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Evidence-based Practice: Digital learning


Technology can help foster productive and engaging course experiences for larger numbers of students and a more diverse student population. The WWC recommends that postsecondary institutions leverage technology to (1) vary, blend, or accelerate course formats; (2) package course content to minimize cost, maximize accessibility, and accommodate different learning preferences; and (3) generate and provide timely performance data to students and instructors. These practices have led to improved academic achievement, credit accumulation, and persistence. As one example, in 2014 the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation launched the Next Generation Courseware Challenge (NGCC) to develop and scale high-quality adaptive courseware in gateway courses with historically poor outcomes for students from low-income households and students of color. Evaluations of 28 courseware uses showed that implementing courseware in blended and fully online courses can improve student success in high failure-rate courses and save them money while potentially reducing instructional costs for the institution. The effects on students’ course grades were positive overall, and greater for students of color. However, the results varied widely across contexts—for instance, courseware was more effective in four-year than two-year colleges, and in biology, psychology, and math courses than in courses in the humanities or social sciences.


The framework's recommendations are based on syntheses of existing research. Please see the framework report for a list of works cited.

This website was funded in part by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.