Fishtree: Learner Profiles Drive Adaptive Learning

After years as an executive in publishing, EdTech, and software, Terry Nealon had a vision that learning could be better for students and teachers. He believed a smart platform would make it easier for teachers to create compelling experiences and a student profile could help individualize learning.

In 2012, with former colleague Jim Butler, Nealon Co-founded Fishtree, the first learning relationship management (LRM) platform. It combines content from any source and type mode, automatically aligns it to standards, and delivers it on any device in ways unique to each learner based on their learning preferences.


Like Realizeit, another innovative adaptive platform, Fishtree was founded in Dublin. The company was focused on the market and impact opportunity in the US, and based on this Nealon moved the three year old company to Washington DC. Nealon said:

We scale 1:1 instruction with adaptive instruction driven by learner profiles. Fishtree brings together resources for every subject, aligns them to any standard or competency and then personalizes the experience based on specific learning profiles, while keeping in mind the user experience of the educator and administrator.

He realizes that an adaptive LRM is a new approach. The platform can be used as a stand alone learning environment or to make a legacy platform adaptive.

A lesson building module makes it easy to develop units by combining content from digital texts, user developed content, and open resources. Teachers report 50% time savings on lesson preparation. Students are seeing gains over 10% after three months.

Teachers can build their own assessments, draw from other assessments, and can auto build assessments from content.

Nealon recognizes that implementation is key to improved outcomes. He said:

The standard of implementation across the industry is poor and is hampering the belief of educators that technology can deliver on its promises. Fishtree insists on minimum implementation requirements to support educators and does so on an ongoing basis to build partnerships with users.

While the initial focus has been K-12, Nealon said, “HigherEd is outpacing all our expectations.” Programs associated with competency-based professional certifications have been particularly interested. Nealon continued in saying, “Scaling personalized learning to support thousands of individual students simultaneously means every learner can learn at their own time and pass, according to their needs and lifestyles.”

Fishtree offers a highly engaging user interface. The teacher and student view both have notifications in the left column, assignments and content in the right column. Content and functionality automatically adjusts for any screen size and data is presented in real-time. The interactive grade book allows teachers to identify gaps and remediate directly.

The recommendation engine driven by a learner profile queues resources that drives performance creating a unique learning pathway for every student.

Admins can see what is working across the institution in terms of resources and content, and can see down to the student level who is on track, off track or advanced and can answer the “what’s next?” question. Fishtree can integrate with pre-existing technology infrastructures included SIS, LMS, grade books, as well as reporting and analytic tools.

This blog is part of the Learning Platforms Series brought to you by The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. For more, stay tuned in for the final published project, Getting Smart on Next-Gen Learning Platforms and check out additional posts in the series:

Getting Smart Staff

The Getting Smart Staff believes in learning out loud and always being an advocate for things that we are excited about. As a result, we write a lot. Do you have a story we should cover? Email [email protected]

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