New study highlights the benefits and challenges of education technology

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Regarding the rise of complexity of online education and the proliferation of certifications, the research agenda should focus on measuring —beyond the completion rates— the added value of MOOCs in terms of education and career development.

The advances in education technology offer the potential to expand the access to quality education, facilitate communication, and bring opportunities to more people, but they also pose challenges because the speed and scale with which ed-tech innovations are being implemented may aggravate existing inequalities.

The study “Education Technology: An Evidence-Based Review”, published by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), aims “to step back and understand how technology can help—or in some cases hinder—how students learn.”

Researchers examined data from studies across the categories of (1) access to technology, (2) computer-assisted learning, (3) technology-enabled behavioral interventions in education, and (4) online learning.

Access to Technology
Although a large and growing share of students have access to computers with internet (about 75% of American adults), students without computers are more likely to be benefited by human capital, because they are more likely to come from a low-income household.

“Although students enrolled in colleges are more likely to have computer access, computer ownership and Internet access are far from universal among lower-income and otherwise disadvantaged students, and accessing computers at labs may waste scarce time.”

Computer-Assisted Learning
The popularity of computer-assisted learning (CAL) programs has exploded, and hundreds of companies gave entered the market due to the high demand of CALs, but the decisions on which software to use have been based on intuition rather than evidence.

Behavioral Interventions
There is a growing literature that explores how behavioral interventions might contribute toward reducing disparities in engagement. “Evidence consistently shows that technology-enabled behavioral interventions can have meaningful, if modest, impacts on a variety of education-related outcomes, often at extremely low costs.”

Online Courses
Regarding the rise of complexity of online education and the proliferation of certifications, the research agenda should focus on measuring —beyond the completion rates— the added value of MOOCs in terms of education and career development.