Using Technology to Improve Educational Outcomes
Saturday, November 14, 2015: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM
Flamingo (Hyatt Regency Miami)
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
Panel Organizers: Jonathan Smith, The College Board
Panel Chairs: Kevin Stange, University of Michigan
Discussants: Peter Bergman, Columbia University and Susan Dynarski, University of Michigan
There is a growing body of evidence that small pieces of information can substantially change students’ educational outcomes. Technology offers one of the easiest and cheapest ways to transmit relevant information to students and yet researchers and practitioners are only beginning to understand which tools are most effective and how best to use the tools. This panel examines a variety of settings and methods in which technology is used to provide information to students and the efficacy of such efforts.
In the first of two experimental papers that use text messages as a means of providing information to students, the authors seek to improve college completion and overall academic performance using goal setting reminders. Students in the treatment groups set their goals at the beginning of their schooling and are sent advice, reminders, and motivational text messages. Preliminary results suggest positive responses to these texts.
In the second text messaging experiment, students and families in Texas and Delaware receive messages regarding successful completion of the FAFSA. Prompts include reminders, advice, and the option to be put in touch with a person. Preliminary results show a high degree of implementation fidelity and improvement in FAFSA completion, which is a major barrier to college enrollment.
The third paper uses one of the largest online social media companies, Facebook, to send highly targeted ads to low-income and at-risk students. The series of experiments range from getting high school students to register for the SATs to getting community college students to matriculate and persist. Results of the Facebook experiments are mixed but are cost effective and may help certain sub-populations.
The final paper, which is quasi-experimental, shows how the diffusion of broadband internet of the 2000s changed college applications. Unlike the previous experiments, providing students with information came in a market setting but has effects consistent with experimental evidence. Notably, students with access to high-speed internet are more likely to apply to more colleges and more selective colleges.