How Should School Districts Measure Ed Tech’s Return on Investment?
In education, ROI (Return On Investment) is a big deal. Resources are finite, and whenever they’re spent those holding the purse strings want to know if the investment is justified. When it comes to new technologies and innovative approaches, ROI can be difficult to calculate; which can put edtech in an awkward position when it comes to justifying the expenditure.
It’s important that educators and administrators have a sense of what they hope to accomplish with edtech: what are the goals which edtech can help achieve? Progress towards these goals needs to be tracked wherever possible, as this is the most straightforward way of presenting a case regarding ROI.
When it comes to tracking the progress made using edtech, there are two metrics which school districts should be focusing on: outcomes and feedback.
- Outcomes can be separated into short, medium and long-term. Short-term results might include new opportunities for learning or a change to how teachers are assessed or developed. Medium-term results involve changes in school culture or the responsibilities of faculty and students, such as an increasing focus on project-based learning. Long-term results will typically be the consequences of medium-term shifts – ideally, an overall increase in student achievement.
- This feedback can, and should, come from all areas; administrators, teachers, and students. The short and medium-term outcomes recorded by those implementing certain tools might not match up to how they experienced and used by educators and students on the ground, which is where feedback becomes particularly useful. Some of the questions which can be asked to solicit feedback include: Have there been functional changes in teaching? Is learning relevant and engaging? Are students experiencing greater agency? Are their critical thinking skills improving?
It’s important to stress that neither outcomes nor feedback can be measured by quantitative means alone. Falling back on hard data is a recurring temptation in education, but when evaluating the ROI of a particular edtech tool or system qualitative measurements are just as valuable. Especially in the initial phases of implementation and adaptation, reliance on quantitative feedback alone will lead to a skewed picture of both ROI and long-term benefits.
Asking the right questions when soliciting input from teachers and students will enable more informed projections about the value of edtech over time – one added bonus is that this qualitative feedback can highlight areas for improvement, and in doing so contribute to increasing edtech’s ROI in the long run.