Conducting a Randomized Controlled Trial in Education: Experiences From an Online Postsecondary Setting

Abstract

Our research team worked with Wake Technical Community College to evaluate an intervention to redesign the delivery of a set of introductory online courses. To obtain unbiased estimates of the treatment effects of the intervention, we conducted a randomized control trial in which students who enrolled in the study courses were assigned randomly to either a redesigned or a business-as-usual section of the same class. In this case study, we describe the randomization process in a postsecondary education setting and offer practical advice for researchers interested in conducting similar studies. We begin by describing the institutional setting and support structures we had in place. Then, we provide more details about the procedures we followed and challenges we faced over the course of this project. We provide sample code that can be used to allocate students across course sections. We end with an overview of the main lessons we learned in the process.

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