Lumen nails student-centeredness in new personalization engine

This is so right

David Wiley’s description of Lumen Learning’s OER-based personalization engine reframes the learning analytics conversation by reminding us what we really want learners to become. The R&Ed team that I work with spent some time earlier this year aiming for the heart of the term “student-centered learning”, and we concluded that student-centered learning practices tend to share a common (if sometimes unspoken) goal: to develop learners’ capability for self-directed, lifelong learning by granting more control and responsibility for the learning process.

Nowadays, “student-centered” is often conflated with “personalization”, which is often conflated with “adaptive learning” technology. David deftly identifies a key problem with most technology-driven approaches to personalization:

There is no active role for the learner in this “personalized” experience. These systems reduce all the richness and complexity of deciding what a learner should be doing to – sometimes literally – a “Next” button. As these systems painstakingly work to learn how each student learns, the individual students lose out on the opportunity to learn this for themselves. Continued use of a system like this seems likely to create dependency in learners, as they stop stretching their metacognitive muscles and defer all decisions about what, when, and how long to study to The Machine.

The Lumen Learning approach appears to be quite different — and aligned with a truly student-centered approach:

First, Lumen is acknowledging that though developing learners’ understanding of the material is critical, there is a higher, more profound goal of learner autonomy.

Second, Lumen is using the power of learning analytics to improve learning habits through self-reflectiveness as a means to travel on the path toward autonomy.  

So much work in predictive analytics and adaptive learning seeks to relieve people from the time-consuming work of individual diagnosis and remediation — that’s a two-edged sword: Using technology to increase efficiency can too easily sacrifice humanness — if you’re not deliberate in the design and usage of the technology. This topic came up quickly amongst the #DigPedNetwork group when Jim Groom and I chatted about closed/open learning environments earlier this month, suggesting that we haven’t fully explored this dilemma as educators or educational technologists.

So it’s refreshing to me when technology providers like Lumen Learning recognize (to paraphrase Charles Graham) that there are things computers will always be better at, and things humans will always be better at. And one of the things humans are pretty great at is enriching the learning experience and producing affective outcomes through personal interaction. This is an ideal that attracted me to the Instructure Canvas team in the beginning, and is part of what motivates me to do the work I do, day-in and day-out.

Thanks for the introduction to this new project, David; I can’t wait to see this the new Lumen Learning in action.

2 thoughts on “Lumen nails student-centeredness in new personalization engine

  1. Pingback: The Fraught Interaction Design of Personalized Learning Products -e-Literate

  2. Katie Datko

    THANK YOU for posting this! While I’m a fan of adaptive tech, it cannot truly equate to a learner-centered classroom. Doing so breaks ‘learning’ down to formulaic interactions with content and bypasses the true personalization that can occur in the classroom through individualized/differentiated feedback from peers and an instructor.

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