Adaptive Learning Technologies For People With ADHD

Adaptive Learning Technologies For People With ADHD
Branislav Nenin/
Summary: Technological personalization in education has seen a significant rise in the last few years. It was notably advanced in what we know as adaptive learning, which is a customized educational model intended for students of all ages.

Adaptive Learning Technologies For People With ADHD

This educational model doesn’t also take in consideration students' interests, intellect, or socioeconomic status, which makes it a perfect learning opportunity for any student willing to learn, regardless of their background. On a more technical note, adaptive learning is actually a technologically-based or online educational system where students and their effectiveness in class are being analyzed in real time based on acquired data and individual engagement.

So, what is the correlation between adaptive learning and students with ADHD? Students who have ADHD usually struggle heavily in regular classes; therefore, there have been numerous studies and tests considering the inclusiveness of ADHD students into courses with adaptive learning technologies. Since ADHD students usually qualify for special education services, adaptive learning is and will be even more able to have all of the students eligible for regular classes, thanks to the technological personalization in the learning process. In order to understand the full scope of benefits adaptive learning could have ADHD students, let’s take a look at some essential outlines.

Adaptive Learning And Comfort Zone

Because ADHD students experience extremes in classes, from the comfort zone to the frustration zone, adaptive learning has proven to engage those two zones effectively. This is also known as the Zone of Proximal Development, which is the area between a student’s comfort zone and the frustration zone. Adaptive learning, therefore, is excellent for balancing between repeating the studied material just enough for the student to leave their comfort zone and challenge themselves, and almost becoming frustrated, without becoming discouraged or demotivated.

Adaptive Learning And Personalization Techniques

Adaptive learning is known to provide students with the possibility to learn and improve their skills at their own, individual pace. The students also receive feedback regularly, participate in virtual labs, simulations, and other application-based educational services [1]. All of these instructional methods have been proven successful at elementary schools in Baltimore County, where adaptive learning was applied to reading comprehension, vocabulary, and fluency. Moreover, at the Carnegie Mellon University, adaptive learning technology was used for the Open Learning Initiative, where learning experience was linked to course performance. Since students with ADHD exhibit inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness, such learning methods would be an excellent aid in learning, personal organization, writing and even math.

Adaptive Learning Helps Both, Students And Teachers

Sometimes, it can be quite hard to approach students with ADHD, help them learn, complete burden tasks like coming up with the title page for a research paper, and stay interested in the material and the class. Usually, teachers rely on repetition as the key learning and studying strategy, but adaptive learning focuses on a much wider range of learning techniques for students with ADHD. Some of those techniques, which are used with all students, revolve around individual performance analysis, figuring out the strengths and weaknesses of each student and where students struggle, immediately. The adaptive learning software initiates merely the increase of students' understanding, and teachers' guidance and classroom setting.

Adaptive Learning Technologies

When it comes particularly to the adaptive learning technologies for ADHD students, there are many ways in which the effects of personalizing content and educational experiences are being explored. Alongside online services, the ways in which adaptive learning technologies are being incorporated into students’ training, courses and other programs can be seen through the following examples:

Adaptive Learning And Artificial Intelligence (AI)

For students with ADHD, it can be quite a challenge to stay focused and immersed in a subject matter; however, AI-powered adaptive learning methods have proven to be effective in regards to this issue. AI-powered adaptive learning provides tutoring in different subjects, various working environments, at school or online space featuring video calls with personal mentors and tutors. Moreover, AI helps adaptive learning methods acquire a more thorough insight into the personalized education aspect, adjusting the content of the class by students' performance and capabilities. AI also helps the teacher make little incremental changes during the whole learning process and period, in order to provide a ‘smooth-sailing’ learning effect that won’t disturb the students and trigger their frustrations or hyperactivity.

Furthermore, there are numerous AI-driven platforms which provide personalized content recommendations to keep learners motivated [2]. This way, students will get inspired and have their interests broaden, while acquiring knowledge and engaging in the learning process. One such AI-driven platform is TutorBot, which is exceptional in identifying relevant learning content and content recommendations. Many believe that the future of adaptive learning with all types of students lies precisely in these platforms.

Adaptive Learning And Virtual Reality (VR)

There has been an initiative to introduce VR into the students’ training experience and learning process. The response to this initiative has been widely positive and accepting, due to the unique features that the VR experience can offer for ADHD students; visualization of abstract concepts, virtual observation of events, places, cultures and languages, and all with significant consideration of the safety factor. To use VR in adaptive learning classes stands for the possibility of students experiencing real-life events without fear of failure or mistake, as well as the opportunity to explore the technology and gain additional interest. Moreover, VR is excellent when it comes to improving the interaction of ADHD students with their mentors, teachers or tutors, which puts VR on the map of adaptive learning technologies for sure.

Classroom Adaptation For ADHD Students

With the introduction of adaptive learning technologies, there has been a need for an appropriate classroom adaptation for students with ADHD. Since students with ADHD have a disability when it comes to learning, adaptive learning strategies are used to determine what kind of program, educational services and level of emotional disturbance are appropriate for each student. When it comes to specific classroom adaptations, there are usually changes and adjustments in the curriculum in regards to topics and materials, as well as physical adjustments, like uncluttered desks or quiet study space. There should also be frequent breaks at certain times in order for the teachers and the students to deal with the hyperactivity symptoms.

Adaptive Learning And Behavioral Management

According to Psych Central, behavioral management and motivational strategies could also be implemented alongside personalized educational methods and technologies. This would happen in case of hyperactive or impulsive symptoms, where would both, teachers and parents, be involved. Moreover, it is important to point out that behavioral management is simply impossible to function on its own, relying heavily on adaptive learning and the teachers. This method functions entirely only when the parents monitor their child’s progress in the class and continue the behavioral management and adaptive learning at home. This way the student will be in control of their behavior, learning, and focus, that would be later rewarded, of course.

The Future Of Adaptive Learning Technologies

There are predictions that adaptive learning is the future of education. Because it is so inclusive and disregarding of age, level of interest or socioeconomic background, adaptive learning has excellent chances to become the leading teaching and learning strategy in academic institutions, especially in institutions where students with ADHD and other physical or mental disabilities attend classes. These institutions have been for a long time under pressure in regards to improving student outcomes, and analysts believe that adaptive learning and AL technologies will become the primary education system in the USA by 2022. In order to understand the endless opportunities adaptive learning offers, and will offer in the future, it is essential to understand what is powering adaptive learning systems:

  • Natural Language Processing (NLP) Programs
    These programs are intended to process and organize written content based on the input, listening and interpreting user feedback.
  • Conversational Interfaces
    These interfaces provide and enable communication on a more human level while using adaptive learning technologies that are AI or VR-powered. This would create a more meaningful intent from the learner.
  • Machine Learning Algorithms
    These are intended to build personalized pathways, monitor feedback and provide dynamic visualizations, which would in turn also provide valuable insight for both teachers and students

Adaptive Learning And Teachers

There have been speculations that adaptive learning and AL technologies will soon replace teachers and only provide online mentors and tutors. Even so, many believe that this scenario is just impossible, especially when it comes to working with impaired or disabled students. Of course, the improvement in technologies becoming more human has been incredible, but teaching professionals are indispensable, especially if we want the adaptive learning process to function in the future as well.

AI-powered adaptive learning has limited data reach and mitigates with internal and cultural obstacles. The machine doesn’t understand the feeling and thoughts of an ADHD student like the teacher or mentor does. Either way, the teacher can use AI and VR technologies to their advantage and perform their responsibilities in the best way. Other than that, adaptive learning simply boils down to user engagement. If the student is distracted, unmotivated and doesn’t work with their teacher and parents, theoretically, adaptive learning won’t be much of a help. There always needs to be a collaboration between human and machine for adaptive learning to reach success.


[1] 5 Things You Should Know About Adaptive Learning

[2] Flexible, responsive learning is the future