Does Price Predict Quality of Educational Apps?

dollar_currency_signSkeptical about the instructional value of paid educational apps?

Our research at Balefire Labs shows that you should be.

We pretty regularly get questions and comments about paid versus free apps. There seem to be two general (and competing) schools of thought about paid apps among our users. The first is the common folk wisdom that “you get what you pay for,” likely a carryover from what we have been taught more generally in our society. The second school of thought is that educational apps are not worth buying. Period. So those folks restrict themselves to free apps only.

After reviewing lots of apps and talking to lots of people, we also got curious about the relationship between quality and price. So when we got a reasonable number of app reviews, we decided to run some statistics.

The result?

There is no relationship between instructional quality of apps and price (r = 0.0547).

You’re right to be unconvinced of the value of paid educational apps. But you should be equally skeptical about the value of free educational apps. Correlation values range between -1 and +1. As the value approaches zero, this is an indication of no association between the variables (in this case, quality and price). So our result indicates that price is not a predictor of quality.

Some notes about what went into this analysis: A total of 1127 instructional app reviews for iOS apps were included in this analysis. The apps included here were not selected randomly from the total pool of education apps in iTunes. Instead, they were selected through a combination of strategies. We include apps that are on the iTunes Top Charts for Education and Educational Games, we take review requests through our website from customers and developers, we review apps that other sites say they like. And finally, we search for apps for particular topics and age ranges so that we have a full offering across subjects and ages. So although our sample of 1127 apps was not randomly selected, it is biased toward the apps that people are more likely to buy, perhaps making this result even more important.

So what does this finding mean for you, as a customer? It doesn’t mean that you should never buy paid apps…from our evaluation we know that free apps are no more likely to be of high instructional quality than are the paid apps. But this result does mean that you can’t use price as a reliable predictor of what is good….or bad. If you’re using price to help you select educational apps, it’s not a good strategy.

The good news is that Balefire Labs can help. Whether you’re spending money on apps or not, let us help you find the highest instructional quality apps.

Sign up now for a free trial of our service by clicking here!

(This post originally appeared on the Balefire Labs blog on 10/29/2013.)

About karen mahon

i am a behavior and learning scientist. i hold an ed.d. in educational psychology and am trained as an instructional designer. i have spent more than 15 years working in education and instructional software design.
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