Supporting students’ college journey in the age of COVID-19
eSchool Media: With the restrictions imposed by COVID-19, what are you seeing as the biggest challenges students and families are facing in applying to and preparing for college?
Myles Hunter: Parents are desperately trying to figure out ways to keep their children from being affected by the COVID slide. High school students in particular are worried about entrance exams and acceptance into colleges, so it’s very important to them to keep up with their studies and work on getting good grades. We’re also seeing a great need for help with college application essays.
Dr. Chandra Pemmasani: The major challenges for students and families have been the lack of stability, structure, and the battle against learning loss. Parents had to implement the transformation from traditional in-classroom education to whatever their district decided to do right before school started. Many parents continue to struggle with supervising their child’s education while working 40+ hours a week. Reinventing the ways students focus, engage, and effectively learn had to be done on the fly and many are still working to find the right balance.
eSchool Media: What solutions are you offering to these challenges?
Hunter: TutorMe allows students to connect directly with a live tutor across 300+ subjects. We also offer our Writing Lab, an asynchronous component where students can drop off their papers and essays. Our tutors review and return student work in a matter of hours with feedback on the overall message of the essay and the arguments used to support that message.
Pemmasani: UWorld and other edtech companies are uniquely positioned to help schools transition from traditional classrooms to online learning through accessibility, performance tracking, and unique insights. Having already developed high-quality, digital learning platforms, UWorld has been able to assist schools and districts by allowing access to products, sharing best practices for online education, and tracking student progress. A considerable challenge for schools and districts is the potential to lose track of an individual student’s educational needs when you don’t have daily, in-person, classroom engagement. UWorld is meeting this challenge by allowing schools to gauge student performance through faculty portals and online performance tracking. This helps to ensure that students don’t fall through the cracks.
eSchool Media: How can schools and districts help their students keep their college plans on track despite the disruptions of distance learning?
Hunter: Schedules are much different from what they were pre-COVID. Many students are getting less direct instruction from teachers, and working families may not have the time to give their kids academic support when those kids need it. In this atmosphere, online tutoring is a uniquely effective way of improving academic outcomes for students, especially if that tutoring is available on-demand, 24/7, across all kinds of subjects.
Pemmasani: To help students achieve their target score on their ACT or SAT, schools and districts can encourage an active learning form of studying. Rather than hopping on YouTube to watch a video or studying out of a book, students should be actively practicing with challenging questions that cover the concepts tested on their high-stakes exams. Providing resources to online tools such as UWorld promotes quality learning and mastery versus memorization.
eSchool Media: Do you see any of the changes to the college preparation process that have happened during the pandemic persisting even after school gets back to normal? If so, why?
Hunter: Pre-pandemic, I think a lot of people saw tutoring as a way to achieve the highest possible score on the SAT or ACT. Now, I’m seeing more students use online tutoring to learn and master subjects for their daily classwork. They’re building skills they can take to the next, more advanced class, which of course has a positive effect on their chances of getting into the college of their choice.
Pemmasani: Since many exam dates were canceled, some students lost their stride in studying. Some universities dropped ACT and SAT scores as part of the admissions requirement. Many of the in-person classes normally available to students studying for the ACT or SAT are still on pause. Despite those challenges, motivated students should still plan to take the ACT or SAT because submitting a good score can help them qualify for scholarships and set themselves apart when applying to their dream schools. Parents should not fall for the gimmicks that cost thousands of dollars, instead invest in cost-effective, quality resources that are truly going to benefit their student’s journey to exam day.
eSchool Media: Any other thoughts to share?
Hunter: With so many public schools losing funding, a lot of after-school programs that offered academic support don’t exist anymore. Today’s students are very well-versed in technology, and we’ve seen that many of them are actually more comfortable asking for help online than they are in person. It’s just natural to them to find the academic help they need online.
Pemmasani: Education is a unique profession in that profits are not the priority. Whether you’re a teacher, an administrator, or in the edtech field, the betterment of the student overrides all else. Over the last several months, we have extended subscriptions for students and offered free access to many districts in order to help during this unprecedented disruption. As the crisis begins to ease, students and professionals are turning their attention back to pursuing their educational and career aspirations. In doing so, they look for superior learning tools that give them the best chance to succeed on their high-stakes exams. We’re handling the return to normal business by offering exceptional solutions to schools, districts, students, and professionals that are proven to help them—especially as they’re required to do more distance and self-paced learning. It’s this quality and consistency that gives students and parents a sense of stability and sets us apart in the educational community during a time of uncertainty.