When Arnecia Hawkins enrolled at Arizona State University last fall, she did not realize she was volunteering as a test subject in an experimental reinvention of American higher education. Yet here she was, near the end of her spring semester, learning math from a machine. In a well-appointed computer lab in Tempe, on Arizona State’s desert resort of a campus, she and a sophomore named Jessica were practicing calculating annuities. Through a software dashboard, they could click and scroll among videos, text, quizzes and practice problems at their own pace. As they worked, their answers, along with reams of data on the ways in which they arrived at those answers, were beamed to distant servers. Predictive algorithms developed by a team of data scientists compared their stats with data gathered from tens of thousands of other students, looking for clues as to what Hawkins was learning, what she was struggling with, what she should learn next and how, exactly, she should learn it.