Does computer-assisted learning improve learning outcomes? Evidence from a randomized experiment in migrant schools in Beijing

Author(s): Rozelle, Scott; Lai, Fang; Zhang, Linxiu; Huang, Xinzhe; Luo, Renfu

Date: 2011

Pages: 53 p.


The education of the poor and disadvantaged population has been a long‐standing challenge to the education system in both developed and developing countries. Although computer‐assisted learning (CAL) has been considered one alternative to improve learning outcomes in a cost‐effective way, the empirical evidence of its impacts on improving learning outcomes is mixed. This paper intends to explore the nature of the effects of CAL on student academic and non‐academic outcomes for underserved populations in a developing country. To meet this goal, the authors exploit a randomized field experiment of a CAL program involving over 4000 third‐grade students, mostly from poor migrant families, in 43 migrant schools in Beijing. The main intervention is a math CAL program that is held out of regular school hours. The program is tailored to the regular school math curriculum and is remedial in nature. The results show that the CAL program improved the student standardized math scores by 0.14 standard deviations and most of the program effect took place within two months after the start of the program. Low‐performing students and those with less‐educated parents benefited more from the program. Moreover, CAL also significantly increased the levels of self‐ efficacy of the students and their interest in learning. The authors observed at most a moderate program spillover in Chinese test scores. The findings are robust to the Hawthorne effect and CAL program spillovers that might potentially bias the estimates of the program effects.

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