Digital technology offers the potential to address educational challenges in resource-poor settings. This meta-analysis examines the impact of students' use of technology that personalises and adapts to learning level in low- and middle-income countries. Following a systematic search for research between 2007 and 2020, 16 randomised controlled trials were identified in five countries. Studies involved 53,029 learners aged 6–15 years. Coding examined learning domain (mathematics and literacy); personalisation level and delivery; technology use; and intervention duration and intensity. Overall, technology-supported personalised learning was found to have a statistically significant—if moderate—positive effect size of 0.18 on learning (p = 0.001). Meta-regression reveals how more personalised approaches which adapt or adjust to learners' level led to significantly greater impact (an effect size of 0.35) than those only linking to learners' interests or providing personalised feedback, support, and/or assessment. Avenues for future research include investigating cost implications, optimum programme length, and teachers' role in making personalised learning with technology effective. Practitioner notes What is already known about this topic? Promoting personalised learning is an established aim of educators. Using technology to support personalised learning in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) could play an important role in ensuring more inclusive and equitable access to education, particularly in the aftermath of COVID-19. There is currently no rigorous overview of evidence on the effectiveness of using technology to enable personalised learning in LMICs. What this paper adds? The meta-analysis is the first to evaluate the effectiveness of technology-supported personalised learning in improving learning outcomes for school-aged children in LMICs. Technology-supported personalised learning has a statistically significant, positive effect on learning outcomes. Interventions are similarly effective for mathematics and literacy and whether or not teachers also have an active role in the personalisation. Personalised approaches that adapt or adjust to the learner led to significantly greater impact, although whether these warrant the additional investment likely necessary for implementation at scale needs to be investigated. Personalised technology implementation of moderate duration and intensity had similar positive effects to that of stronger duration and intensity, although further research is needed to confirm this. Implications for practice and/or policy: The inclusion of more adaptive personalisation features in technology-assisted learning environments can lead to greater learning gains. Personalised technology approaches featuring moderate personalisation may also yield learning rewards. While it is not known whether personalised technology can be scaled in a cost-effective and contextually appropriate way, there are indications that this is possible. The appropriateness of teachers integrating personalised approaches in their practice should be explored given ‘supplementary’ uses of personalised technology (ie, additional sessions involving technology outside of regular instruction) are common.
Bibliographical note© 2021 The Authors
- computer-assisted learning
- learning outcomes
- low- and middle-income
- personalised adaptive learning