A meta-analysis of the effectiveness of intelligent tutoring systems on college students' academic learning

Saiying Steenbergen-Hu*, Harris Cooper

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

159 Scopus citations


This meta-analysis synthesizes research on the effectiveness of intelligent tutoring systems (ITS) for college students. Thirty-five reports were found containing 39 studies assessing the effectiveness of 22 types of ITS in higher education settings. Most frequently studied were AutoTutor, Assessment and Learning in Knowledge Spaces, eXtended Tutor-Expert System, and Web Interface for Statistics Education. Major findings include (a) Overall, ITS had a moderate positive effect on college students' academic learning (g = .32 to g = .37); (b) ITS were less effective than human tutoring, but they outperformed all other instruction methods and learning activities, including traditional classroom instruction, reading printed text or computerized materials, computer-assisted instruction, laboratory or homework assignments, and no-treatment control; (c) ITS's effectiveness did not significantly differ by different ITS, subject domain, or the manner or degree of their involvement in instruction and learning; and (d) effectiveness in earlier studies appeared to be significantly greater than that in more recent studies. In addition, there is some evidence suggesting the importance of teachers and pedagogy in ITS-assisted learning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)331-347
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Educational Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2014


  • Academic learning
  • College students
  • Effectiveness
  • Intelligent tutoring systems
  • Meta-analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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