Books or Laptops? The Cost-Effectiveness of Shifting from Printed to Digital Delivery of Educational Content

34 Pages Posted: 12 Dec 2016

See all articles by Rosangela Bando

Rosangela Bando

Inter-American Development Bank

Francisco A. Gallego

Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile

Paul J. Gertler

University of California, Berkeley - Haas School of Business; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Dario Romero

Columbia University

Date Written: December 2016

Abstract

Information and communication technologies, such as laptops, can be used for educational purposes as they provide users with computational tools, information storage and communication opportunities, but these devices may also pose as distractors that may tamper with the learning process. This paper presents results from a randomized controlled trial in which laptops replaced traditional textbook provision in elementary schools in high poverty communities in Honduras in 2013 through the program Educatracho. We show that at the end of one school year, the substitution of laptops for textbooks did not make a significant difference in student learning. We additionally conducted a cost-effectiveness analysis, which demonstrated that given the low marginal costs of digital textbook provision, the substitution of three additional textbooks in the program (for a total of five) would guarantee computers to be more cost-effective than textbooks. Therefore, textbook substitution by laptops may be a cost-effective manner to provide classroom learning content.

Suggested Citation

Bando, Rosangela and Gallego, Francisco A. and Gertler, Paul J. and Romero, Dario, Books or Laptops? The Cost-Effectiveness of Shifting from Printed to Digital Delivery of Educational Content (December 2016). NBER Working Paper No. w22928. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2883965

Rosangela Bando (Contact Author)

Inter-American Development Bank ( email )

1300 New York Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20577
United States
202 623 2126 (Phone)

Francisco A. Gallego

Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile ( email )

Casilla 76
Correo 17
Santiago
Chile

HOME PAGE: http://www.economia.puc.cl/fgallego

Paul J. Gertler

University of California, Berkeley - Haas School of Business ( email )

545 Student Services Building, #1900
2220 Piedmont Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94720
United States
510-642-1418 (Phone)
510-642-4700 (Fax)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Dario Romero

Columbia University ( email )

3022 Broadway
New York, NY 10027
United States

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