Lockdown and beyond: Learning in a changing landscape

COVID-19 and global education

COVID-19 has placed global education in an unprecedented state of flux, with school closures affecting 1.2 billion students in 181 countries to date. Some are now facing the threat of a second wave, with tightening restrictions and the possibility of further school closures.

In preparation, we commissioned educational analyst ImpactEd to look at the impact of remote and blended learning on student motivation and the role of technology to help address this going forward.

Top five highlights from our Lockdown & Beyond report

The COVID-19 pandemic has had far-reaching effects on the UK, US and Australian education systems.

Our research team uncovered a range of new challenges faced by educators. They also highlighted the deepening of some existing long-term problems and inequalities across the three regions. Teachers, parents, and students moved fast to find digital solutions to manage and even curb the impact of the evolving and fast moving crisis.

  1. The scale of the disruption
  2. Mass learning loss
  3. Student motivation is the primary challenge
  4. Minimizing teacher workload, maximizing student outcomes
  5. Choosing the right digital tools to support teaching and learning

The scale of the disruption

ImpactEd Whitepaper Map

It’s no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused widespread disruption in education, globally.

A staggering number of students haven’t been able to physically attend school in person - in some cases, for up to six months. This will have had serious consequences for their social and emotional wellbeing, not to mention their educational progress.

By the end of April 2020, the pandemic had forced the closure of education institutions in 181 countries, affecting 73.5% of enrolled learners (UNESCO, 2020). Whilst the best intentioned educators looked to digital tools to enhance the remote learning experience, international evidence suggests that engagement with remote and online teaching practices were inconsistent.

Mass learning loss

The consequences of the pandemic’s mass widespread disruption has been significant learning loss for students across all three regions.

Globally, it’s been reported that the pandemic could result in a loss of 0.6 years of schooling. This brings down the basic school years that a student receives to just 7.3, from a pre-COVID-19 figure of 7.9.

Every student will have suffered some kind of setback, but those learning losses will be felt greatest among low-income students where there are already widening achievement gaps. Addressing these losses then, especially for the most vulnerable students is now an urgent challenge for education leaders.

Student motivation is the primary challenge

For many students, school closures have had a negative impact on their mental and emotional wellbeing. Our research reported widespread feelings of loneliness, particularly for the older student groups. This can be strongly linked to the lack of motivation.

Student motivation is one of the biggest areas of concern for educators in current times because it can be directly linked to attainment and achievement. In many cases, the move to remote learning seems to have made matters worse.

Teachers in the US reported 74% of their students had lower levels of engagement compared to engagement levels prior to coronavirus closures.

Motivation is complex. Educational researchers suggest that we can enhance motivation by meeting students’ needs for autonomy, competence and relatedness.

So how can we enhance and sustain student motivation?

The potential of improving student motivation is significant, particularly in today’s ever-changing learning landscape. Good motivation will provide students with better coping mechanisms for change.

When you’re considering how to develop and sustain student motivation, successful programmes and tools should:

  • Create choice for students
  • Provide opportunities for giving positive feedback
  • Create forums for students to relate and belong to each other, their teachers and the school

Digital platforms and tools both lend themselves to checking off the points above. They also offer a significant potential to develop student motivation in a blended learning environment.

Education Technology has the power to improve student outcomes, when it’s implemented and used effectively. From research, micro-learning and gamification are two simple and effective strategies you can deploy that will have a significant impact on the motivation levels amongst your students, particularly in online and blended learning environments


These approaches can help to boost student engagement, which then leads to higher levels of achievement for students.


Game mechanics like point systems or leader boards can lead to significantly higher engagement among students.

Minimizing teacher workload, maximizing student outcomes

Teacher burnout linked to lower student motivation

Evidence suggests that the more school systems can support their teachers, the better the results for motivation and attainment.

Trying to support every learner, find tools to teach remotely and continuing with the curriculum have all led to an exponential increase in teacher workload since March 2020.

Unfortunately, a rich range of evidence points to teacher burnout resulting in lower motivation in students.

So how can we motivate students in a remote or blended environment, without adding to teacher workload?

Technology-rich teaching practices can support student AND teacher wellbeing. Maintaining the teacher-student relationship by giving students choice in the technology as well as providing meaningful, fast feedback helps both teachers and students.

Giving effective and timely feedback

We all thrive on feedback. Recognition for doing something well, or reaching a specific milestone is rewarding.

The same applies for students. Research shows that students are motivated more directly by fast, immediate feedback.

Technology offers immediate feedback for students, while they’re still engaged in learning; acting as a strong motivator.

Timely and bite size feedback helps students to feel in control and successful as they learn, helping to boost motivation. Without the helping hand from technology, the demand for high quality frequent feedback adds a heavy load to already overloaded teachers. Technology allows for immediate, meaningful feedback, boosting student motivation without worsening the load for educators.

Education technology presents huge opportunities for effective teaching and learning.

The use of technology has been pushed into the mainstream more quickly than anyone ever could have expected. We’ve experienced a ‘Zoom Boom’ recently with a 158% global surge in edtech tool downloads since March 2020.

Educators have turned to technology to ensure learning can continue in any blended or remote environment. Evidence-based tools that encourage student motivation through real-time feedback and gamification as well as provide student autonomy will likely have the best impact on student outcomes and teacher workloads.

Further evidence suggests that EdTech tools that drive motivation should be ‘domain-specific’ - focusing on a particular subject area. Reading and maths are often key areas of focus, however achievement gaps in writing are also a particular challenge for educators.

Given the scale of achievement gaps in writing, it is important to look at solutions that address this particular problem. Research shows that motivating students to write more, and to do so in longer bursts of time, improve writing fluency. Performance feedback such as commenting on the number of words written compared to previous writing, can help students to write more. Technology tools automating performance feedback offer teachers the opportunity to improve student writing fluency and save valuable teacher time.

Lockdown and beyond: Learning in a changing landscape

Our aim was to understand the effect that remote and blended learning is having on student motivation and the role of technology to help address this going forward. We’re excited to be able to share the key learnings from the paper.