For two years, student life has been different. The college I attend, UCLA, made the switch to virtual learning, which meant students couldn’t see a single professor or classmate in person. For students from low-income families like myself, this change has been extremely difficult.
More than 70% of students attended distance school in the first year of the pandemic, statistics show. This has had a huge impact on education and learning opportunities. Black, Latino and Native American students suffered the most. Not only did they suddenly find themselves isolated from their schools and peers, but their families and communities were disproportionately affected by job losses, unequal access to healthcare and vulnerability to COVID infections. -19.
My last year at UCLA was a struggle. I majored in cognitive science and Spanish, community and culture. For my more difficult lessons, I used to be able to consult my teachers in person when I needed help. The pandemic has changed that.
Suddenly I was stuck in my room in Santa Clarita, miles from campus. Attending office hours consisted of logging into Zoom to get help from my teacher. One particularly difficult class was coding; it was difficult to understand the intricacies of this mathematical subject when speaking with someone through a computer screen.
Outside of class, there were also fewer tutoring resources. My parents couldn’t help me academically – my mom looks after an elderly woman and my dad is a driver who delivers doors in the greater Los Angeles area. Our house has small rooms and we share the space with another family, making our house vulnerable to potential infection. My parents’ main goal during the pandemic was to keep our families afloat economically and to limit our exposure to the virus.
Nonetheless, I adopted a positive mindset. It was my last year of college and I was going to pass this course. Fortunately, I was able to get some coding help from an engineer friend.
My experience is similar to that of many low income students. Nathalie Garcia, high school student and my cousin, lives in a T2 with her parents in Santa Clarita. She explained to me that her parents had to get up early, so that she could have her own space in the room for virtual lessons. His school was running on Zoom and Google Hangouts.
“It was overwhelming for me,” Nathalie told me.
She used to attend weekly math tutoring sessions in person at her school. But when the school became distant, her teacher was no longer available to help her outside of class. She ended up fending for herself, which negatively impacted her math scores. Unlike some of her wealthier peers, Nathalie’s parents work in low-paying jobs and couldn’t afford private lessons for her.
Our education system was uneven even before the pandemic. These inequalities were exacerbated when students switched to home learning.
Since I graduated from UCLA last June, many schools and universities have returned to in-person learning. However, the coronavirus remains a threat to marginalized communities, especially amid the Omicron wave that has caused some schools to revert to virtual classrooms. This is why educators and policy makers must ensure that any continuing or future virtual school is more inclusive. Policies that can help level the playing field include offering free online tutoring to low-income students and asking teachers to schedule extra office hours outside of regular class. Hiring additional teaching aids to work virtually with students who need additional support could also make a difference. Providing these resources in a second language, especially Spanish, could also benefit students who have limited English proficiency. Teachers could also offer additional notes to accompany lectures to simplify difficult concepts.
These potential strategies recognize the barriers to virtual learning and the disadvantages faced by many low-income students and students of color. It is important for educators, school administrators and policy makers to remember that many students do not have reliable internet and computers, access to private lessons, or a stable learning environment at home. House. It is only by taking into account the needs and experiences of these students that we can ensure that all young people have the capacity to thrive academically, even in a virtual world.
Jessica Nunez is a healthcare equity advocate and graduated from UCLA with a BA in Cognitive Science, and Spanish, Community and Culture.