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Adaptive individualization: the next generation of online education

Nish Sonwalkar (Based at iDL Systems, Boston, Massachusetts, USA)

On the Horizon

ISSN: 1074-8121

Article publication date: 1 February 2008




Despite the predictions and expectations that the online education will become a “killer app” and with major impact on education, the first generation of online education has led to more disappointments than success stories. The current – one‐size‐fits‐all static approach is extremely ineffective and leads to increased effort on the part of faculty and instructors teaching online courses. This paper discusses adaptive learning as an alternative transfer of traditional structures from a geographically‐based to an online setting.


This article begins with an overview of the development of online education, and concludes that its initial promise has not been fulfilled because the innovations in technology have not been accompanied by any corresponding changes in the way classrooms are structured. It then proposes adaptive learning as a means by which, with the help of digital resources, learning can be adjusted to the needs and interests of individual students.


To improve current state‐of‐art and to increase effectiveness of the online education, systems that can adapt the content to match the learning preference of the individual learners, termed as the “adaptive learning systems,” are needed. Systems that will support adaptive learning in a university and college environment will facilitate a paradigm shift for instructors to “guide‐on‐the‐side” from “sage‐on‐the‐stage.”


This opinion piece argues the need for a massive restructuring of higher education, using a student‐centered model.



Sonwalkar, N. (2008), "Adaptive individualization: the next generation of online education", On the Horizon, Vol. 16 No. 1, pp. 44-47.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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