The pandemic placed tremendous pressure on our education system in 2020, causing millions of students to rely solely on online learning for most of the school year.
We were interested in taking a closer look at online education’s impact on students…and its future
The long-term effects of national school closures and our collective pivot to online-based education are yet to be fully seen, but it’s been speculated that many students face some type of learning loss as a result.
Learning loss refers to “any specific or general loss of knowledge and skills,” or to reversals in academic progress due to gaps or irregularities in a student’s education. It’s mostly caused by disrupted formal schooling, and is commonly referred to as “summer learning loss,” referencing the backslide some students experience academically as a result of no structured learning during the summer months.
Some researchers have agreed that missing school hinders skill improvement and many expect that year-long COVID-related learning interruptions will affect students similarly.
In January, we surveyed 1,020 independent tutors on Wyzant
More families and students than ever before have turned to online tutors as a way to stem the tide of learning loss that started when widespread school closures began nearly one year ago.
Our goal was to go straight to the source and ask educators from all over the US listed on Wyzant – with diverse backgrounds, specializations, and experiences – how their students were handling disruptions to their learning, and what they expected in the coming months.
Here’s what we learned
The prolonged period of remote learning has been difficult for students. Many are exhibiting signs of learning loss.
Signs of Learning Loss Among Students
43% of tutors reported students are experiencing learning loss, with one-third of tutors saying a portion of students will never catch up from last year’s irregularities.
Even with schools planning to reopen at some point this year, tutors who were surveyed expressed concerns over the amount of learning loss that has taken place:
- Around one third (31.6%) of tutors believe a portion of students will never catch up.
- 29.5% believe students will catch up next year during the 2021/2022 school year.
- 19.6% reported it will take at least two years for students to catch up.
Technology’s Role in Education
The pandemic has had a profound impact on the way school teachers engage with students. Of the tutors surveyed, 78% indicated that students who are learning remotely in a virtual classroom need the most assistance with supplemental help.
“I started tutoring long after the pandemic began, but I believe the flow of students I have had has occurred, in large measure, because students want and need more personal, supplemental, one-on-one tutoring,” explained one tutor.
Respondents also had insights on how the education landscape has changed and the impact of virtual learning:
- The majority of tutors (80%) said that education has changed as a result of the pandemic, mostly because technology is playing a much greater role in student’s lives.
- Half of the tutors surveyed prefer tutoring online (50%) while 26% said they prefer in-person tutoring.
Even with technology’s ability to connect individuals virtually, 71% of respondents said students are suffering from a lack of real-world connections with teachers and fellow students.
Rise in Online Tutoring
Wyzant’s network of independent tutors expanded by more than 25,000 tutors during the economic recession. According to the survey, the majority of tutor respondents (32%) recently started tutoring, and a quarter (25%) joined Wyzant as a result of the pandemic. Over 50% of respondents were not in-classroom teachers prior to the pandemic.
“Tutoring online makes me available to more students. And, it is more convenient than in-person tutoring. I am starting to like online tutoring more than in-person tutoring,” said a respondent.
The findings also revealed that 35% of respondents work full-time in addition to tutoring while 65% don’t, and tutor as their main source of income. Additional findings include:
- About one-fifth (21%) of tutors who responded are 65 or older.
- While Wyzant offers subjects for services to learners of all ages from kindergarten through adult learners, the majority of tutors (36%) said they teach high school students.
Tutoring sessions in K-12 on Wyzant saw a large increase in 2020 over 2019, with English, Organic Chemistry and Writing seeing 59%, 80%, and 72% growth, respectively.
Homeschooling across K-12 also saw a 264% increase.
The Future of Education
COVID-19 has accelerated widespread adoption of online tutoring, and many learners will likely continue utilizing online tutoring services even after the pandemic is over and when schools reopen. Our report found that 48.2% of respondents have seen an uptick in their tutoring business since the pandemic started and more than half (53%) expect their tutoring business to stay the same when the world returns to “normal.”
22% said their tutoring business on Wyzant increased about 16-30% during the pandemic.
About the Methodology:
Wyzant conducted the survey of 1,020 U.S. tutors, spanning ages 18 to 65 or older, online between January 26, 2021 and February 5, 2021.