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Michael King, Vice President, Global Education Industry, IBM

Michael King, Vice President, Global Education Industry, IBM

By Michael King and Chalapathy Neti

The successful education of the nation’s young people is critical to the future of our society and economy. With growing classrooms, fewer resources and stretched school budgets it has become even more challenging for educators to spend time with those students that need help the most. How do you make sure that no student gets left behind in a challenging educational environment where every student learns differently?

Chalapathy Neti, Director of Education Transformation, IBM Research

Chalapathy Neti, Director of Education Transformation, IBM Research

Today’s classroom is designed to maximize the teacher’s lecture effectiveness by using an approach where there is a “push” of content. The future of classroom education will rely on delivering content on a personal level, so that the class time can be spent more on discussions, solving problems, and student interaction. We are already seeing an increase in digital data and the use of devices such as tablets in the classroom to improve access, and smarter content delivery for a more engaging learning environment.

In a first-of-a-kind effort IBM is collaborating with Gwinnett County Public Schools (GCPS) to use cognitive technologies such as machine learning, predictive modeling, analytics and advanced case management to personalize education down to the individual student level. Known as Personalized Education Through Analytics on Learning Systems, or PETALS, the goal of the project is to move away from traditional methods of teaching to a more modern approach that will ultimately lead to a more personal, effective, and efficient learning experience for students.

SP Chalapathy Chart

In this photo illustration Director of Education Transformation, Chalapathy Neti, points to an assessment of a student’s math performance at IBM Research headquarters in Yorktown Heights, N.Y., Tuesday, December 17, 2013. In five years, the classroom of the future will learn about each student, helping them master the skills critical to meeting their goals using personalized curriculum. A system fueled by sophisticated analytics over the cloud will help teachers predict students who are most at risk, their roadblocks, and then suggest measures to help students overcome their challenges. This innovation is part of IBM’s 5 in 5, a set of IBM annual predictions that have the potential to change the way people work, live and interact during the next five years. (Jon Simon/Feature Photo Service for IBM.)

Located in Atlanta, Georgia, GCPS represents the 14th largest school district in the United States and represents a total of 132 schools with nearly 170,000 students. GCPS was actively looking for ways to improve graduation rates when IBM approached them with the PETALS solution. IBM and GCPS have a 15 year history together, and this latest collaboration together further solidifies both organizations goal to improve a student’s learning experience so that they may be successful beyond the school walls.

According to the Department of Education, over 3 million high school students drop out each year. With such a staggering drop out rate, new approaches to educating young people are needed to keep them engaged and in school. The system developed by IBM researchers uses information from student records to identify learning patterns, predict performance needs and to implement successful teaching techniques by providing personalized content to meet a specific student’s needs.

The overall goal of PETALS is to highlight the value of using analytics to generate a personalized educational curriculum for at-risk students, so they can have a successful learning experience, gain skills and value from their courses, and graduate. The system also uses aligned and tagged content in order to make enhancements to the course work so it is always evolving. PETALS improves the teacher’s effectiveness, and increases the student’s engagement and academic performance.

IBM’s work with GCPS comes on the heels of the the eighth annual IBM 5 in 5 – a list of five predictions about innovations that have the potential to change the way people work, live, and interact during the next five years. For example, we predict that within five years, advanced technologies will enable the classroom to learn from the students to provide more personal education. The work with GCPS is a good first step to making that prediction a reality

Research efforts like PETALS will help the field of education move away from arbitrarily measured assembly-line models and schedule based classrooms, and toward personalized competence-based learning systems that motivates and engages learners at all levels, and that’s truly transformational.
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August 26, 2014
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September 16, 2014
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[…] with GCPS, IBM’s First-of-a-Kind project, Personalized Education Through Analytics on Learning Systems (PETALS), uses machine learning, predictive modeling, deep content analytics and advanced case management to […]


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September 15, 2014
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[…] with GCPS, IBM’s First-of-a-Kind project, Personalized Education Through Analytics on Learning Systems (PETALS), uses machine learning, predictive modeling, deep content analytics and advanced case management to […]


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