A new report from the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Educational Technology says that digital learning systems, with the ability to collect large amounts of data, can be used by developers and researchers to improve learning systems and discover more about how people learn.

"When educational data are combined with data from other sources, such as community and social services organizations that also serve children and youth, the opportunity arises to gain broader insight into students' lives, including factors outside school that can affect educational outcomes," says the 114-page report, "Expanding Evidence Approaches for Learning in a Digital World."

The report asserts that realizing the full potential of digital learning systems will require:

  • Innovations that can be developed and carried out quickly so that every school has an opportunity to adopt them.

  • Continuous improvement processes to improve, adapt and enhance the innovations as more experience is gained in using them.

  • Use of large amounts of data to gain insight into how individual students learn so the needs of every student can be met.

  • Expanded approaches to evidence gathering so that schools have greater confidence that investments in technology-based interventions are wise and produce the sought outcomes.