Testing External Validity for Online and Electronic Messaging Efforts to Improve College Achievement and Retention
Over the last four years, Phil Oreopoulos been researching how online exercises, text messages, emails, and electronic calendars can be used to improve college academic achievement. The platform design works remarkably well in getting students to engage and contemplate advice within their own contexts. Instructors impose a small participation grade at the start of a course for completing an online ‘warm-up exercise’. This leads to exposing virtually all students to randomized content designed to improve mindset, study habits and motivation. Despite hints of improved study time, mental health and very enthusiastic feedback about user experience, Oreopoulos’ studies have yet to estimate markedly improved course grades or retention from my tested programs, including ones based on previous promising studies. Since these ed-tech experiments were conducted with high degrees of precision, fidelity, and internal validity, Oreopoulos proposes to better understand their external validity, to determine whether online exercises and electronic messaging hold promise or not. Oreopoulos proposes to make the platform easily available to and customizable by other researchers and colleges. In particular Oreopoulos aims to test these programs at U.S. 2-year community colleges and 4-year public colleges where the college dropout rate is much higher than the Canadian college previously examined.