Pearson To Scale Back Partnership With Adaptive Learning Provider Knewton

Staff Writer

Global education giant Pearson plans to phase down its partnership with Knewton, a leading provider of adaptive technology used to enable personalized learning and differentiated instruction.    

Pearson, an early investor in Knewton and one of their first partners, currently uses the company’s software to drive adaptive learning across some of their online course platforms for K-12 and higher education. When contacted by EdWeek Market Brief, neither company would identify specific products that will be affected.

Going forward, Pearson “is developing its own in-house adaptive learning capability,” said Scott Overland, director of media and communities at Pearson, in an email statement to EdWeek Market Brief. The company has invested heavily in technology and product development in the past several years, he said.

“These innovations have allowed us to in-source our adaptive learning capability, and thus we are phasing out our agreement with Knewton for select areas of our global product portfolio,” said Overland.

Knewton has known since summer 2016 that Pearson planned to phase out the company’s adaptive technology from some of their products, said Jason Jordan, vice president of revenue strategy at Knewton, in an interview. Jordan said he does not know if Pearson plans to discontinue their partnership with Knewton entirely.

Knewton has not seen a significant change over the past year in the number of Pearson course materials for which they provide adaptive technology, said Jordan.

“We haven’t had any indication from them one way or the other if they’re going to eliminate us or cut their usage of Knewton,” he said. “Our hope is that we can continue that partnership with Pearson and continue providing Pearson students with the benefits of Knewton adaptive.”

This decision comes as Pearson attempts to refocus its priorities in a rapidly changing curriculum marketplace.

Earlier this month, the company announced that it was considering selling its U.S. K-12 print and digital curriculum business, and would be shifting focus to invest in blended and personalized learning, virtual schools, and building the company’s position in U.S. school assessment.

Pearson’s stock price has plummeted twice in past monthsonce in January after reporting lower than expected projected profits, and again in April amid concerns about the company’s ability to expand virtual schools. Pearson’s CEO announced in January of this year that the organization would be taking “radical action” to restructure its business models.

While some of Knewton’s partners are, like Pearson, exploring developing proprietary adaptive learning engines, Knewton has seen an overall uptake in partnerships over the past few years, Jordan said.

The company is growing their full-stack solution, he said, which over 100 colleges and universities use to deliver adaptive open educational resources. Knewton also plans to integrate publisher-created content in the platform through future partnerships, said Jordan. Though Pearson’s plans for Knewton are still unknown, he said, Jordan believes that the growing full-stack adaptive learning platform will “allow us to mitigate that risk somewhat.”

Adaptive learning technology enables providers of online curricula to create personalized learning pathways and “learner profiles” for students. Software like Knewton’s collects data on students’ progress in its partners’ online lessons, feeding the information to algorithms that determine which concepts students have mastered and which they’re still struggling with. The software then identifies and delivers level-appropriate content.  

This post has been updated to note that Knewton has been aware since summer 2016 of Pearson’s intention to phase out Knewton technology in some of their products. 

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