2020-2021 Academic Performance Should Not be Considered on Applications or Resumes

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is how to be flexible.


Educational institutions around the world closed their doors to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in March of 2020, causing a major disruption in student learning. Teaching did not stop thanks to the technology of the 21st century, yet there were inconsistencies, inequalities, and no change in expectations for the students. In a new environment, with more distractions, less classroom time, and a decrease in teaching quality, it needs to be taken into consideration that a student’s performance during the 2020-2021 academic school year does not accurately represent them. Therefore, in the future, those grades should not be treated in the same way on school applications or resumes. 

Studies have consistently found that digital technology is associated with only moderate learning gains. Suggesting that digital technology is effective when supporting a learning environment, but not necessarily when technology is the learning environment. Studies also further suggest that individualized online learning (like what we’re experiencing in the COVID era) may not be as helpful as learning collaboratively through technology. That is because learning is a social activity. To learn is to engage and develop as a person within a social framework – meaning many of the skills acquired in school help one develop the social skills to better navigate the world as an individual outside of a classroom setting. 

Transitioning to online learning has disrupted the way that students interact with each other, and therefore the rate at which they are learning. Other than the social aspect, peer collaboration produces positive outcomes in student achievement. Oftentimes, students are doing the learning between each other through help and competitive motivation. It is important to note that online platforms do provide an opportunity for socialization in the form of online clubs, one on one meetings, and group projects. But are those social interactions as valuable to us developmentally? 

The pandemic has also highlighted the longstanding inequalities in education. COVID-19 and the closure of schools have not affected every student equally. Students who do not come from privileged backgrounds were more likely to experience economic hardships, food insecurity, and a lack of access to technology. All of which hinder a student’s ability to perform well in an online environment. It has also been explained through the “faucet theory” that schools provide roughly equal benefits to children during the school year. However, during periods when students are out of school (summer break, online learning), children of lower socioeconomic status experience a pause in learning growth. That can be caused by parents being unable or ill-equipped to continue to encourage learning while outside of school. 

On top of the challenges students face, they also have to deal with teachers transitioning to online teaching. Most teachers are working harder than they have before; they are trying to teach the same curriculum, in less time, on a different platform, to students that are not as engaged or invested. The transition for teachers has not gone smoothly either, leading to significant inconsistencies in how students are consuming the course information. 

Overall, this school year was a doozy. We all worked hard to adapt and be flexible, but it did not always go according to plan. Something that I learned this semester was that it is okay to give yourself a break. And I think we need to learn collectively that it is okay if these grades aren’t perfect because this year was the opposite of that. But we also must understand why these grades don’t necessarily accurately represent a student’s learning curve. I would argue that we have all learned something significant this year; it just had nothing to do with a classroom.