Thinking Outside the Classroom: Theories of Change and Measures to Support the Design, Monitoring, and Evaluation of Distance Learning Programs

This document is intended to be a living framework for thinking and talking about primary and secondary school-aged distance education interventions, beginning in low and middle-income (LMIC) and humanitarian contexts and expanding over time to include distance education interventions designed for high-income contexts. In this document, we provide three theories of change (ToCs) for three types of strategies that may be implemented as part of distance education interventions:

  1. Strategies to improve access to educational opportunities;
  2. Strategies to improve quality of educational opportunities; and
  3. Strategies to improve family support for educational opportunities.

We also identify a set of measures that may be a useful starting point for assessing key near-term and long-term outputs and outcomes within the ToCs. In providing this report, we seek to help practitioners, policymakers, and researchers:

  1. Deepen their understanding of the factors that are likely to shape children’s learning and future enrollment during time away from in-person schooling;
  2. Identify how common distance education strategies for primary and secondary school-aged children are expected to work to improve children’s learning and future enrollment;
  3. By identifying gaps between (1) and (2), generate new or additional strategies that may improve the effectiveness of distance education programs;
  4. Identify key outputs and outcomes for assessment as part of monitoring and evaluation efforts;
  5. Communicate about distance education interventions more effectively by providing an initial taxonomy of terms and noting common alternate terms; and
  6. Identify and adapt measures to support monitoring and evaluation of distance education programs.

Resource Info

Resource Type



Published by

NYU Global TIES for Children

Authored by

Samuel Freel, Carly Tubbs Dolan, Roxane Caires, and Abiraahmi Shankar


Distance Education
Learning Assessment