The Effects of Digital Textbooks on Students’Academic Performance, Academic Interest, and Learning Skills

Lee, Stephanie / Lee, Ju Ho / Jeong, Young Sik

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Digital textbooks, which are equipped with various learning resources including multimedia aids, assessment questions, and hyperlinks to external resources, can be an important channel for harnessing technologies in classrooms. Korea’s digital textbook experiment provides a unique empirical setting to examine multiple effects—utilization, earliness, and cumulative effects—that digital textbooks have on students’ academic performance, academic interest, and learning skills. We employ a propensity score weighting method and instrumental variable strategy to find that greater usage of digital textbooks in class improves students’ academic outcomes (i.e. utilization effect). For example, students’ social studies grades increase by a 0.30 standard deviation and science grades increase by a 0.37 standard deviation. We also find greater improvements in academic performance for low-achieving students. We additionally exploit a unique natural experiment setting and use a difference-in-differences strategy to find that students who started using digital textbooks at an earlier age show greater improvements in their academic outcomes (i.e. earliness effect). Furthermore, we examine whether greater cumulative exposure to digital textbooks improves students’ academic outcomes (i.e. cumulative effect).

Issue Date
KDI School of Public Policy and Management
Digital textbooks; academic performance; academic interest; learning skills
Series Title
KDI School Working Paper 20-11
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