Education Technology Tools for Adult Learners Get Mixed Results From SRI Study

IMMATURE, STILL NEEDS TO GROW UP: How are education technology tools helping the 36 million U.S. adults who lack basic literacy and math skills for entry-level jobs? A report (PDF) from SRI, supported by The Joyce Foundation, examined how the following five products were used—and to what effect—over different periods from June 2015 to June 2016.

  • Reading Horizons Elevate (developed by Reading Horizons)
  • MyFoundationsLab (Pearson)
  • Core Skills Mastery (CSMLearn)
  • ALEKS (McGraw-Hill Education)
  • GED Academy (Essential Education)

In all, 105 instructors and 1,579 adult learners participated in the study across 13 different test sites across the country from June 2015 to June 2016.

Results were mixed: “The study produced no conclusive evidence that the use of the products was more effective in raising students’ math or reading skills than the participating ABE program sites’ current curricula and approaches.”

“Of the 13 separate impacts estimated for reading and math, 6 were positive and 7 were negative, but only 2 of the effects estimated were statistically reliable,” write the researchers. Users of Core Skills Mastery at one site saw “moderate to large statistically reliable positive impacts,” while those who used Reading Horizons at another site saw a “moderate to large statistically significant negative effect.”

Among the challenges that were observed: Instructors reported having “insufficient time” to prepare and plan for integrating the tools into their classroom, and reported “modest” support and training from the vendors. Some teachers also found that “the reading level of several of the products was too difficult for many of their students at the low end of the reading spectrum.”

The report concludes with recommendations for developers and instructors of adult basic education programs. “It is likely that for many students, particularly those with the lowest skills, blended and hybrid models (with instructors delivering 50% or more of the instruction) will be the most prevalent and perhaps most effective use models for ABE programs.”

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