The COVID-19 pandemic marks a monumental shift in education methods from traditional in-person classes to distance learning. Using data on daily usages of online learning products by students from 176 school districts in the US during 2020, I investigated the impacts of the pandemic on K-12 students’ online learning activities and whether different demographics affect student access and engagement with online learning. I found that the overall online learning activities (namely, engagement) increased in Spring 2020 when all U.S. schools closed; however, the proportion of students who participated in online learning (namely, access) decreased relative to the pre-COVID period. My analysis on demographics suggests that districts with more Black, Hispanic, and low-income students experienced a greater loss in access and a smaller increase in engagement during school closures, while districts with greater per-pupil spending and in states with greater household internet and device availability experienced a smaller loss in access and a greater increase in engagement. The evidence is consistent with the pandemic widening the gaps in educational opportunities among students.

Author: Julie Shi

Published in: World Congress on Education, 2022

  • Date of Conference: 21-23 June, 2022
  • DOI: 10.20533/WCE.2022.0010
  • Electronic ISBN: 978-1-913572-50-1
  • Conference Location: Virtual (Mississauga, Canada)