School is Back in the Classroom, but Distance Learning is Here to Stay

Child,Boy,In,Headphones,Is,Using,A,Laptop,And,Study, Distance Learning

As a parent, I’m very familiar with how hard it can be to balance the demands of work and family in today’s busy and ever-changing world. Sometimes I find myself pining for the more predictable chaos we enjoyed before the pandemic. Regardless of our individual circumstances, the disruption and unpredictability of the last two years have presented even greater challenges—especially for our kids.

Education is among the most fundamental childhood experiences for determining a lifetime of success. That’s why it concerns me that even now, as classrooms reopen, effectively half of U.S. students report less motivation and lower morale than before the pandemic, according to a recent study by EdWeek Research Center.

That fact alone is disturbing enough. But consider that recent research also shows 60% of socioeconomically disadvantaged students may have received low-quality remote learning—or none at all—during the pandemic, which could extend their learning loss another seven months beyond their peers. 

Millions of disengaged students facing a serious learning gap is a crisis we need to address.

Supportive Solutions

The broadband connections that were our lifeline during the pandemic accelerated the development of learning options for many of our students. And the reliance upon remote learning is here to stay—whether it be for health emergencies, natural disasters, homework or pure convenience.

However, as most parents know very well at this point, those remote learning options need innovations to be more effective. A 2021 survey conducted by Morning Consult found that parents and teachers believe that one of U.S. students’ biggest frustrations with online learning is the need for more exciting and entertaining content.

In fact, nearly 80% of both parents and teachers think that their kids or students would be more interested in learning tools that include popular entertainment.

As we look to overcome the pandemic’s persistent negative impacts and reignite students’ joy for learning, we can’t overlook the learning that continues to take place at home, powered by an internet connection. And to create the student outcomes that lead to greater long-term economic opportunity, all families need affordable access to the internet and the digital tools that promote safe, effective and engaging learning.  

Addressing Community Needs

The Achievery, Created by AT&T

The reality is that too many students continue to lack the broadband-enabled resources required for successful learning. More than 30% of the U.S. population has not signed up for fixed broadband, even though it’s available in their area, according to the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, and Pew Research finds eight in 10 non-broadband users are not interested in subscribing to home internet. 

We know students can’t do homework on smartphones. That’s why the AT&T Connected Learning Initiative is working to help ensure all students and families have affordable access to the connectivity and devices needed to learn.

Today, AT&T is taking these efforts further with the launch of The Achievery, a free digital learning platform designed in partnership with WarnerMedia, to make online learning more entertaining, engaging and inspiring for K-12 students everywhere they learn—at home, in the community and in the classroom.  

Developed with feedback from educators, parents and National PTA, in collaboration with the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, The Achievery offers a fun and enriching experience, appropriate for a student’s age and grade level. It incorporates the rigor of national academic standards with some of the most well-loved WarnerMedia films, TV shows and animated series, including Wonder Woman, Craig of Creek and Aquaman.

In addition to top talent and certified learning, students will find STEM as well as social and emotional learning content on The Achievery, created by renowned groups such as Khan Academy, Scratch and Young Storytellers. And we’re just getting started—more content covering more subjects is coming soon.

The Path Forward

I believe experiences such as those available on The Achievery and through the AT&T Connected Learning Initiative are critical as we look to erase the disparities that have—for far too long—held communities back. Home broadband connections are now essential for learning and preparing today’s kids to succeed in our increasingly connected world.

That’s why, as I encourage you to create a free account on The Achievery. I also ask you to use this time to engage with fellow parents and educators in your community about the need for better access to distance-learning resources. Thankfully schools have reopened, but we must not lose sight of the need for engaging experiences that meet the needs of today’s students, wherever they are learning.

Charlene F. Lake is the Chief Sustainability Officer, Senior Vice President, Corporate Responsibility, ESG AT&T Foundation Chair, AT&T Services, Inc. Charlene Lake is responsible for leading AT&T’s social innovation, environmental, philanthropic and civic engagement endeavors, driving stakeholder impact measures on behalf of the corporation, leading ESG accountabilities, and coordinating signature initiatives that connect social needs with business objectives.