How is Covid-19 affecting student learning?

If the pandemic has taught us any lesson, it is that predicting the future is a futile endeavor. But one thing is certain: education is going digital.

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The COVID-19 pandemic’s suddenness shocked the entire education system to the core. Without any preparations, academic institutions had to halt all learning activities to preserve students’ safety. At the same time, teachers also had to readjust teaching practices to meet new health regulations.  

Looking back at the past 400 days of the pandemic, it is clear that a lot has changed in academia. One of these changes is the widespread implementation of digital learning at all academic levels. 

As it stands, college students are the most affected members of the academic circle. Even though almost every student now relies on an essay writer to complete their school tasks, the performance levels continue to decline still.

So, let’s discuss the impacts of the pandemic on student learning so far.

Overall academic performance 

Student performance has plummeted across the board since the start of the pandemic. According to McKinsey, students are still adjusting to the new changes in the academic system. Switching from traditional lectures to digital learning is still proving a challenge for most institutions. 

Besides, disenfranchised students from low-income communities (predominantly black and Hispanic) are experiencing a 12% learning loss compared to their peers from high-income households. 

Similarly, a study by Brookings estimates that high school scholars made learning gains within the first months of online learning. However, these figures have continued to drop even as the summer of 2021 is approaching.

Access to amenities

Inadequate access to learning equipment is another consequence of the hastily-implemented remote learning initiative. Since most institutions were unready for full-scale digital learning, they couldn’t prepare teachers and college students for it. As a result, several students have limited access to learning material.

In disenfranchised communities, access to stable internet connectivity and digital amenities is a struggle. In some situations, students don’t even have a laptop for schoolwork. Besides, the pandemic’s economic burden distracts scholars from school. Consequently, they cannot concentrate and participate alongside their mates in class.

On the bright side, the government has frozen student loan payments until the Fall semester of 2021. Hopefully, this policy will help less-privileged students adjust to the new academic system faster.

Widening achievement gap

As students’ performance level decreases, the achievement gap widens. It is quite clear that most institutions are scrambling to address the needs of regular students. 

But what about special needs students? Which digital learning aids are available to them?

Currently, students with disabilities have limited access to learning materials. Augmented learning apps are in scarce supply, even in top-notch academic institutions. 

And the situation is worse for minority students with disabilities. They now have to grapple with limitations on multiple fronts to stay on pace with the curriculum.

In summation, these factors continue to widen the achievement gap between students under similar learning conditions.

Higher dropout rates

According to a Washington Post report, the enrollment rates have decreased by 2.5% universally. However, the rate is 11% for foreign exchange students. Of course, these low enrollment figures can be attributed to pandemic scares and financial instability. But the fact remains that students now seek admission at a lower rate than before.

Data from McKinsey also estimates that the drop-out rate has decreased across the board — 6.5% among Latinx, 5.5% among African Americans, and 3.9% among white students. 

Although no definite information exists about the reasons for these increased drop-out rates, experts point to social factors, including:

  1. Bereavement
  2. Financial instability
  3. Socio-cultural isolation
  4. Poor mental and physical health

Mental health

According to a study by the U.S. Census Bureau, over 40% of survey respondents showed signs of depression or anxiety. And as the lockdown drags on, these figures may continue to rise.

Moreover, educators are worried about students’ well-being during the pandemic. For starters, students struggling with pandemic-induced stress and trauma — and there are lots of them — have limited access to proper counseling.

Also, experts claim that isolation and lack of physical social interactions will lead to increased cases of mental illness in the future. Overall, these changes will affect human interaction and culture moving forward.

Cultural changes

The most significant change in academia is the shift to distance education, but this is merely a tip of the iceberg. Students are now open to remote learning initiatives rather than traditional classes. 

Similarly, social events on college campuses are less popular or even non-existent due to COVID-19 regulation. Most college dorms are empty because students have returned to their respective homes.

Teachers now have to acclimatize to new learning approaches to accommodate students from various backgrounds. And with the influx of technology, social interactions between teachers and students have increased.

How will the pandemic affect students in the future?

If the pandemic has taught us any lesson, it is that predicting the future is a futile endeavor. But one thing is certain: education is going digital. 

Institutions will have to introduce more policies to assist disenfranchised students. Besides, huge emphasis will be placed on students’ mental well-being when grading their academic performance. Eventually, life on college campuses will return to normal, but nothing will ever stay the same. So let’s all join the fight against the dreadful virus.

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