Bowling Green, Ky (May 8, 2020) – Communities, organizations, and businesses around the world have had to change the way they operate due to the coronavirus outbreak. One system that has changed drastically is higher education. Colleges and universities across the U.S. have closed their doors and switched to remote learning to stop the spread of COVID-19.
According to CNBC, over 14 million college students have been impacted by the school closers. Students were told to pack up their belongings and leave campus for the rest of the spring semester and to continue to attend classes online. Even though remote learning is the new reality for all students, there is still backlash from those who had to make major changes.
“COVID has impacted my life in a lot of ways; the most prominent way it has affected me is my education,” said Western Kentucky University graduating senior Lauren Clark. “As a graduating senior, I planned to finish out a small part of my degree during a study-abroad program this summer that has since been cancelled because of the virus. This would have allowed me to be a step ahead in the job market, but now I feel a step behind.”
These school closures have not only affected class time but also created other logistical issues. Many individuals who lived in campus housing were told to pack up and leave, and some might not have had a home to return too. This also creates a huge disadvantage for low-income students, particularly those who relied on paychecks from on-campus jobs and pre-paid meal plans.
One of the biggest challenges to come from the school closures was switching all classes to the online format. Students are required to complete their classes remotely from home, but this creates an obvious problem: What if students do not have access to high-speed internet?
In order to attend online class, turn in assignments, and conduct research, students need reliable broadband (high-speed internet) access. Almost all universities provide free Wi-Fi connection to every student on campus, but since they are now working remotely that access is not guaranteed.
“For some students, learning remotely can be a challenge,” said Western Kentucky University professor Dr. Jennifer Mize-Smith. “Their access to technology may be limited or unreliable in areas with spotty connections or in households where multiple people such as parents and siblings are all simultaneously using Wi-Fi. Whereas before they may have gone to a local coffee shop to connect, that is no longer an option. And, of course, not everyone has a laptop. We just can’t assume that students have the same resources as what campus life provides.”
So how can students who do not have internet access stay connected online? The Federal Communications Commision (FCC)and major internet providers have devised relief plans for not only customers but those who are in need of connection.
On March 13, 2020, the FCC launched the “Keep Americans Connected Pledge”to ensure Americans do not lose their broadband connectivity as a result of the changing circumstances. Some of the major telecom companies that have agreed to the pledge are AT&T, Charter (Spectrum), and Verizon. This pledge includes:
- Not terminating service to residential or small-business customers unable to pay their bills due to the disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic;
- Waiving late fees that any residential or small-business customers incur because of their economic circumstances related to the coronavirus pandemic; and
- Opening Wi-Fi hotspots to any American who needs them.
In addition to government resources, students can check their school’s website for more information. They can also head to Connected Nation’s internet resource page: Resources and Solutions to Providing to Connectivity.
This coronavirus pandemic has shown how important broadband access is for student success and why high-speed internet is no longer a luxury but a necessity, especially during this critical time. We are in need of closing the Digital Divide now more than ever.
About the Author: Lily McCoy is Connected Nation’s Communications Social Media Specialist. She provides support to the Communications Department through social media outreach and writing. She also adds a source of creativity to the team with a background in personal relations and marketing. Lily has a bachelors in corporate and organizational communications from Western Kentucky University.
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