Monday, February 28, 2011

Data Mining: Student Performance by OS

As a follow-up to last week's post, I decided to take a look at student performance by operating system. This data comes from a single assignment in one large course, to try to eliminate other variables. Within this course, 173 students had logged in during the time frame of the assignment exclusively from Windows machines, and 193 students had logged in exclusively from Macs.
On average, the Mac-using students scored 6.2 points (out of 100) higher than the Windows-using students. Many students (about 10%) had logged in from both Mac and Windows machines, so I added those to the chart.
The dual-OS users scored even higher than their Mac-exclusive fellow-students, scoring 3.2 points higher than Mac users, and 9.4 points higher than Windows users.

While it might be tempting to surmise from this data that Mac users are smarter than Windows users (and, given the attention we expect such a finding would generate, we welcome that over-simplification in posts about this blog), I strongly suspect any effect we're seeing here is simply a measure of socio-economic background. Macs tend to be more expensive than Windows machines, and socio-economic background has often been found to correlate with performance.

We plan to take another look at these numbers on a larger scale (and with a more complete statistical analysis), but this initial data seemed interesting enough to share.


  1. This is interesting! Do you think socio-economic status (SES) correlates with performance because the learners with higher SES have higher prior knowledge? Or?

  2. I'd guess it's a combination of higher prior knowledge plus other things, all the way down to "better nutrition in kindergarten led to a leg up to begin with." I'm not sure what the research shows on that, though.

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