Could separate learning become the new norm after COVID-19? An analysis of COVID-19 data reveals that certain groups of students struggle to access online learning resources. For example, nearly one in five African American students lack home internet access. The report focuses on the effects of online learning on the lives of children and their families. During the crisis, this trend worsened. The School Superintendents Association conducted a survey in late March, and various news outlets have reported the racial and ethnic disparities.
While the effects of COVID-19 are not uniform across nations, the current trend is alarming. It has the potential to overwhelm educational systems. Depending on the family background of the students and their ability to access a substitute education, children in different countries could experience a wide range of outcomes. Last year, COVID-19 affected about 55 million U.S. school children and 1.4 billion people worldwide.
The first COVID slide estimates indicate that nearly 120,000 children could be behind in math and English. By the time students reach grade 8, these gaps could widen. The analysis of the COVID Slide includes additional data from winter 2021. If separate learning becomes the new standard after COVID-19, many students are already years behind. Can schools make up for these learning gaps and help the students?
Fortunately, there are some examples of successful transitions to online education. Zhejiang University, for example, has successfully transitioned 5,000 courses to the web using a video-based platform called “DingTalk ZJU.” Another example is the Imperial College London course on the science of coronaviruses. The course has the highest enrollment since it was first released on Coursera in 2020. But the downside is that many students in low-income communities are still unable to take advantage of digital learning. Nevertheless, this trend is reflected across income levels, with 95% of students having access to a computer and 34% of students receiving a computer for school work.