Peer Effects in Computer Assisted Learning: Evidence from a Randomized Experiment
We conduct a large scale RCT to investigate peer effects in computer assisted learning (CAL). Identification of peer effects relies on three levels of randomization. It is already known that CAL improves math test scores in Chinese rural schools. We find that paired treatment improves the beneficial effects of treatment for poor performers when they are paired with high performers. We test whether CAL treatment reduces the dispersion in math scores relative to controls, and we find statistically significant evidence that it does. We also demonstrate that the beneficial effects of CAL could potentially be strengthened, both in terms of average effect and in terms of reduced dispersion, if weak students are systematically paired with strong students during treatment. To our knowledge, this is the first time that a school intervention has been identified in which peer effects unambiguously help weak students catch up with the rest of the class without imposing any learning cost on other students.
We benefited from comments and suggestions from Paul Glewwe, Jessica Leight, Arun Chandrasekhar, Bet Caeyers, Prashant Loyalka, and Hessel Oosterbeek, as well as from conference participants at the AEA 2016 Conference in San Francisco and from seminar participants at the Universities of Stanford, Minnesota and Santa Clara. We thank Weiming Huang and Yu Bai for their assistance in data cleaning and program implementation. We would like to acknowledge Dell Inc. and the LICOS Centre for Institutions and Economic Development for their generous support to REAP's computer assisted learning programs. We are very grateful to Scott Rozelle for his constructive advice on this paper. We acknowledge the assistance of students from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Northwest University of Xi'an in conducting the surveys. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.
Marcel Fafchamps & Di Mo, 2018. "Peer effects in computer assisted learning: evidence from a randomized experiment," Experimental Economics, vol 21(2), pages 355-382. citation courtesy of