Adaptive & Iterative Experimentation

Rapid testing of new features and algorithms allows organizations to innovate more quickly as well as customize its services to the needs of individuals.

Our lab researchers help social impact organizations test hypotheses about their products or services. We design experiments and analyze the data to determine the impact of interventions on different individuals. Methods for adaptive experimentation, such as multi-armed bandit algorithms, contextual bandit algorithms (that incorporate individual characteristics), and reinforcement learning are important tools to improve an organization’s ability to experiment effectively. These methods need to be carefully tailored to the setting and respect organizational constraints.

Project Abstracts

Read about a few of the research projects the lab is currently working on.

Enhancing Digital Education Technology

17EdTech is an online learning platform offering homework solutions for K-12 students, parents, and teachers in China. In partnership with 17EdTech, lab researchers are designing a personalized delivery system of homework questions for users of its mobile app and are reviewing effective learning products for parents to assist in children’s learning, particularly in low-income regions. Lastly, the team is estimating the impact of gamification on student engagement.


Learning How to Incentivize Giving

With a financial technology firm and ImpactMatters, this project is identifying approaches to increase contributions to charitable organizations. Lab researchers are analyzing donation data to understand consumer behavior and motivations around charitable giving, and designing experiments to expose consumers to giving opportunities during electronic commerce. The experiments will guide strategies to motivate consumers to increase their giving and direct their giving to impactful organizations.

Charitable Giving

Testing Efficacy of Personalized Approaches to Encourage Charitable Donations

Lab researchers are using adaptive experimentation to test the efficacy of personalized approaches to encourage charitable donations. Algorithms are utilized to choose which questions to ask a user about their interests; different options are then offered based on the users’ answers. In addition, the research is also establishing best-practices of using experiments to consider how people use tools to make donations, focusing on how to optimize the experimental design to learn how to target interventions to users’ characteristics.

Charitable Giving

Adaptive Experiments to Help Patients Make Informed Choices About Contraception

Lab researchers are working with Yaounde Gynecology, Obstetrics and Pediatrics Hospital in Cameroon to help women make informed choices about contraceptives. Adaptive experiments identify effective and efficient strategies, including price subsidies, for providing information through a tablet application. The experiment accelerates learning in an environment of many potential alternatives and improves expected patient outcomes by allocating more and more patients to the tablet design that works best.



Learn firsthand from some of the educational researchers and practitioners associated with the lab.

Thompson Paine: A Student Is Not a Computer Program

Responding to user needs allowed Quizlet, the free online study tools service, to scale quickly to millions of students around the world.

What Really is ‘Adaptive Learning’?

The answer may vary based on which platform you currently have in mind. The edtech industry is bursting with platforms that attempt to tailor lessons and materials to individual students.

Can Educational Technology Close the 90/10 Achievement Gap?

Amy Klement, Omidyar Network; Peter Bergman, Columbia University; and Tory Patterson, Owl Ventures, on technologies to inclusively improve U.S. student learning outcomes.