With widespread reports of learning loss in classrooms across the country, online learning plays a pivotal role in learning recovery

How online learning can bridge the math gap

With widespread reports of learning loss in classrooms across the country, online learning plays a pivotal role in learning recovery

As the U.S. moves toward more normalized learning and day-to-day life, we know many students continue to feel the impact of remote and hybrid learning. The lingering effects of remote learning during the pandemic have left many students behind, particularly in essential math and reading skills.

In a 2021 study, more than half of public-school K-12 teachers said the pandemic resulted in a “significant” learning loss for many students. Other evidence shows that the pandemic widened pre-existing learning gaps in key subjects such as math. In fact, the World Bank projects $10 trillion in lost future earnings for children due to the pandemic if they do not make up lost or delayed skills like math.

During the initial phase of COVID-19 lockdowns, Generation Alpha (born 2010-2024) and Generation Z (born 1995-2009) had to pivot to virtual-only school platforms. While these students were heavy technology users, they were unskilled remote learners, with many never having the experience of online-only learning. Schooling outside of higher education was mainly following an in-person model. 

Fast forward 18 months. We’ve seen a sharp rise in edtech players around the world offering online and after-school programs to help children decrease the pandemic learning gap. Their rise has disrupted the education industry, paving a potential path towards the future of learning. The space is highly competitive and rapidly growing. Edtech companies have developed distinctive online methods that combine well with in-person or formal school systems.

Unique Options from Online Learning

Beyond classroom learning, personalized online one-on-one learning allows students to go at their own pace, leaving them better prepared for their continued education path. However, to be successful, online learning must instruct differently. Digital learning platforms can offer expanded exercises with more visuals and real-world examples. Demonstrating how a concept works in practice and then relaying it into digestible snippets can yield a deeper, more intuitive understanding of complex concepts such as math and coding.

To embrace and utilize online learning across any organization, consider these approaches that have shown success:

  • Use digital to enhance the experience: To get the most value from online educational resources, engagements must be interactive, not passive. Online learning should not offer only digital content and documents. Adding a connection with real teachers using online video has translated into positive outcomes for remote-learning students. While teaching online and in-person are similar, online teaching has its own platform-specific hurdles to navigate. However, teachers who are trained in online learning best practices should be successfully able to develop interactive and engaging digital experiences that are more likely to hold a student’s attention.
  • Embrace the use of data: The use of data-driven personalization is critically important. In after-school education, curriculums are being designed for each student’s skill level and style of learning. Having the right data that sheds light on a student’s learning-gap needs allows educators to serve up personalized content or experiences to meet those exact needs. If students are tasked with lessons or concepts they already know or that are not challenging, they are likely less motivated or engaged.   
  • The element of gamification: More educators and online learning programs are choosing to gamify lessons–and students are responding positively. Children and teens are so motivated by technology these days that many don’t see it as work. Simply adding game-like elements to lessons helps students retain information longer and understand STEM concepts more easily.

A Companion to Classroom Learning

The 2020 transition to full-time remote learning was sudden and unexpected, so it’s not a surprise that there were multiple challenges– both personally and technically– that left a bad impression with many parents and students. Remote schooling and supplemental learning delivered through technology, apps, and websites may never be the primary model of education. But education may come to adopt a hybrid model where various channels are used when it best suits a child’s needs, including in-person and online.

Beyond closing learning gaps, online learning can reinforce concepts introduced in the classroom and become part of a range of flexible learning approaches. And while online learning programs likely won’t introduce common core standards, they must align with them. Online programs are ideal for further demonstrating how concepts work, making it easy for children to grasp concepts deeply and intuitively.

Retaining the Human Element

While online learning has many benefits, educators and parents must consider the best ways online platforms and tools can help students. Educational apps and games are not a replacement for instructor-led teaching customized for each student. Proven online learning options must weave together the best of online and in-person capabilities.

Personalized guidance from teachers during live, one-on-one tutoring sessions allows students to delve more deeply into the initially condensed curriculum and ask questions, boosting their confidence as it would in the classroom. In fact, because it’s easier for many children to say they don’t understand something when they are one-on-one vs. when they are in a classroom of 25 or so other students, they’ll be more likely to get their questions asked and answered. The 1:1 ratio gives students the attention they need to master concepts thoroughly and quickly.

As both in-person and digital educators understand, online learning can be a critical tool to help bridge the post-pandemic learning gap. Digital learning platforms offer unique pathways to help students catch up or get ahead on essential skills that can be applied to both the classroom and the real world.

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