How eLearning Will Close the Learning Gaps in K-12 Math

The pandemic has created a lasting, devasting effect on education, leaving many students struggling to keep pace with their grade standard. Many point in blame to the coldhearted limitations of virtual learning. Others cite systemic powers at large for widening education gaps and poor test scores. The bottom line is that the education system desperately needs a solution, and one that satisfies a very nuanced set of requirements, at that. eLearning and other hybrid and virtual solutions are not the enemy, but rather, may be the bridge that closes the learning gaps.

According to a 2021 study that analyzed data from more than 2,500 K-12 students using curriculum-based online learning software both before and during the pandemic shutdown found that students’ performance actually increased during the shutdown. Evidence of the improvement was shown through teachers assigning more difficult problem sets to students during the school closures compared to the year before. Even more interesting, the data indicate performance improvements were higher for students categorized as low performing, suggesting a narrowing learning gap between students.

Even still, math scores are lower than ever in the U.S., and there is no shortage of reasoning behind it. Although eLearning has shown positive results in action, what is required to implement edtech in a realistic, effective way?

Barriers and difficulties for students learning mathematics

Many students are still feeling the effects of the pandemic where their education is concerned. In-person learning has resumed and has shown that the hardships of the pandemic exacerbated existing problems, while piling on a few new ones, too.

Statistics continue to emerge which reveal socioeconomic barriers for K-12 students learning math. According to the latest research covering 5.4 M U.S. students, average fall 2021 math test scores in grades 3-8 were 0.20-0.27 standard deviations (SDs) lower relative to same-grade peers in fall 2019 — a significant drop. Moreover, test-score gaps between students in low-poverty and high-poverty elementary schools grew by approximately 20% in math. So, A) students aren’t learning as well as they should be and B) more resources are needed to serve children from all communities in pursuit of education.

On the topic of resources, the U.S. education system — like most other industries — is facing a shortage. Teachers are over-worked and under-paid, and schools lack funding to solve this issue. Schools also lack funds to offer the resources to ensure all students are adequately served, for one reason or another.

All this considered, why should schools invest in tech? Well, the Wall Street Journal reported that “K–12 school districts in the US haven’t spent 93% of the $122 billion in Covid relief they were awarded last year.” These funds will disappear in September 2024 if they’re not used. And while this money could not reasonably support new full-time hires (due to the limited time frame of the money allowance) and supply chain shortages prevent infrastructure projects (ventilation systems, etc.) from moving ahead, tech is still on the table.

Benefits of eLearning for K-12 learners

With over 3.8 billion learner interactions on our platform, we can speak with confidence from our own experience at Amplifire about the benefits of eLearning:

Support struggling students with intervention and remediation

Students struggle to learn for a variety of reasons. It can be difficult from the school’s standpoint to accommodate each and every reason, whether due to a lack of resources or bandwidth. When the responsibility falls on the teacher, this can be daunting as well, especially when teachers are stretched to the max. This is where a solution, like Amplifire specifically, can help.

Again, we are speaking from experience. Our platform collects data to pinpoint where students struggle or have misconceptions. Analytics identify knowledge gaps and offer remediation suggestions based on the actual course material. This reporting capability is completely personalized to the student and their learning habits. This way, teachers are able to offer at-the-elbow assistance with all the information they need to help struggling students on a more personal level, preventing them from falling behind or missing necessary lessons.

Self-paced learning opportunities allow for advanced learning

eLearning has the bandwidth to support students at varying levels of proficiency. Where schools may lack the resources to accommodate “gifted” students as well as “average” or “struggling” students all at once, technology-based instruction can adapt to students’ needs. Students who have demonstrated mastery can move ahead or take more advanced courses while the platform still ensures struggling students get the help they need. It’s a win-win.

Course design supports the way teachers want to help their students

While smaller classrooms are usually preferred for the sake of more hands-on teaching and individualized attention, it’s not always possible to offer them. eLearning solutions like Amplifire give instructors the bandwidth to offer more guidance without overexertion and burnout. Schools and instructors can design and customize courses to meet educational standards and to best serve their students. Instructors can then see how students are learning, whether many students are struggling with a certain topic, or only a few individuals are having trouble. This can inform how class time is spent, allowing instructors to increase the overall efficiency of their lessons. Moreover, like we mentioned before, instructors can also have the tools in formation they need to offer more robust individualized support when needed.

By incorporating cognitive and brain science, the quality of learning improves

A unique characteristic of a platform like Amplifire, specifically, is that our solution is based in cognitive and neuroscience principles. These principles have been researched by some of the world’s leading brain scientists and are proven to make learning stick. Our teaching algorithms are tuned to the way the brain naturally works — using techniques like gamification, spacing, feedback, retrieval, and more — so students learn faster and retain more.

By learning in ways that are more naturally aligned with the way the brain works best, eLearning can foster a more positive relationship between students and academics. When Amplifire was used to teach a class notorious for high failure rates at a private university, professors saw a 51% increase in student grades. Students gave testimonials like, “I loved this class and the new format! I felt much more engaged with the professor with this format as well,” and, “I love using this to study. If I get the answer wrong, it explains the correct answer and tells me what I put down actually is.” Beyond that, in a survey of 24,356 students, traditional classroom learning produced only a 75% pass rate, whereas of students who used Amplifire, 91% passed the class.

The reality of implementing eLearning in the K-12 setting

The benefits of eLearning directly address the main barriers associated with struggling students learning math in the U.S., as well as issues present in the education system that generally inhibit effective reform (like lack of monetary, personnel, and infrastructural resources).

But is implementing eLearning on a large scale realistic? Most tech is scalable, meaning it can grow to accommodate changing needs. It fills in the worker shortage gap by offering valuable support to teachers already in classrooms. Students are already familiar with virtual learning formats from the pandemic. Rather than being an isolating, restricting experience, hybrid/technologically enriched learning only enhances the quality of education schools can offer.

There remains the dilemma of providing computers and equipment to underprivileged students, and training students and teachers to use new systems. If schools have the means to offer computer access, whether with the COVID-19 stimulus options or otherwise, many long-term issues can be eliminated.

From the beginning, Amplifire has relied on innovative brain science to guide its product development to create the most effective learning and training solution, perfectly tailored to the way the human brain works. To learn more about how Amplifire can benefit your educational needs, download our education case study or check out a demo.

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