Closed-loop educational strategy ideal, report says

As policymakers and education practitioners across the U.S. seek innovative approaches to boost student achievement, particularly in K–12 education, a new report released today by The Boston Consulting Group reveals that a closed-loop instructional system is the most effective way to maximize technology’s potential to improve learning and overall student outcomes.

The report, titled Unleashing the Potential of Technology in Education, examines the role of technology in the post–No Child Left Behind era, identifying lessons learned in both K–12 and higher education.

“Throughout the U.S. and around the world, educators are focused on boosting student outcomes as never before, with technology and innovation serving as key drivers in education improvement efforts,” said Allison Bailey, a partner in the firm’s Boston office and lead author of the report. “If we are serious about igniting a true learning revolution, we must incorporate technology in a holistic, proven effective way.”

Unleashing the Potential of Technology in Education emphasizes the value of a closed-loop instructional system—a deeply aligned set of educational objectives, standards, curricula, assessments, interventions, and professional development. The BCG model calls for a closed-loop instructional system that uses technology at every level to enable continuous improvement in both instruction and student outcomes.

“The education sector continues to devote a far lower proportion of its spending on technology than do other sectors. It should be no surprise, then, that the investment in technology has yielded little overall impact on student achievement,” said J. Puckett, a senior partner in BCG’s Dallas office and global leader of the firm’s Education practice. “It is no longer an issue of whether or not to use technology. Today, we must carefully examine the research on how best to adapt and use technology in the teaching and learning process.”

Examining best practices in the field, BCG describes how technology can revolutionize educational objectives, curriculum offerings, delivery of instruction, frequent assessments, appropriate interventions, and tracking of outcomes through data management systems enabled by information and communications technology (ICT).

As part of its analysis, BCG spotlights the specific work of a range of technology-focused education-improvement efforts, including BetterLesson, Carnegie Mellon University’s Open Learning Initiative, Curriki, Florida Virtual School, Megastudy, and the University of Phoenix.

Built on the best practices in the field, Unleashing the Potential of Technology in Education offers specific recommendations for policymakers and education leaders:

  • Embrace a holistic closed-loop strategy to meet clear educational goals.
  • Enable teachers to use and leverage technology in the classroom.
  • Create an engaging student experience.
  • Promote the development of high-quality digital assessments that enable continuous feedback.
  • Develop a critical mass of research that confirms—or refutes—technology’s benefits.
  • Enact policies that encourage and facilitate the proliferation of digital learning.
  • Build an ICT infrastructure that enables the closed loop.

“In the coming years, the technology revolution in education has the potential to gather strength and momentum as visionary leaders take up a technology-enabled closed-loop approach to instruction. But whether and how quickly this happens within systems (and even nations) will depend in large part on the policy environment—and the extent to which it encourages and enables the use of technology. Another critical variable will be how quickly individual institutions move to adopt and implement effective technology. To date, there has not been a strong policy push to adopt educational technologies at the primary and secondary levels, despite the groundswell of activity in postsecondary education,” the report concludes.

To download a copy of the report, visit