Instructional Technology Holds Great Promise for Underserved Learners

One area of great promise in digital learning is the potential to improve learning outcomes for traditionally underserved students.

We know statistically that students from low-income areas tend to have lower levels of academic preparedness at any given grade level as well as lower graduation rates.

The federal Race to the Top program has dedicated $4.35 billion toward using technology to improve results in the US public school system. A big part of this effort is focused on closing the achievement gap.

At this point, low-income students face a big disadvantage in terms of technology access. The issue of access will be important to solve in order to make meaningful gains in these communities.

At the same time, learning technology is already delivering improved education methods to underserved schools.

The Stanford Graduate School of Education has taken a long look at the various methods of teaching at-risk students. Research shows that traditionally underserved students perform better in an “environment that involves all students in high level thinking skills, [promoting] problem solving versus a more drill-practice approach.”

Moreover, the Stanford research indicates that three eLearning features have shown success with at-risk students:

  • interactivity
  • using technology to explore and create, as opposed to educational drills
  • blended learning, as opposed to 100% computer-based instruction

Regarding the last point, researchers state that “teacher assistance seems to be mandatory for the online learning of underprivileged students.”

For instructional designers, this should reinforce the value of student-centered learning at all education levels.


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