The Power of Adaptive Learning

So much is expected of both educators and students. Classroom teachers need to make sure students of all skill levels are prepared to be successful now and in the future, while also ensuring they perform well on high-stakes exams. And students need to fully understand what they’re learning so they can build on that foundation and advance to more complex concepts in higher grades. Easier said than done.

That’s why we created UpSmart®: to help students and teachers do all of that with ease. As class sizes grow and test scores remain important, finding a way to individualize instruction to support students’ varied knowledge bases can be difficult, and this is where UpSmart comes in. We designed UpSmart so teachers can easily incorporate the program into their regular classroom instruction. Teachers teach a lesson, then assign that specific topic in UpSmart, and UpSmart’s detailed and easy-to-understand data enables teachers to quickly identify which students are “getting it” and which need extra help.

The Power of Adaptive Learning

What sets UpSmart apart from other edtech solutions is its adaptive learning engine. Students who have already developed particular grade-level skills can quickly demonstrate understanding, and then move ahead to more challenging work, while students who haven’t yet become proficient in a skill get the practice they need. And once a student does “get it,” they can quickly advance, ensuring each student’s time is being used as efficiently as possible.

When we were building this program, one of the most important things we considered was how to help students who were struggling to master a grade-level skill. We wanted to be able to help students who had misunderstandings or misconceptions of a topic, as well as those who made small mistakes that led them to the wrong answer. We really focused on developing learning scaffolds like hints, modeling, answer-specific feedback, and answer explanations. This way, students would have multiple opportunities to grasp the skills and topics before the teacher needed to step in.

UpSmart Hints Screenshot
And because of the easy-to-understand data that’s collected from every student action in UpSmart, teachers can use the program as formative assessment throughout lessons, units, and courses. Rather than waiting for quiz or test time to find out that students are struggling, teachers have access to real-time data that shows when students are struggling, down to the specific skill that’s giving them trouble. Thanks to this information, teachers can intervene right when students need it so students can then move on with the knowledge and skills they need to be successful with harder concepts and skills.

Building UpSmart

A lot of work went into planning and building UpSmart, and of particular importance was aligning UpSmart both with Common Core and state standards as well as PARCC, SBAC, and other high-stakes assessments. This way, students could use it to achieve grade-level standards mastery and get the experience and familiarity with the types of questions (like technology-enhanced items) they will encounter on important tests.

We worked with trusted academic advisors to develop the scope and sequence for each grade level based on the necessary skills that make up the standards and lead to college and career readiness outcomes. From there, we identified common student errors and conceptual misunderstandings for each reading and mathematics skill to anticipate a wide range of wrong answers, allowing us to offer the answer-specific feedback that students need. UpSmart content was reviewed in a rigorous WebbAlign® process to ensure it reflects the breadth and depth of knowledge levels required by the standards.

Once we finished developing UpSmart’s curriculum, we turned to design and user experience. We wanted a timeless design that would be inviting and engaging, and one that would visually represent to the students what they’ve already achieved as well as what more there is for them to do. From this came the learning map, where students can quickly and easily see their progress, as well as important details, like upcoming topics and important due dates. The progress view shows students how they’re doing in the program, and badges help them celebrate their successes.

UpSmart Learning Map Screenshot

Equally as important as the student user experience was the educator user experience. All the data in the world isn’t going to help teachers if they can’t read it and figure out how to apply it to their own instruction, so we worked hard to make sure the data and reporting was highly detailed and informative, but also easy to understand. We chose to color code the data to help teachers quickly scan and interpret it, and teachers can always dig deeper by analyzing student work item by item.

UpSmart Data Screenshot

Implementing UpSmart

Because UpSmart is designed to work with your teaching and is for all students to use, there are many different ways to implement it. We recommend using it alongside classroom instruction for about an hour a week or in an after-school or summer school program, but get creative! UpSmart is flexible, so find the implementation that works for you and your students.

No matter how your students use UpSmart, it’ll help them master grade-level skills in math and ELA while also getting beneficial experience with technology-enhanced items they’re likely to see on high-stakes exams. At the same time, it’s saving time for your teachers, and giving them valuable data to point them in the direction of students who could use some extra help. UpSmart is the ultimate teaching assistant! If you’re interested in learning more about bringing UpSmart to your students and teachers, click here for more information.

About the Author


Adam Percival

Adam Percival has developed educational software products for the past 10 years, most recently with Edgenuity, Inc. where he is currently the lead product manager for Edgenuity’s new UpSmart solution. With Compass Learning (prior to its acquisition by Edgenuity), Adam led the development of the Pathblazer reading and math intervention and Hybridge blended learning product lines, among other successful digital products. Before entering the edtech field, Adam taught science in Brooklyn, NY.