5 Questions with Martin Holmes

Martin Holmes

Product and Implementation Excellence Manager at Area9 Lyceum GmbH

Bio: Martin Holmes has experience in a number of different fields all relating to Education. Before moving to Germany in 2017, he worked as a Teacher in the UK. Mr. Holmes lead the implementation of a new computing curriculum and provided regular training to teachers on the topic of incorporating the use of technology and e-learning in the classroom. Following this, Martin Holmes joined a training institute in Germany, specializing in corporate training and e-learning. This role involved collaborating with sales teams and developers, as well as a large partner network in Europe in order to plan, coordinate and manage the success of training and e-learning projects with clients. He is now Product and Implementation Excellence Manager at Area9 Lyceum GmbH. Mr. Holmes works closely with the team of learning engineers as well as the product development team to ensure the customer success with Area9’s adaptive learning.

June 24, 2020 |

What types of content does Area9 work with? Is there a specific subject that benefits most from adaptive learning?

Adaptive learning is a very effective, solid approach for any subject or type of content.

We have developed over 2000 products in partnership with our clients, covering areas such as advanced medical training, soft-skills training and systems training to name a few. Our pedagogical approach coupled with the adaptive engine, enables our partners to benefit from adaptive learning in any discipline.

In terms of type of content, typically we work with our partners to convert existing courses into adaptive learning courses though, of course, you can build new courses from scratch. Our experience shows that if a course is already being taught through e-learning or online, it can be done more effectively using an adaptive learning approach. This is why we often work with existing e-learning content, but we also work with partners on incorporating adapting learning in a blended learning approach, where training was done previously only in the classroom. In such cases, we are developing from a range of different content such as decks, PDFs, videos and so on. To this point, we have developed technology to support with the ingestion and migration of such content through Rhapsode BRIDGE™, which helps us to produce adaptive learning content very efficiently. In some situations, we are also building adaptive learning courses from the ground-up, where no previous content exists.

We have the technology to bring truly, personalized, adaptive learning at scale into any organization. This is achieved not just through the points I mentioned above, but also because at Area9 we spend a lot of time gaining a deep understanding of what our partners want to achieve, and in collaboration, formulate a strategy and an implementation plan to ensure that they and their learners reap the benefits of adaptive learning.


Do you need to be a certain type of learner (visual, auditory, kinesthetic) to learn well with an adaptive system?

‘Learning styles’ is a very common idea amongst learning professionals, but there are over 100 studies that prove that there is no such thing as a ‘type of learner’. It is true that learners have personal preferences for reading or watching a video (for a particular thing in the moment), but those preferences do not translate into learning results.

Area9 focuses on the use of multi-media design principles and dynamic modality (varying the type of content based on need), rather than designing courses that are targeted at a theoretical type of learner. This is based on research that guides on how we can best combine the use of text, images, video, audio so that the learner is able to understand and process the information in the best possible way.

When developing a course, we use a combination of different ways of presenting information. For example, a typical user completing a Rhapsode LEARNER™ course, might at first be given a video resource to watch, but they might also see a written summary of the main points from the video.

These are some of the ways in which we ensure that all learners can learn well when taking an adaptive learning course.


Adaptive learning focuses on individual, personalized learning. What habits should students make or break to gain the most from adaptive learning?

A habit to break: clicking through without paying attention

A typical situation we experience with e-learning, is that for a learner to complete a course, they have to click through all the material, without really having to engage with the content in a meaningful way. Perhaps there might be quiz at the end of the course, but this doesn’t ensure that they have fully understood everything that needed to be learned. Unfortunately, this is what 100% completion looks like in standard approaches to e-learning and often learner serious learner engagement with the content is lacking.

How do you know as the learner, if you’ve correctly understood all the information and that you are now confident in the topics you have learned? In adaptive learning we do this by presenting the learner with probes (for example questions, activities, problem solving) that assess whether the learner has mastered the topic at hand. There is another layer to this where the learner then needs to indicate how confident they are with their answer. As a learner, this moment of self-reflection helps you to increase your awareness of what you do know and what you don’t know, and more importantly increases your awareness of the things you think you know, but actually don’t. This is known as unconscious incompetence, and adaptive learning will help you to reduce this. Furthermore, you will only see learning resources for topics where you need the support and you will skip them if you demonstrate your knowledge in the probe, helping you to save time. Likewise, if you need support on a topic, you will circle back to a similar probe covering the same topic, so that you have a chance to show that you’ve now learned the concept.

For you as learner this results in a much deeper and more rewarding learning experience, where your own, individual strengths are recognized, and where you get the chance to develop in those areas, where you need it and not waste time on those concepts that you already know. In this adaptive approach, 100% means that you have reached 100% proficiency, demonstrating mastery in all topics covered. Now, it is just a question of remaining 100% proficient over time.

A habit to make: Refresh your knowledge

Through your interactions with probes and learning resources, as well as your ongoing self-reflection, the adaptive engine builds a picture of which new concepts you have learned in the course, and where you most struggled. Based on this, you will receive a small “Refresh” module, where you only receive the content that you are at risk of forgetting, or where you perhaps lacked some confidence when first completing the course. This will appear repeatedly overtime, helping you to remain truly 100% proficient in a topic.

Area9 Rhapsode™ gives you the opportunity to reengage with your learning and reopen those courses that you already completed in order to remain proficient. Therefore, refreshing your knowledge on a regular basis is the most important habit to develop within adaptive learning.


Right now, students of all ages and backgrounds are learning remotely. What advice do you have for learners who may be new to digital education and adaptive learning?

Regardless of your age or background, if adaptive learning is a completely new experience, allow yourself time to immerse yourself in a course. Turn on the coach voice and listen to it, follow the advice of the coach, such as opening suggested resources. Don’t worry if it takes a little more time to get through it. This is because in an adaptive learning course you will start by being asked questions to find out how confident you are, where your strengths are and what you need to work on, similar to how a coach or a teacher would sit with you on a 1:1 basis. If you are unsure about something, indicate that in the system when you give your responses. You aren’t being tested here. The adaptive engine is evaluating what the next best step for you is – just as a personal tutor would do. And don’t be surprised if you come back to a topic that was already covered – this is the adaptive engine recognizing that you need further support with a topic, or that you need another chance to show that you mastered a topic. Of course, don’t be surprised if it you notice that you are making faster than expected progress through a course, this is a result of the adaptive engine adapting to your path through the course according to what you already know and by avoiding spending time teaching you topics that you already know!


A look into the future: What are you working on?

I wish I could share more with you here as we have some very exciting developments and releases on the horizon.

What I can say is that we have a very a strong development lead by a team of very experienced computer scientists, medical doctors and educational specialists, as well as an advisory board consisting of some of best people in education and cognitive science such as Angela Duckworth (known for her work and research on grit in learning) and Esther Wojcicki  (known as the Godmother of Silicon Valley, with whom we recently developed an adaptive learning course with, called T.R.I.C.K, available here: https://area9lyceum.com/course/how-to-raise-successful-people-with-t-r-i-c-k/). This all makes for a very exciting future for Area9 and our partners.

Going into a little more detail about what I find personally fascinating, I would like to mention again our work on Rhapsode Bridge™. It uses a range of artificial intelligence technologies to support with the ingestion and migration of existing content, helping content developers to increase the speed at which we can develop adaptive learning content. This technology is being constantly developed and I really am looking forward to the upcoming releases, so that our partners can benefit from the new functionality that we have built into it.

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