The term “adaptive learning” can mean many things, even to colleges that have begun experimenting with it.

A broad definition is the use of software — often driven by data collection — to create a more individualized learning experience for students. Experts say adaptive learning has promise in tailoring coursework and supports to students, which could boost retention and graduation rates.

The language around the technology “seems to be up for grabs,” said Peter Stokes, executive director of postsecondary innovation at Northeastern University’s College of Professional Studies.

The distinction between “adaptive” and “personalized” learning is unclear, he said. Even old-fashioned tutoring or extra-credit projects can be called personalized learning, as can data-driven courseware that morphs in response to each student.