The Global Position System (GPS), initially developed by the U.S. Department of Defense and made public in the 1980s, has forever changed the way we think about navigating our way through an ever-complex world. I’ve personally used GPS to find the closest gas station, to locate previously productive fishing spots in vast bodies of water, and to let me know the distance from ball to pin during a round of golf.

More recently, GPS has been combined with other sophisticated data systems to advance such innovations as self-driving cars and drone-based distribution systems. Through the utilization of GPS, data analysis, and other technologies, we can safely and efficiently get ourselves, and many other things, from a current location to a desired destination. These tools enhance efficiencies and productivity in achieving our goals.

I often use this navigation analogy when talking about the level of functionality and user experience we are striving to achieve with Precision Education, a comprehensive, research-based initiative launched through National University to re-engineer how students navigate their own academic pathways.  The analogy resonates with other educators and institutions as they, too, are exploring approaches to improving student navigation through technology.

Let’s look more closely at this analogy as it relates to higher education, personalized education and the areas we are specifically addressing through Precision Education:

  • Current Location: Every student has a different starting point, based on their own personal and professional backgrounds. Through various assessment and analytics tools, we can better understand what students currently know and what they are capable of doing once they enter the educational system. This allows us to precisely identify their starting point.
  • Destination: Some students may have a clear idea of their academic and career destination, but may not be sure how to get there. Other students may have a general idea of what they want to do, but not a clear destination point. Precision Education helps students articulate their goals (destination) early on in the educational process, and then helps them reach those goals.
  • Mode of Transportation: Depending upon the student and the circumstances, learning may be enhanced more effectively by watching video, using game theory, or working in small groups. Learning modes can be equated to modes of transportation.  The mode of learning will vary by individual and circumstance, and Precision Education is designed to match students with specific modalities as they progress through their program.
  • Pathways to the Destination: Precision Education is exploring new ways to provide and measure learning, starting with “unbundling” certain courses and instruction into core competencies that can be measured and assessed to knowledge and skills.  We are also evaluating academic and career support structures to guide students through their educational experience. The result will be the creation of many potential pathways and support options for students entering the system. The system becomes smarter over time as it learns which of these pathways are most effective in moving students toward their goals (destination).

The Precision Education ecosystem will get smarter and smarter with use, becoming ever more precise in guiding students along the most efficient and effective path to achieving their goals. Just as Google Maps has become more precise and sophisticated with high volume users, now offering 3D perspective or a virtual reality street view, we envision Precision Education evolving into a multidimensional navigation tool critical to advancing each student’s success.

Blog post written by Dr. David Andrews, President of National University. Precision Education at National University is a research-based initiative that is exploring new ways to leverage technology, open education resources, and predictive data analytics to adapt to student needs and guide them to successful completion of their academic and career goals. Learn more at: