Precision Education has much in common with what is known as Precision Medicine, a comprehensive approach to personalizing healthcare delivery that has emerged in the last decade. Both refer to using a variety of information about individuals to better serve their needs, and both rely on advances in computing power to make sense out of vast amounts of disparate data, whether it is on the cellular level or the student level.

That is why we see immense value in developing collaborations with other research and educational institutions that are exploring precision-focused approaches, including in medicine. In San Diego alone, we acknowledge the impressive work being done in developing precision approaches to health and medicine by research organizations such as The Scripps Research Institute, UC San Diego Health, Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute, and the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, to name a few. Through dialogue and sharing of knowledge, we can better understand how precision approaches are being applied to a range of needs in health and medicine and other fields, create multi-disciplinary partnerships, and be even more effective in collectively addressing critical needs in our society.

Data and Analytics Drive Precision Approaches

Doctors who use the Precision Medicine model compile data on a patient’s lifestyle, environment, genome, and chemical makeup at a molecular level to better understand the complex mechanisms underlying their health, disease, or condition. They then use statistical algorithms to classify patients and predict which treatments or prevention strategies will be most effective. The more patient data that are collected, the more powerful and accurate those algorithms and predictions become.

Precision Education works much the same way. Data on students’ aspirations, interests, approaches to learning, and performance are used to match them with personalized learning tools, strategies, instructional supports, advising, and ongoing assessment. More data from more students increase the validity of the recommendations.

Precision Approaches Are Unique to Each Individual

A long-term apprenticeship – a one-on-one relationships between a student and a mentor who is deeply knowledgeable about the student’s background, skills, and goals – is perhaps the most successful education model.  However, such a model is prohibitively expensive and logistically impossible to implement at scale. So, education, like medicine, has typically been designed for the average student. But there is no “average” student. Each is unique. So, each has to adjust to the teacher’s instructional approach. By contrast, Precision Education uses analytics and real-time communication to direct how the learning system adapts to the student.

Continuous Research Important to Precision Initiatives

Much is yet to be learned about both Precision Medicine and Precision Education. That’s why President Obama in 2015 created the Precision Medicine Initiative to invest in research and policy development to explore its potential. That’s also why National University has created the Precision Institute at National University. Neither Precision Medicine nor Precision Education is a silver bullet. But both could be powerful tools that, in the hands of clinicians and educators, will improve the health of patients and increase the educational attainment of students.

To learn more about collaborating and partnering with the Precision Institute at National University: https://www.nu.edu/precision/join-us.html

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 about the initiative and the Precision Institute at National University at: https://www.nu.edu/precision/index.html