The Birth of Adaptive Learning


Since the 1960s, Stanford University has pioneered research on how computers can enhance and accelerate student learning and achievement. Over the decades that followed, Professor Patrick Suppes spearheaded in-depth research on how students learn, and how evolving computer technology can aid in meeting each student’s individual needs. Dr. Suppes’ groundbreaking research became the foundation for the world’s first computer-based adaptive learning tools.

In 1990, Dr. Suppes founded Stanford’s Educational Program for Gifted Youth (EPGY), a 24-year-long research project at the university, dedicated to developing innovative computer-based, multimedia programs in mathematics, language arts, and science. Initially focused on supporting gifted and talented students, the research team soon discovered that with some customization, the adaptive learning technologies they invented could benefit students of all ability levels. Dr. Suppes and his team worked to evolve, evaluate, and improve adaptive learning programs, and in the process, they collected data from more than 1 million students that shed critical light on learning patterns and pathways for student success.

Bringing Stanford Success to the World

As the program matured in an academic environment, it became clear that Stanford had developed a powerful tool that could accelerate learning for students at all levels. Independent research conducted in 2014 by New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development found that program participants scored higher on average – in some cases by 45 percent – on standardized achievement tests compared to those outside the program.

Following the model of innovative programs like Google and SUN Microsystems, which grew out of research at Stanford to impact millions, Stanford began looking for the right company to broaden the impact of its proven program. Stanford sought innovators who could bring the technical savvy, educational expertise, and corporate means necessary to make Professor Suppes’ vision a broadly adopted reality.

In 2013, Stanford selected Redbird Advanced Learning to co-develop and offer the next generation of its acclaimed, adaptive digital curriculum and blended learning implementation programs. Granted an exclusive, perpetual license to the university’s K – 12 online learning programs, and guided by a formal, commitment to continuing Stanford research, Redbird is building on the distinguished Stanford EPGY legacy. Redbird continues to expand research collaborations and sponsorships with an even broader set of organizations and departments throughout the university. This ongoing Stanford research will continue to inform and enhance Redbird’s product development and service delivery.