Educators are still in the early stages of determining how long-term pandemic remote learning impacted students. One thing we do know is that the effects aren’t gone simply because most students are back in the classroom.
Of course, just knowing that ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic haven’t disappeared doesn’t mean we have all the solutions to them. The process of identifying the challenges, implementing solutions, and assessing the outcome could be an ongoing process for years.
Fortunately, data can help with both finding the challenges and learning if the solutions are working. If you can look at data ranging from the state level to the district level and right down to individual students, and focus on factors including growth and academic gaps, you’ll be far better set up to support your students where they need it most.
In this article, we’ll discuss some of the negative effects of long-term remote learning and which students are most impacted. Then we’ll focus on a few data solutions that can help you determine the best ways to counter them.
Specific Challenges of Pandemic Distance Learning
Any teacher or parent who dealt with remote learning can provide a laundry list of challenges they and their students faced. Many were solved with a return to in-person schooling, but not all.
It’s true that many difficulties come with distance learning, such as:
Too much screen time
Distractions in the home
Lack of true engagement
Dormant social skills
There wasn't much we could do about the home-learning environment and the emotional and mental health issues. Further, most educators hadn't dealt with school closures of this magnitude before. Everyone was doing the best they could in wildly unusual circumstances.
Now, though, we must help children engage positively with other students and in-person learning, which some younger students had never done before. Turns out it's more complex than turning off screens and getting the kids all in one room.
Keep in mind that a student’s age is an important factor here. A year away from peers is going to impact a six-year-old much differently than it will a 16-year-old.
It’s also important to note that disadvantaged children, who already faced uphill battles in terms of socioeconomic factors, racial disparities, disability, location, and more, are feeling these effects the most.
Social and Emotional Challenges
Many children receive most of their peer interaction at school. Especially for younger kids, learning to work and play together is an important part of overall education. It’s also a great way to understand being part of a group and the kind of leadership a good teacher can offer.
Another aspect of these challenges involves children who have a difficult home life. These students likely benefit from the support of teachers and companionship of their friends, and significant time away from their network could have lasting negative impacts.
Both situations can take a serious toll on mental health for students and their caregivers. Unfortunately, this often means a cycle of mutual frustration and worsening academic success.
Even if a child didn’t miss an entire schoolyear in the classroom, the loss of several months with other adults and peers can impact future socialization, emotional development, and academic performance.
Loss of Interest in Learning
School learning needs to be vibrant and engaging to compete with extracurriculars, screentime, and social life. This is true for parents and caregivers as much as children.
When physically going to school is taken out of the routine for a significant length of time, other things might begin to take up more space, and it will be difficult to reengage children and their families in the school environment.
Even if kids are showing up, some may have lost any interest they once had in typical learning activities.
Ongoing Fears About Health and Financial Security
Too many children learned about loss during the pandemic. Whether from losing a loved one, their home, or general security, this kind of loss imprints itself on a young mind.
Some children are still recovering from the losses of the last couple of years, while others have legit concerns about losses yet to come. Both groups face an obstacle to focusing on school. Whether from actual food and housing insecurity or simply the fear of possibly losing them, the emotional obstacles are very real.
Falling Behind in STEM Areas
According to the National Science Foundation, the areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (known as STEM subjects) are among the hardest to teach remotely.
Technology problems and simply not being in the same room make these subjects harder for students to engage with. The ability to connect what’s taught in the classroom to life outside of school (which is vital to scientific literacy) is diminished when students learn through a screen.
As with other challenges, this disconnect in STEM subjects falls heavily on disadvantaged children. The long-term effects of this will likely include fewer minority students entering STEM fields, thereby widening an already significant gap.
How Can Data Help Combat the Impacts of Long-Term Online Learning?
Realistically, we won’t know or fully understand all the impacts of the pandemic for quite some time yet. Further, we can’t assume that nothing like it will happen again in our lifetime. It’s best to be prepared for both cases with as much knowledge as we can gather, for ourselves and future research.
To get a clear picture of the various factors that influence student outcomes, and to see where impacts of the pandemic might fit in, you need data that can assess on multiple levels.
Ideally, you’d measure not only where individual students, schools, and districts are, but also where the gaps exist between them.
Beyond data on academic performance, you should explore student data on attendance, behavior issues, and disciplinary actions. These are certainly part of the overall picture of student success. Far from reducing a student to a collection of scores, this approach allows educators to compile complete, accurate profiles of these very real people.
When you can see the gaps and explore how they align with demographics or fall short of goals, you have a better roadmap for developing and implementing solutions.
Remember, the pandemic may have caused students and teachers to lose time together in the classroom, but the reason for that pause was very different than a typical summer break. Life was in upheaval on every front, and the academic result for children is a combination of lost time and altered behavior. We are still in the transition back to “normal” school, and we all need to acknowledge and respect how challenging that can be.
Eidex Supports Your Return From Remote Learning With One-Stop Data Solutions
Eidex is a team of experienced educators who want to improve teaching and learning for everyone. We’ve been in your shoes and know that the pandemic made an already challenging job even more difficult.
With products that offer actionable insights and meaningful comparisons, Eidex helps you get a clear picture at every level of your state, district, and building. And you can even go down to as granular a level as data on individual student performance. In all these ways, we support your efforts with attractive, easy-to-understand charts, interactive filters, and peer comparisons.
The learning loss and social impacts of the pandemic are very real for your students, and we may face challenges for years to come. With tools like Eidex, though, you’ll be prepared to spot those challenges sooner and meet them head-on, giving your students a better chance at lasting success.
Anderson, J. (2022, Feb. 18). Harvard edcast: the negative effects of remote learning on children’s wellbeing. Harvard Graduate School of Education. Retrieved from https://www.gse.harvard.edu/news/22/02/harvard-edcast-negative-effects-remote-learning-childrens-wellbeing
Bates, J. (2021, Sept. 21). Education researchers assess impacts of long-term remote learning on students. National Science Foundation. Retrieved from https://beta.nsf.gov/science-matters/education-researchers-assess-impacts-long-term-remote-learning-students#:~:text=This%20long%2Dterm%20impact%20of,STEM%20education%20programs%2C%20researchers%20said.