How does a smart course differ from a traditional online course? It’s not just about adaptive unlocking and embedding multimedia elements. A true smart course integrates all these disparate elements into one seamless experience.

Smart Course

  • Videos, readings, and interactive elements integrated into a seamless experience
  • Content and pathways adapt to student answers, abilities, and behaviors
  • Collects analytical data that allows instructors to easily improve the learning experience for quick reuse

Traditional Course

  • Videos, readings, and interactive elements on separate pages
  • Pathways unlocked based on completion, little response to student interactions beyond “right/wrong”
  • Interactive content can be reordered or put behind gates, but typically needs to be used “as is”

Think of your average online course or MOOC experience. It may involve watching videos or clicking through to another website or PDF. This may be followed by a trivia quiz that asks whether you recall superficial elements from the video or readings. If you’re lucky, you might have an interactive element that you can play with, but the system won’t know what you did with it or whether you even used it.

Is this the best we can do? We have what would have been considered supercomputers a few years ago in our pockets and backpacks, but in an educational setting, we don’t use these amazing tools to do anything much more complex than what we can do in a traditional classroom. We can model whole realities, but instead we create videos with trivia quizzes. We can do so much better.

Enter the Smart Course.

See a Smart Course Lesson in Action

Smart courses using intelligent tutoring systems allow the development of narratives and lesson flow that adapts to student answers, abilities, and behaviors. Try out these experiences from the astrobiology course Habitable Worlds and watch how the system responds to what you do.

Philosophy of Science | Stratigraphy Virtual Field Experience´╗┐

Typical online learning courses are developed in a content management system such as Blackboard, Moodle, or Canvas. These are good for managing and integrating existing content, but not particularly great for creating narratives or engaging game-like experiences. They simply help you manage and distribute existing content in a preset form factor and perhaps create some adaptive blocks based on whether students complete content or not.

Modern online learning experiences utilize what are known at intelligent tutoring systems (ITS). ITS systems give the instructor much more freedom when designing educational content. Imagine jumping from physical slides to Powerpoint. Physical slides limited the kind of content you could incorporate into your presentation. Powerpoint, meanwhile, allowed you to incorporate animations, video, and sound. ITS systems allow a similar leap in online teaching abilities. Rather than just creating static Powerpoint slides, you can create adaptive responses with alternative pathways. In more advanced settings, you can integrate interactive elements such as simulators and virtual field sites that the system recognizes and guides students through misconceptions.

Teacher Training

Intelligent tutoring systems are new and can be overwhelming. We can train you or your instructors in how to use and develop in them so that you and your team can bring your teaching into the 21st century.


Have an interesting idea that you want to bring to life? We can help you prototype ITS-based lessons and train you and your staff to modify and build whole lessons and courses from them.

Interested in teacher training or prototyping smart lessons or courses on ITS systems? Contact us!