Isolating the "Tech" from Edtech: Experimental Evidence on Computer Assisted Learning in China

53 Pages Posted: 30 Mar 2020

See all articles by Yue Ma

Yue Ma

City University of Hong Kong (CityU) - Department of Economics & Finance

Robert W. Fairlie

University of California, Santa Cruz - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research

Prashant Kumar Loyalka

Stanford University - Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies

Scott Rozelle

Stanford University - Freeman Spogli Institute of International Studies

Abstract

EdTech which includes online education, computer assisted learning (CAL), and remote instruction was expanding rapidly even before the current full-scale substitution for in-person learning at all levels of education around the world because of the coronavirus pandemic. Studies of CAL interventions have consistently found large positive effects, bolstering arguments for the widespread use of EdTech. However CAL programs, often held after school, provide not only computer-based instruction, but often additional non-technology based inputs such as more time on learning and instructional support by facilitators. In this paper, we develop a theoretical model to carefully explore the possible channels by which CAL programs might affect academic outcomes among schoolchildren. We isolate and test the technology-based effects of CAL and additional parameters from the theoretical model, by designing a novel multi-treatment field experiment with more than four thousand schoolchildren in rural China. Although we find evidence of positive overall CAL program effects on academic outcomes, when we isolate the technology-based effect of CAL (over and above traditional pencil-and-paper learning) we generally find small to null effects. Our empirical results suggest that, at times, the "Tech" in EdTech may have relatively small effects on academic outcomes, which has important implications for the continued, rapid expansion of technologies such as CAL throughout the world.

Keywords: computer-assisted learning, EdTech, ICT, pencil effects, student learning, educational productivity, RCT

JEL Classification: I21, O15

Suggested Citation

Ma, Yue and Fairlie, Robert W. and Loyalka, Prashant and Rozelle, Scott, Isolating the "Tech" from Edtech: Experimental Evidence on Computer Assisted Learning in China. IZA Discussion Paper No. 13080, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3562870

Yue Ma (Contact Author)

City University of Hong Kong (CityU) - Department of Economics & Finance ( email )

83 Tat Chee Avenue
Kowloon
Hong Kong

HOME PAGE: http://www.cb.cityu.edu.hk/staff/yuema24

Robert W. Fairlie

University of California, Santa Cruz - Department of Economics ( email )

Department of Economics
Engineering 2 Bldg.
Santa Cruz, CA 95064
United States
831-459-3332 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://people.ucsc.edu/~rfairlie/

National Bureau of Economic Research ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.nber.org/people/robert_fairlie?page=1&perPage=50

Prashant Loyalka

Stanford University - Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305
United States

Scott Rozelle

Stanford University - Freeman Spogli Institute of International Studies ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305
United States

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