Universally, students suffered loss of learning during the pandemic lockdown when schools were closed all over the world. Clark and colleagues published a paper which evaluated the impact of lockdown during the Covid-19 outbreak on students’ academic outcome in China using administrative data on 9th grade students from 3 Chinese Middle schools in the same county in Baise City. During the Covid-19 lockdown period (mid-February to early April 2020), three schools made different arrangements for students:
- School A did not provide any online education support.
- School B used an online learning platform provided by the local government to support students. School B provided online lessons which were recorded by their own teachers.
- School C used the same online platform as School B over the same period which was managed in the same fashion as in School B. The only difference between School B and C was that School C obtained on-line lessons recorded by highest-quality teachers in the city, instead of their own teachers.
The final sample consisted of 20,185 examination results from 1,835 students who took all 11 exams in the five compulsory subjects (Chinese, Math, English, Politics, and History). Exams 1-10 were conducted before lockdown (Nov 2017 to Jan 2020) , and students took Exam 11 immediately after the county reopened (Apr 2020). The last semester of 9th grade was used for revision and to prepare for the High-school entrance exam for which all materials had already been taught previously during Middle-School years. Using a difference-in-difference framework, the impact of online education support is shown below.
- Overall, using an online learning platform improved students’ total exam scores significantly relative to the scores of students without learning support (ES = 0.22, around 26 exam points).
- The quality of recorded lessons mattered. Exam results of School C, whose lessons were recorded by external better-quality teachers, achieved better results than School B, whose lessons were recorded by their own teachers (ES = +0.06).
- Not all online education was equal. The performance of students who used a computer for online education was better than that of those who used a smartphone (School B: ES=-0.14; School C: ES=-0.15).
- Results of quantile DID analysis showed that low-achieving students benefited the most from online learning support, while there was no impact on top academic performers.
Since the data used in the study were obtained from only three Middle Schools in one Chinese county, further investigation is needed for generalizability. Along the same lines, using students exposed to the same environment would improve internal validity of the study. Researchers also admitted that they investigated the effect of an online learning platform used to review materials already taught rather than reviewing platforms concerned with learning new knowledge.
Source: Clark, A. E., Nong, H., Zhu, H., & Zhu, R. (2021). Compensating for academic loss: Online learning and student performance during the COVID-19 pandemic. China Economic Review, 68, 101629. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chieco.2021.101629