January 28, 2021 | Documents

A study just published in the Journal of the European Economic Association analyses the impact of online live streaming of lectures in a public Swiss university before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. The results show that students prefer to be in the classroom when this is possible and that following lectures online help students that usually do well achieve better grades, while it makes those that usually struggle obtain worse grades.

An important message for post-COVID policy making: technology needs to be smartly conceived if we want it to be inclusive.

Using a randomized experiment in a public Swiss university, we study the impact of online live streaming of lectures on student achievement and attendance. We find that (i) attending lectures via live streaming lowers achievement for low-ability students and increases achievement for high-ability ones; (ii) students use the live streaming technology only occasionally, apparently when random events make attending in class too costly, and (iii) offering live streaming reduces in-class attendance only mildly. These findings have important implications for the effective design of education policies.

Paula Cacault, EPFL

Christian Hildenbrand, University of St Gallen

Jérémy Laurent-Lucchetti, University of Geneva

Michele Pellizzari, University of Geneva