Complexity and Considerations in Delivering Adaptive Learning Digital Services

Introduction and context

Many groups are optimistic about the potential of education technology (EdTech) to rapidly improve learning outcomes in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). This piece will look specifically at the potential of adaptive learning software and considerations for taking this to scale. Adaptive learning software adjusts content to match the level of the learner — incorporating both assessment and instruction — often mixed with gamification. In most low- and middle-income contexts, this type of software is delivered to schools in what can be called an ‘adaptive learning digital service’ — which includes everything needed for the software to be used, such as hardware, training, and management. 

There is now growing evidence to show that this type of adaptive learning digital service can improve learning. The Mindspark digital service in India is an example that has been shown to improve learning by a significant margin (Muralidharan, et al., 2019). Moreover, these improved learning outcomes have been shown across genders, so the technology doesn’t necessarily worsen inequality as some education interventions have (Pitchford, et al., 2019). However, there are questions as to whether now is the right time for investment in this type of software at scale, especially concerning value for money, inclusion, and capacity.

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