LearnPlatform, developer of an edtech effectiveness system used by states and districts serving more than 4 million students, today published a new analysis of online usage by 2.5 million students during the era of remote and hybrid instruction.

“The good news here is that educators who serve low-income students appear to be getting access to, and are using, edtech to connect with students,” said Karl Rectanus, CEO and co-founder of LearnPlatform, which conducted the research. “But the digital equity gap in student engagement remains troubling and is something districts must continually monitor.”

Published monthly, LearnPlatform’s analysis considers usage of more than 8,000 edtech tools used within school districts in 17 states. This month’s report augmented that analysis with an analysis of actual usage levels of over 270,000 educators, across a statistically representative sample of U.S. school districts.

According to the analysis, educator engagement in digital tools has risen significantly since spring school closures in districts where more than 25% of students are eligible for free and reduced-priced lunch. This improvement, however, has not translated into increased student usage in those districts, which has not surpassed pre-COVID 19 levels. Moreover, gaps in usage persist between educators and students in these districts and peers in more affluent districts.

Last spring, educators in more affluent districts immediately increased their edtech usage by more than 30% compared to usage prior to school closures, while edtech engagement dropped in less affluent districts for about six weeks before returning to pre-COVID levels. But this fall, the engagement gap between educators in more affluent and less affluent districts has decreased significantly — but still persists — as educator edtech engagement has increased across all districts.

The news is less encouraging for student usage. The new data shows that despite narrowing in October, the digital equity gap widened in November. If the trend continues, the gap could expand beyond pre-COVID levels.

The year-long research also has revealed that districts have deployed a dizzying array of edtech tools during the COVID-19 era. That includes districts using an average of 1,327 different edtech products every month, including more than 70 tools for math and English language arts courses alone since March. Additionally, most districts use more than one learning management system and more than one single sign-on provider.

“The data suggest that having to learn and navigate so many digital tools may be contributing to confusion and disengagement, rather than creating more options,” Rectanus said.”

View the updated reports on edtech usage, access and equity during the pandemic here.