Online Schooling Set US Kids Back. But LA EdTech Companies See Solutions

Decerry Donato

Decerry Donato is a reporter at dot.LA. Prior to that, she was an editorial fellow at the company. Decerry received her bachelor's degree in literary journalism from the University of California, Irvine. She continues to write stories to inform the community about issues or events that take place in the L.A. area. On the weekends, she can be found hiking in the Angeles National forest or sifting through racks at your local thrift store.

kid looking at computer screen for online school
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Nationally, kids whose schools met online in the 2020-2021 year performed 13% lower in math and 8% lower in reading compared with kids who had in-person schooling.

Nhon Ma, co-founder of online tutoring platform Numerade believes that this issue will continue to persist unless more students gain access to tutoring outside the classroom.

“It's a really big issue right now,” Ma tells dot.LA, “Especially when you think about the students within L.A. and particularly in LAUSD (Los Angeles Unified School District) and their scores are lower than their more affluent peers.”

Numerade was born out of the personal experiences Ma and his co-founder Alex Lee witnessed growing up in Los Angeles. Ma attended Campbell Hall high school in North Hollywood where many of his peers had access to tutoring, but he did not.

It was here that Ma learned firsthand the impact tutoring can have on one’s education. His co-founder Lee also saw the need for academic support as he volunteered as a tutor for students living in neighboring South Los Angeles cities during his undergraduate career at USC.

“We want to make sure that every single student in the world can reap the benefits of tutoring at scale,” Ma says.

Since 2018, the Pasadena-based edtech company has been offering online tutoring through the use of short form videos created by expert educators.

With the wave of social media platforms garnering the younger generation’s attention, Ma says, “short form video is a format that resonates well with students and educators.”

The online platform also allows students to ask questions on homework assignments they are struggling with in math or science. While tutoring has traditionally been a one-on-one experience, hiring a tutor can be costly–a cost that many students within the LAUSD system cannot afford.

Ma and Lee kept that in mind when building Numerade. The startup runs on a subscription service and charges its users $14.99 a month. But students who come from a low income household have opportunities for a discounted price.

Though Numerade caters to all students from all income levels, Ma says that they have a priority to focus on underserved communities.

Nonetheless, both Wolske and Ma agree that while academic support outside of the classroom is critical, students must return to in-person classes to learn the skills they need to advance their careers.

“The effect of it is huge,” Wolske says, “so it's certainly not surprising that there was a really big drop (in test scores), especially in those first couple learning periods.”

Wolske says one way to mitigate the downfall of online learning is to introduce cohort based or small group learning. Wolske says by breaking students into smaller groups allows for interpersonal dynamics to flourish.

Adding, “that’s where a lot of your most exciting learning happens.”

While the move to remote learning during the last two years was good for business, Ma too understands that learning loss among students will be an ongoing issue. Which is why, he says it’s their “responsibility to help these students understand what they're doing in these classes.”

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