Working with Students: Access to Technology

7 May 2020

With the transition to online classes, students can quickly start to fall behind. Resources that students once had access to are either no longer available or more difficult for them to access. One resource that students may have trouble accessing is technology. Many students in lower-income households rely on the technology provided by their institution to complete their coursework. Losing such a valuable resource can be discouraging to students and can make it difficult for them to keep up with the course content. Here is how you can adjust your course expectations and content to accommodate these students in order to make their transition to a virtual environment as smooth as possible.

Reach out to your students 

Some students might not feel comfortable reaching out to let you know that they don’t have access to everything they need to complete the course. I have found it easier to ask students to message me directly if they are missing a resource that they need. 

Work with each student individually 

Each student might have access to different levels of technology so you may have to adjust the course to accommodate each student individually. Every student should feel that they are still receiving an exemplary education no matter what resources they have. For example, one of our students relied on access to campus laptops to complete schoolwork.  To help this student, we made an adjustment that allowed the student to use their personal tablet instead. 

It may be that the only technology that a student has readily available is their smartphone. Fortunately, there are a lot of web-based applications for creative work that will allow the smartphone to serve as a temporary replacement for a laptop until students can regain access to campus resources. 

What if your course requires access to specific software?

In some circumstances, classes require access to specific software.  If if a student doesn’t have a device that can use that software, then larger adjustments need to be made. You may try looking for an alternative software that will work on the student's device. If no comparable alternative software can be found then you may want to consider assigning alternative course work that can be completed by the student with the resources they have. Such a solution allows a student to still learn the course material even without their access to campus resources.

Of course each class is different and there is no perfect solution for students who have lost access to the on-campus technology and resources they are accustomed to having. However, during this pandemic course requirements need to be more flexible to accommodate all students.  Making sure students feel comfortable is important in this difficult and stressful time.  Anything you can do to make your students' transition to a virtual learning environment easier will go a long way in keeping your students happy and successful.