McKinsey & Company sounded the alarm back in June. The report projected that, should in-class schooling return completely by early 2021, students with normal remote setups will have lost the equivalent of three to four months of in-classroom learning. Students who experience low-quality remote learning will have lost around seven to eleven months of in-classroom learning. And students who had no instruction at all over course of the pandemic will have lost close to a full year, even more, of in-classroom learning. The study also found that loss of learning affects one’s average lifetime earnings, economic productivity, and health.
Based on anecdotal evidence, college students are also struggling. Visiting my alma mater last month, I was struck by the weariness of students I encountered daily. It seemed they spent almost no time on academics outside their biweekly Zoom classes. Students who spent hours upon hours indoors, glued to their computers and phones out of necessity, were never truly engaged with their lectures, presentations, and homework. Sometimes other distractions, namely TikTok, took precedent. Meanwhile, few kids ever made the trek to campus, though it was open for outdoor studying. Given the option to return to class in person, most students opted out due to their own fears of COVID-19. I suspect, however, that there is another reason: an escalating sense of complacency. If you are someone who thinks American higher education has turned into a day camp, you will be saddened to hear that this problem has grown worse in the COVID era.