Online learning sets students back 5 months on potential reading growth

The number of students logging on to online classes has declined by 43% since transitioning to remote schooling, an Achieve3000 report found.

COVID-19: How universities made the pivot to e-learning
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Real-time data from Achieve3000 found that since schools were forced online due to the coronavirus pandemic, students are on track to lose about five months of potential reading growth by the start of the next school year. 

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COVID-19 has resulted in building closures for at least 124,000 US public and private schools, impacting at least 55 million students, according to Education Week. Teachers and students have transitioned to online learning, using video conferencing platforms such as Zoom and WebEx. 

However, elearning may not be as effective as people hope, the Achieve3000 report found.

Negative impacts of online learning 

The majority (76%) of schools have experienced decreased usage in online learning tools since switching to that way of teaching, according to the report. 

The number of students logging onto online classes has declined by 43% and the amount of students completing at least one virtual lesson has dropped by 44%, the report found. 

Based on this datal, school closures could result in significant loss of potential learning gains. Students are now projected to lose up to 49% of learning growth over the summer--even up to 28% by June 2020. 

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The shift to virtual learning has also revealed a major achievement gap between low- and high-income students. The gap could reach as high as 18%, as lower-income students may not have as easy access to necessary tech tools as higher-income learners. 

Online learning can also be harmful to struggling readers. The report found that those struggling with reading aren't using online learning as frequently as advanced readers, putting them at a greater risk of falling behind. The gap between these reading groups could grow by an additional 6% by the end of this school year, due to online learning, according to the data. 

"Twenty-four percent of schools continuously engaged students through online learning, moving easily from in-class to at-home instruction. Those students, and those schools, were ready," said Kevin Baird, chairman at the Center for College & Career Readiness, in a press release. 

"My concern is for the 76% of schools who were not prepared to switch. The lost learning time for students, and the stress for teachers, will have continued impact into fall 2020 and beyond," Baird said. 

How to prepare for continued remote learning 

In the event that classes need to remain online this fall, the report provided some tips to help schools prepare. 

  • Plan ahead for next semester 

Many schools were unprepared for the sudden transition to remote learning. To avoid rates of learning loss in the future, the report recommended schools begin troubleshooting existing online learning resources and plan for improvements that can be implemented the following year, whether the semester is fully online or not. 

  • Use summer to play catch-up 

The summer break is an ideal time for schools to begin planning. With the coronavirus rendering future schooling uncertain, administrators and teachers should use the summer to go through contingency plans for how to best accommodate students under various health circumstances. 

  • Pay attention to the gap

Students who fall at or below the 25th percentile in reading are projected to fall even further behind their peers with online classes, the report found. Schools must provide robust online learning resources that account for all learning difficulties and that prioritize reading growth. 

  • Build your tech skills 

Before remote learning, tech was already being integrated in many schools. Teachers should take the time to master their tech skills to provide the best quality of instruction for their students, the report found. 

For more, check out Enterprise eLearning: Uptick in education demand during coronavirus outbreak on TechRepublic. 

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