Most VLEs will allow you to do some form of differentiation – I always think of it as “You can see this if….”
In the VLE i support (Blackboard) it is called “Adaptive Release” (snappy name huh!) and allows you to show things to students based on
- Any grade in the course (also includes the option to show if student has attempted that assessment)
- Membership of groups (or you can add individual students)
- Date limiting – so only seen at a particular time
- Have reviewed some other item in course (and ticked a button to say they have reviewed it)
You can also combine all of the above in both AND and OR options (so if in a Group AND got over 90% – can see) vs (if in a group -can see OR if got over 90% – can see).
Now the most basic use is the weekly multiple choice test – low score = extra explaining materials, high score = extra stretching materials. Which is ok as far as it goes but not that imaginative.
One I like using is to have “If you have reviewed this weeks materials AND its before Wednesday” = provide some extra optional work
Another is a variation on the “Just in time teaching” method where I get students to post a private response (either use a journal or a test with “text answer”) about the subject I am going to be teaching at least 40hours before class. I then read through the responses – adding anyone who appears to not grasp the subject to a group as I go. I then make introductory materials and maybe a video available to this group. That way when class starts I know that everyone is aware of the basics, but I haven’t wasted the time of those who already knew the basics. The class can then jump straight into an engagement with the main subject.
Interestingly I struggled to find any research into the effects of online differentiation (1 hour on Google scholar and I found nothing relevant) so this might be an area to investigate if you plan to do this with your class. Of course if you know of any research please drop a link in the comments section 🙂
A Google search of “effect of differentiation on student test scores” found some interesting research but nothing that directly relates to the use of VLEs to provide differentiated materials.