This study was conducted to assess the performance of 176 students who received algebra instruction through an online platform presented in one of two experimental conditions to explore the effect of personalized learning paths by comparing it with linearly flowing instruction. The study was designed around eight research questions investigating the effect of personalized learning paths on students’ learning, intrinsic motivation and satisfaction with their experience. Quantitative results were analyzed using Analysis of Variance (ANOVA), Analysis of Covariance (ANCOVA) and split-plot ANOVA methods. Additionally, qualitative feedback data were gathered from students and teachers on their experience to better explain the quantitative findings as well as improve understanding of how to effectively design an adaptive personalized learning platform. Quantitative results of the study showed no statistical difference between students assigned to treatments that compared linear and adaptive personalized instructional flows.
The lack of significant differences was explained by two main factors: (a) low usage and (b) platform and content related issues. Low usage may have prevented students from being exposed to the platforms long enough to create a potential for differences between the groups. Additionally, the reasons for low usage may in part be explained by the qualitative findings, which indicated that unmotivated and tired teachers and students were not very enthusiastic about the study because it occurred near the end of school year. Further, computer access was a challenging issue at the school throughout the study. On the other hand, platform and content related issues worked to inhibit the potential beneficial effects of the platforms. The three prominent issues were: (a) the majority of the students found the content boring or difficult, (b) repeated recommendations from the adaptive platform created frustration, and (c) a barely moving progress bar caused disappointment among participants.