Home Connectivity -- from a Digital Equity Lens

As we set our sights on the 2021-2022 year, many school districts are focusing on how they will carry forward new digital learning environments. Schools rethought traditional school models during the pandemic, and the ability to differentiate and offer ongoing, quality, innovative learning experiences, including the option to learn from home during and outside of the classic school schedule, is essential. In addition, leaders must understand the connectivity issues that many of our students face supporting districts in making decisions that foster an equitable education for all students. CoSN recently published a new report, The Student Home Connectivity Study. This new study will assist leaders in understanding the inequities that families face when it comes to virtual learning and offer recommendations to help leaders better support students when learning from home. 
 
Key findings from the Student Home Connectivity Study include:
  1. Learning with Video is Essential for Education. Over 85 percent of network traffic in remote learning is used for video, which requires sufficient upload and download speeds. This increasingly popular learning trend is expected to continue for the foreseeable future.
  2. Students are Mobile and Rely on Wi-Fi. Many students participate in online learning activities outside of their own home, with 92 percent using Wi-Fi to do so. In addition, students often concurrently use district-provided devices and personal devices, increasing Wi-Fi bandwidth needs.
  3. Certain Communities, Especially in Remote and Rural Areas, Require More Support and Resources. Students in remote or rural areas most often have limited internet access, and students working in areas with a large concentration of other students also experience poor connectivity.
  4. The Remote Learning Experience is Significantly Impacted by Device Quality. The quality of a student’s experience can be impacted by the age, type, quality, and configuration of the device they’re using. Routinely collecting data sets that provide insight into student use of district-provided devices can enhance their experiences.
 
Many schools are deciding to offer some virtual options for families during the 2021-2022 year, their desire to leverage the investments in technology tools, resources, and professional development moving forward. These findings and the accompanying recommendations can impact the decisions we make and will help schools provide a positive learning experience for their students. 
 
If you are interested in diving deeper into the report, Dr. Tom Ryan discusses the study. He offers his analysis on the implications for digital equity and tech-enabled learning during this recent COSN podcast. Listen & subscribe: Apple: https://apple.co/2SJ1S5i  Spotify: https://spoti.fi/34yEGcC  More: https://bit.ly/3fCLqN2 
 
Are you interested in finding out more specific information about the connectivity that families in your district have access to?  CoSN Institutional Members have exclusive access to the Student Home Bandwidth Calculator, a tool for determining the recommended amount of available bandwidth for students based on concurrent activity and usage. The calculator provides the estimated bandwidth for each activity and automatically adds up the required bandwidth for a set of students performing selected activities.