Author: Karthik Muralidharan, Abhijeet Singh, Alejandro J. Ganimian
Full Citation: Muralidharan, K., Singh, A., & Ganimian, A.J. (2017). Disrupting education? Experimental evidence on technology-aided instruction in India [Working paper]. Retrieved from http://econweb.ucsd.edu/~kamurali/papers/Working%20Papers/Disrupting%20Education%20(Current%20WP).pdf
Overview: We present experimental evidence on the impact of a personalized technology-aided after-school instruction program on learning outcomes. Our setting is middle-school grades in urban India, where a lottery provided winning students with a voucher to cover program costs. In this paper, we present experimental evidence on the impact of a technology-led instructional program (called Mindspark) that aimed to leverage technology to improve education. A key feature of the software is its ability to use data to finely benchmark the learning level of every student and dynamically customize the material being delivered to match the level and rate of progress made by each individual student. A second noteworthy feature is its ability to analyze these data to identify patterns of student errors, and precisely target content to alleviate conceptual ‘bottlenecks’ that may be difficult for teachers to diagnose or address at the individual student level in a classroom setting.
Findings: We find that lottery winners scored 0.36 σ higher in math and 0.22 σ higher in Hindi relative to lottery losers after just 4.5-months of access to the program. IV estimates suggest that attending the program for 90 days would increase math and Hindi test scores by 0.59 σ and 0.36 σ respectively. We find similar absolute test score gains for all students, but the relative gain was much greater for academically-weaker students because their rate of learning in the control group was close to zero. We show that the program was able to effectively cater to the very wide variation in student learning levels within a single grade by precisely targeting instruction to the level of student preparation. The program was cost effective, both in terms of productivity per dollar and unit of time. Our results suggest that well-designed technology-aided instruction programs can sharply improve productivity in delivering education.