Books or laptops? The cost-effectiveness of shifting from printed to digital delivery of educational content

Autor(es): Gallego, Francisco; Romero F., Dario; Bando, Rosangela; Gertler, Paul

Date: 2016

Pages: 36 p.

Serie: Documento de trabajo

Series Volume: 474


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 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. The authors show that at the end of one school year, the substitution of laptops for textbooks did not make a significant difference in student learning. They 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.

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