The Social and Emotional Effects of Distance Learning

The COVID-19 pandemic forced many students into remote learning programs that were set up on the fly with both teachers and pupils unsure of what they were doing, leading to lagging performance in the classroom. While much of the research on the subject to date has centered around younger students and fundamental academic skills, older students have missed out on the high school social-emotional learning that adolescents need.

A survey of high school students revealed that students who attended school remotely during the pandemic fared considerably worse socially and emotionally than peers who continued in-person classes. This not only adversely affected academic performance but also the well-being of teenagers throughout the country. The authors theorize that the reason teens struggled so much was that they felt cut off from their peers and stuck with mom and dad just as social-emotional learning in high school was supposed to begin in earnest.


While many in-person schools have since reopened, the survey reveals that social-emotional learning for high school students has to be a top priority whenever teens are involved. That means choosing a learning engagement platform that helps foster independence while allowing teens to foster the social connections they need. Echo360 has created a portfolio of engagement solutions that facilitates that: the Echosystem. 

Why did older high school students struggle more than their younger counterparts?

The survey cited above produced extremely consistent results for students in grades 10-12, but ninth-graders did not report the same discrepancies in emotional well-being between in-person and remote learners. This may be because ninth-graders had not previously experienced high school and therefore wouldn’t miss the social-emotional learning in high school that older students had already grown accustomed to. This could lead to further problems down the line as these students will need to catch up on the social-emotional learning they missed in grade 9. 

Fortunately, the survey’s authors expect the vast majority of adolescents to recover from their “pandemic year” with a return to normalcy but note that some may need additional support to perform up to grade level. Still, educators should do everything they can to ensure that nothing prevents social-emotional learning in high school again. 

How can remote learning meet the needs of adolescents?

Social-emotional learning in high school centers primarily around teaching dependent kids to become independent young adults and encouraging their social development, so online learning tools must deliver on both fronts. For example, EchoEngage has a built-in virtual classroom equipped with video chat so students can see their peers. Teachers should require all students to leave their cameras on to create the sense of community that’s often lacking in online education. 

Furthermore, EchoEngage has virtual breakout rooms to facilitate group work and help students get to know each other better. Giving students time to socialize with their peers using this feature could be a great way to fight off the feelings of isolation many teens experience with distance learning. 

EchoEngage also supports blended learning paths that allow students to split their time between live class meetings and self-paced assignments. Allowing students to complete certain tasks whenever and wherever they like is a great way to foster independence. High school students shouldn’t feel abandoned either, so instructors should use EchoExam’s reporting tools to proactively intervene if a student falls behind. 

Perhaps most importantly, teachers need to make online courses that are worth paying attention to. EchoAuthor allows course creators to use multimedia elements to help lectures pop, while EchoVideo tracks engagement data so instructors know if they are losing their audience.

Learn more about the Echosystem today

High school social-emotional learning is essential for adolescents, but that doesn’t mean that remote learners have to miss out. Instead, reach out to learn more about how Echo360 can empower inspired learning.

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