John Loftus writes at National Review Online about the impact of the COVID-inspired shift to online education.

Across the country, school districts have closed classrooms once again, due to another uptick in COVID-19 cases. Online learning has become a fixture of life for students and families in 2020. Even advertisements, such as Google’s popular spot on teaching and homeschooling, are trying to depict this “new normal” as rosy — something to be celebrated, embraced. An Aviation Gin commercial, featuring Ryan Reynolds, provides a humorous outlook on online learning. Rest assured, stressed parents and aimless college students can relax because Aviation Gin sells its liquor in larger bottles.

But for many children, teenagers, and college students, the reality is less intoxicating. The long-term effects from sitting at a computer in a virtual Zoom classroom are manifold. How will these shape the educational outcomes of students in America — one, two, even ten years down the line? Are these changes irreversible?

According to a recent report from Common Sense and the Boston Consulting Group, roughly 50 million K–12 public-school students have transitioned to remote learning during the pandemic. Approximately 30 percent of these students do not have adequate Internet connectivity or a device for remote learning, while 9 million students entirely lack both an Internet connection and a proper device. These students (many of whom are Native American) are simply lost to an abyss, where they neither learn online nor experience anything close to a normal school day.

McKinsey & Company sounded the alarm back in June. The report projected that, should in-class schooling return completely by early 2021, students with normal remote setups will have lost the equivalent of three to four months of in-classroom learning. Students who experience low-quality remote learning will have lost around seven to eleven months of in-classroom learning. And students who had no instruction at all over course of the pandemic will have lost close to a full year, even more, of in-classroom learning.