Taking stock of digital personalized learning in the developing world
So we at UNICEF decided to take stock of digital personalized learning in LMICs to understand how these solutions work and to provide evidence-based insights to inform their design and implementation. Our first report in the series examines trends in design and implementation, based on a review of 40 personalized learning EdTech products deployed in LMICs.
The market for these products in LMICs is growing and is partly being driven by local entrepreneurs – with 70 percent of products headquartered out of an LMIC. But market penetration remains uneven: in particular, it is weak in francophone central and west Africa, and in low-income countries.
Content and pedagogy
While the products we reviewed target both primary and secondary levels, they tend to focus on few subjects – mainly math and language/literacy. Evaluations, too, have focused disproportionately on impacts in these subjects, while the evidence on impacts in other subjects, such as the sciences and 21st century skills, remains thin.
They were also more than twice as likely to target supplemental learning rather than core learning – whether in school or at home. And while content is offered in multiple local languages in some regions, local language options are very limited among products deployed in sub-Saharan Africa.
Contrary to the perception that these solutions bypass the teacher, most are designed to engage teachers in student learning, though this is mainly limited to monitoring student performance. Yet very few products translate this data into recommendations that teachers can act on to support student learning, such as follow-up interventions. Meanwhile, only a minority of products share data with parents on their child’s progress.
Future design and implementation should aim for more data transparency with key stakeholders like teachers, parents and school leaders, enabling them to engage in meaningful ways and to build their capacity to support children in their learning journey.