University of Phoenix, in its effort to unlock the secrets of the "learning DNA", is building a new learning interface that aims to get to know each of its students personally, as reported in Inside Higher Ed. The goal of this learning platform is to deliver a customized learning experience for students by adapting to the idiosyncrasies of students' learning habits and style. Ambitiously dubbed the "Learning Genome Project," The University of Phoenix draws its inspiration from Facebook's ability to revolutionize web advertising through the use of web analytics.
Similar to Facebook, Phoenix's new learning platform will be designed to infer details about students from how they behave in the online classroom and adapt to the student's learning style. Lesson content will be delivered in a way that helps students learn best. If the student encounters a problem with his/her assignment, the platform can help connect the student to a fellow classmate who could be of assistance. In a way, this learning platform may well spell the end of the one-size-fits all model of education.
The University of Phoenix is definitely not alone in its endeavor. Other institutions are also trying to incorporate some of the principles that have made Facebook and Netflix so successful in their own learning management systems. However, as rightfully pointed out in the article, there are still some concerns that need to be ironed out such as cost of producing and maintaining this system since it requires a lot of data collection and processing. Another issue that is perhaps more troubling is the issue of privacy.
Due to the recent media attention on cyber-bullying and privacy issues related to social networks, users of social networks are more cautious and careful about the type of information they put out online. Furthermore, as institutions become aware of online privacy concerns, many have taken steps to help students navigate social networks safely such as providing counseling on online privacy and some institutions even have a policy on student use of social media. Hence, the idea that a learning platform will monitor a students' behavior and habits in their virtual classroom as well as their interests will undoubtedly make some people feel uncomfortable.