had me going to my basketball psychology “bag-of-tricks” often.  I so badly wanted to “reach” this player.  I so badly wanted to her to see how “things” could be.  I know I reached some of the players.  I know they bought in.  Others “played” along.  I just never felt like I closed the loop with this player.

Fast forward to last night.  Here is where my 6th grade team comes in.  My 6th graders practice at 7:30 p.m. in the “old” gym at the middle school.  The new gym on this evening was the site of an intense game between a rival and the 8th grade team that is mostly made up of players that I coached earlier.  I stopped by the new gym to see how things were going before setting up for my 6th grade practice.  I struck up a conversation with the site coordinator and he explained that the game had been close the whole way.  With a minute left to go, the team that I love, found themselves trailing by two.  Fast forward again, through all the fouls and timeouts, our player in this story finds herself at the free-throw line shooting one and one.  The site coordinator had shared that throughout the game our player had missed the front end of several one and one’s.  Here is her chance to tie the game.  Opponent calls a time out to freeze her and talk about what to do with the seven seconds that remained.  Our coach is visibly anxious but is reassuring our shooter.  Teams come out of the time out and set up for the free throws.  Our player is visibly nervous, but she has a great shot, so I believed as hard as I could that she had this.  First shot goes up, whistle blows, lane violation; she stepped over the free-throw line.  Ball to opponent.  Player devastated. Opponent fouled at other end; double bonus; makes the first, misses the second, but opponent gets the rebound and time expires.  Good ladies loose a tough game.

I leave the new gym and head down to the old gym to get ready for my 6th grade practice.  My 6th graders are arriving and getting dressed for practice.  I look out the gym doors and down the hall and I see our 8th grade player walking toward the old gym.  I am standing in the paint as she walks over.  I reach out my arms as does she.  We hug.  She doesn’t utter a word, nor do I.  She turns around and walks out.

I really don’t know the “psychology” involved or what happened leading up to that exchange, but I am so glad it happened.  It is yet another reminder that these young people always teach me more then I teach them.  And, that your job as a coach doesn’t end when you hang up the clipboard for the season.

Posted in Youth Sports | Leave a comment

When Convenience Becomes Customary

Check out my November 27, 2012 article in The Evolllution entitled When Convenience Becomes Customary.

Posted in Youth Sports | Leave a comment

The Journey of Launching a New Program

Check out my article in the May 5, 2015 edition of The Evolllution entitled The Journey of Launching a New Program


Posted in Youth Sports | Leave a comment

Attitudinal Adjustment

I am not a sports psychologist but I would guess that there is a word in sports psychology vocabulary to describe a player who believes they don’t have to work hard because they think they are already good enough (if anyone knows please share as I am always excited about learning new things).  When pro-players exhibit this behavior it ticks me off but when youth players act in this manner it really fires me up.

Perhaps it is because I am not over-the-top talented at anything.  However, I really cannot fathom this concept and certainly not in a youth player.  How at the age of 10 could you possibly think you have nothing more to learn.  Granted, maybe there is a large and very visible degree of separation between your skills and that of your teammates right now (emphasis on right now).  I have to believe that in your very recent memory you would recall the time when this wasn’t so, be happy that you have improved and want to maintain that edge.  How could you not see the opportunity in front of you?

You are the best player on the team without a doubt.  First things first, share that talent.  Help others get better.  Make others better.  Raise up your team and be inclusive, be a leader that others aspire to.  You are a young lady on the ground floor of your character development, build a good foundation.

I know what you might be thinking, ease up coach, the kid’s only 10.  She may be 10 in chronological age but she is 30 in hype.  She knows she’s good.  She’s heard it from her coaches, teammates, opposing coaches and opposing players.  She’s heard it from her team’s fans and opposing fans.  I mean damn, she’s good.  Absolutely amazing for a 10-year old.

I see you Missy, I see you — but hear the words of the great John Wooden, “Don’t measure yourself by what you have accomplished, but by what you should have accomplished with your ability.”

Posted in Youth Sports | Leave a comment

Incredible Team – a Season of Firsts

I have spent the better part of the last four months coaching (along side co-coach Fordell) a recreational 4th grade girls basketball team in my community.  As many of you know, coaching youth or being involved in their development is one of the most rewarding experiences you can have in your life.

Coaching is something I have done for a long time and I have certainly experienced a lot over the years.  I have tried to put myself in “learning” situations and some just happen naturally.  I love the uncertainty of it all.  You never know how your team will perform over the course of a season.  How will they react to adversity?  How will they handle the successes? 

I particularly love the “firsts” — completely new experiences or different takes on old ones.  This season has been a season of firsts.  First, the talent level on this year’s team is amazing — the depth of talent outpaces any team I have ever coached before.  Their accomplishments this year are unparallelled.  Check out some of the stats below:

> They averaged 23.86 points per game while holding our opponents to an average of 9.29 ppg

> They averaged 28 rebounds per game

> They averaged 18 steals per game

I have two, almost three players that are averaging more points per game then what we allow our opponents to score. 

I cannot recall another time when I have had a team that performed at this level.  And, an added bonus — these kids are 100 times better people then they are athletes.  I have truly been blessed. 

So, as we started our final practice last night, I was not expecting another first.  I went in with the idea of letting the girls choose their favorite drills from across the season.  Upon completion of our warm ups, I asked them what they wanted to do?

Their reply?

“We want to run ‘hawks’!”  (a.k.a. suicides, ladders etc…).  Needless to say, not how I expected them to answer.  Thanks ladies for yet another first.  But, thank you even more for working so hard and trusting in me as your coach and for believing in this team and making it great.

1-2-3-GO TROJAN Pickles!!

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To Be Enthusiastic or Not To Be Enthusiastic!

I recently had the opportunity to attend a high school basketball game between two very good local teams.  I generally choose to sit a few rows behind the home team’s bench.  I like to watch the team and see how the players interact with one another, and the coaching staff.  I also like to see how the head coach reacts to different situations.

This particular game has me sitting a few rows higher then normal as the match up has brought out several fans.  As the game gets underway, the coach I am observing is extremely enthusiastic.  He is shouting, gesturing and in my view trying to get his team to increase their level of intensity.  A gentleman behind me is sharing with his friend that he would not tolerate this behavior and that he would have given the coach a technical immediately and told him to sit down.  Granted, the coach was working the ref’s from the very onset of the game, but in a professional and sportsman-like way.  Isn’t this part of what the coach is supposed to do?

As the game continues, the coach continues to maintain his energy level.  I see him using a lot of different techniques to motivate players and help them learn from their mistakes.  He uses a combination of shouting, whispering, hugging and hand slapping.  All the while, his team is in the game, even though the other team is visibly taller and bigger and in most cases more athletic.

Motivating players and helping them find their confidence in a game is so critical to success.  I have coached in a lot of games and also watched a lot of coaches, trying to learn something from their styles.  In my opinion, I prefer the coach who is vocal, enthusiastic and animated.  What do you think?  I recognize that there is a fine line between enthusiastic and “overboard” — but what things fall on either side of that line?  Do you prefer a coach who dances up and down the sideline?  Or, would you rather have a coach that remains seated on the bench, occasionally barking out a play?

The coach maintained his energy and enthusiasm throughout the game and kept his team in the game to the very end but the other team pulled away late in the 4th quarter.  My sense was that his team left everything on the floor that night.  I would argue in large part due to the coaches energy, enthusiasm and keeping them focused and intense throughout the entire game.

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