Communicate frequently and effectively by identifying students who have limited internet access, checking in regularly, and sending small files via email.
Provide tips and resources for students in need, including free WiFi spots, affordable internet program options, reminders to download ebooks or resources to use offline, and reminders to get online.
Make sure you optimize your assignments for a limited internet connection. For example, schedule short assignments with a few days buffer so students can find internet access to complete them.
Convert large files into small formats so students can easily download them. If you need to access large files, consider sending a USB drive to students.
Higher education is adapting to the rapid rise of virtual learning. Online learning provides access to all-day education, but low-income students with limited internet access face another barrier to education. 44% of Americans with a household income below $30,000 per year don’t have access to internet (home broadband) services.
Consider the following ways to bridge the digital divide as you start your next semester.
Communicate often and effectively
Communication is essential for any online course. This is especially true when students face difficulties such as internet outages. You need to rethink how you communicate with students, and incorporate key tips into your course.
Get to know your students
Ask your students at the beginning of each semester what their biggest concerns are. This will help you to understand how your class may be able to succeed. This can be done in an open forum, or you can schedule a brief introductory assignment to get to understand your students better.
Asking your students about their fears early on can help you learn a lot about how comfortable they are with technology. This will give you valuable insight into their ability to manage multiple priorities and whether accessing the internet is a major concern.
Spotty internet access should be considered normal
While we know the importance of internet access for online learning, we don’t want students without it to be burdened with unnecessary burdens.
Intermittent access with students is a common problem that many people face during online learning. Provide solutions to help them overcome these obstacles. These challenges will never go away, but it is possible to reduce stress in your students and make sure they know that you are there for them.
Schedule regular check-ins
Actively check in with students throughout the semester, if possible, depending on your class size. Your students will appreciate the opportunity to meet one-on-one or schedule office hours. You should give students a few examples of what you can do for them, as well as any barriers that might prevent them from succeeding such as internet access.
This will make it easier for students to alert you to any problems they have with their technology and help you identify students who may need your support.
Changes in the way you communicate
A short, concise email that includes an attachment is something we all appreciate. We often forget to attach a PDF or word file to our emails. This increases the email download speed. Consider including your information in the email, rather than as an attachment, if you have students who don’t have fast internet access.
If you host live lectures, or use video conferencing to conduct office hours, make sure to include a phone-in option. This will allow students to log on to the conference even if they are unable to connect.
Provide tips and resources to help with internet connection
Include resources and tips for students who have limited or no internet access in your curriculum improvements.
Affordable Internet Programs
Many ISPs offer affordable deals to students in need, as well as government discounts. Consider the ISP and government discounts available in your area. Be aware that there may be restrictions.
Free WiFi Spots and Internet Cafes
Give a list of places with free internet (cafes and libraries, some chain restaurants) or free WiFi spots within your school’s vicinity.
Remind students to download eBooks & other resources
For easy access to ebooks, download the MindTap Reader from a Cengage title. To ensure that they have access to any PowerPoints or worksheets that you may have posted, students should consider downloading them.
Connectivity issues should be considered in your assignments
Students with connectivity issues can be supported by a few simple changes to how you create, deliver, and monitor content.