New data reveals virtual LENA Start classes offer same benefits to families as in-person classes


New data reveal that families who participated in virtual LENA Start classes enjoyed the same positive outcomes as families who attended in-person classes.

The virtual implementation option for LENA Start was launched last spring in response to the coronavirus pandemic, and this is the first data available on the efficacy of the new format.

An internal review compared families who participated virtually (n = 177) to families who previously attended in-person classes (n = 1,681). Groups that used a hybrid approach were excluded for these analyses.

The virtual participants showed similar gains to pre-pandemic, in-person groups, with lower-talk families increasing conversational turns with their children by 12 percentile points and adult words by 35 percentile points. Children who participated in the program gained language skills twice as fast as their peers, the same accelerated rate as seen with in-person attendance.

“This is exciting confirmation that LENA Start is equally effective when delivered virtually,” said Dr. Jill Gilkerson, Chief Research and Evaluation Officer at LENA. “We look forward to continuing to support virtual programs as a permanent option going forward.”

The data also reaffirm the many benefits of virtual programs, including the ease of attending. Families who participated virtually had slightly higher attendance rates than families who participated in-person, confirming that virtual classes can reduce traditional barriers to attendance such as transportation or scheduling challenges.

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The LENA Team is a dedicated group of professionals who are passionate about increasing awareness of the importance of early interactive talk. We are statisticians, speech-language pathologists, curriculum specialists, engineers, and linguists.

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