COVID-19: Learning apps boom during pandemic; Unintended pregnancies increase

World Today

Learning apps boom during pandemic

U.S. companies making digital tools and learning apps have seen a surge in usage during the COVID-19 pandemic and quarantines.

While schools closed their doors, educators, students, and adults turned to learning apps as classes went into remote learning.

Venture and equity financing for education tech start-ups has doubled, from $4.8 billion in 2019 to $12.6 billion, according to a report from venture capitalist firm CB Insights.

Companies adapted early to new circumstances, with startups temporarily making premium services free to teachers for the 2019-2020 school year as students got used to their product.

Google Classroom, the company’s free class assignment and grading app, has reportedly helped more than 150 million students, educators, and schools around the world – a rise of 40 million from last year.

Apple unveiled a Teacher Portfolio, which would allow teachers to create an anthology of lessons to share with colleagues and leadership teams, while also working to update their learning apps and curriculum programs.

Apps that allow teacher and student interactions have also been growing in popularity – Chinese ed-tech Zuoyebang, which offers live online lessons and homework help, raised $2.35 billion last year from investors like Alibaba and Sequoia Capital China.

For U.S educators, the largest ed-tech deals involved business that help educators give and grade assignments, lead lessons and hold class discussions online.

There are some concerns about whether schools will still turn to these tools once more in-person learning resumes.

But schools that went to fully or mostly remote teaching during the pandemic ran a budget surplus of between $200 to $1,000 per student, according to Georgetown University Edunomics Lab.

Unintended pregnancies increase during COVID-19

A report by the United Nations Population Fund found as many as 1.4 million unintended pregnancies may have happened because of the disruption of women’s access to contraceptives.

The report, which examined 115 low- and middle- income countries in January 2021, shows the COVID-19 pandemic impacted family planning globally.

It estimates that at least 12 million women may have been unable to access family planning services during the pandemic, as supplies and services faced major disruption during the beginning of the pandemic. Statistics could reach as high as an estimated 23 million.

The report notes that despite declines in April and May 2020, countries were able to maintain or restore access to health services, including family planning.

A report from International Planned Parenthood Federation says more than 5,000 family planning clinics closed because of the outbreak, hitting South Asia and Africa the hardest.

Unintended pregnancies have a number of major risks, including increased health complications, as well as fewer prenatal care appointments.