Building Personalized Learning Experiences for Adult Learners through Adaptive Learning Techniques

Key Experts

Project Lead

Gwyn Shelle

Gwyn Shelle
Michigan State University Extension
Instructional Technology Specialist


Dawn Earnesty, Michigan State University Extension, Extension Educator
Allen Pilkenton, Michigan State University Extension, Educational Media Coordinator
Erin Powell, Michigan State University Extension, Extension Educator


Adaptive learning models demonstrate the ability to build personalized learning paths for users based on data and analytics. It is a model suggesting that learners will engage with content in different ways. For example, some participants bring with them prior knowledge and would prefer to focus on the content they need to know rather than follow a linear learning process.

This goal of this project was to evaluate and pilot adaptive learning tools for future cooperative extension programming. The team of experts is researching several existing adaptive learning tools and consulting with experts in the field of online learning who are currently implementing adaptive learning into their programming.

Specific objectives of this project included:

  • Increasing knowledge of adaptive learning tools through research and collaboration with experts. Adaptive learning tools will be assessed and ranked based on potential use within CES programming.
  • Designing and delivering adaptive learning activities within existing online courses through several selected pilot projects.
  • Evaluating the effectiveness of the adaptive learning experiences.

Project Summary

A significant contribution of this project was the ability to test a new way of teaching online. Adaptive learning is an emerging concept in the field of online learning and especially new within CES programming. Through our work, we focused on testing adaptive learning experiences with several different tools. No matter what tool was selected it was important to have content, activities, and assessments which had strong ties to sound learning objectives. Based on this, a Learning Objective Outline was created to aid in the development of an online course. This template is useful to an individual or team that is building an online course as it requires the user to associate all content within a course to a learning objective. To download this template for your own use go to Learning Objective Outline/Storyboard.

Through our pilot courses, we built adaptive activities and courses. The adaptive activities were created using Articulate Storyline. These activities were built to reinforce concepts within an online course. An example was created in the topic area of equine behavior: Adaptive Learning – Articulate/Storyline Example. In this activity, users are guided along a learning path based on their knowledge which is tested through a series of assessments. To download the Articulate Storyline file go to Articulate Storyline Adaptive Learning Template. In another pilot we tested an adaptive platform, D2L LeaP, which presented participants in a course with a custom learning path based on a pre-assessment. We asked participants to compare past learning experiences to the same content presented in an adaptive manner. Eighty participants completed the pilot. Results indicated 77% agreed/strongly agreed the adaptive format was helpful in mastering content. Furthermore, 96% would take more adaptive courses.

Selected Comment from Project Participant

“I really appreciate being part of this experiment. I enjoyed the content-particularly the links to the more in-depth lectures. I would recommend it highly.”


This project was funded by the eXtension foundation.

eXtension Foundation Logo

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