Research review: “Effectiveness of Cognitive Tutor Algebra I at Scale”

John Watson, Saylor, Sept 23, 2013
Commentary by Stephen Downes

I'm not sure how much I trust a study by RAND Corporation researchers - mind you, I don't necessarily distrust it either. But it has to earn its credibility. And while (as John Watson notes) the result of this large-scale evaluation of a computer-based mathematical tutor reports positive results, "the caveats are non-trivial, and the time and expense required of this study show that it is simply not feasible to conduct this level of effort with all blended learning models, instructional approaches, or specific courseware or providers" (which of course means that, just like in medicine, only 'interventions' (their word) with well-funded backing will be evaluated, and hence, no approaches (my word) that are not well-funded will prove to be successful. So maybe (as in medicine) we should rethink how we approach this.

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