Digital Equity Initiative

Student access to robust digital tools is key to their success as 21st-century citizens. Yet many students from economically disadvantaged families have limited access to these tools both at school and at home. CoSN is working to close the access gap for learning no matter where the students are. We would like to thank the following sponsors for their support of the Digital Equity Initiative: ClassLink, CleverInniveKajeetLearnPlatform and Verizon

Student Home Internet Connectivity Study

This report on the preliminary findings of a breakthrough study on students’ at-home internet connectivity and provided guidelines on bandwidth, devices, and other remote learning needs based on the data. The study, supported by a grant from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI), fills a critical need among educators and policymakers for detailed insight on students’ learning experiences at home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Thirteen K-12 urban, suburban and rural school districts from across the United States with approximately 750,000 students participated in the six-week study, securely sharing information on internet usage, latency and performance from network filter logs and video conferencing solutions. The resulting findings will serve as a guide for school district technology leaders across the United States working to improve online learning equity.

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. Students oftentimes 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.

Read the Full Report 

The data collection process was developed in partnership with Innive Inc. and overseen by an advisory group of educators. 


Digital Equity Toolkit 

Students without home access to high-quality broadband connectivity are at a disadvantage, unable to realize the full power of digital learning. Only 3% of teachers in high-poverty level schools said that their students had the digital tools necessary to complete homework assignments, compared to 52 percent of teachers in more affluent schools—a discrepancy labeled as the "homework gap."

To address this key challenge, CoSN launched the Digital Equity Initiative. This effort recognizes the school districts that are building meaningful community partnerships and creating tools to help district leaders get started in achieving digital equity.

Learn more and download our Toolkit here


Featured Resources

Read CoSN Project Director, Susan Beardon's blog posts on surprising broadband usage in schools and on Digital Equity for the FETC about addressing the homework gap

CoSN and the Alliance for Excellent Education issued two resources - Advancing Digital Equity and Closing the Homework Gap and Advancing Digital Equity: An Update on the FCC’s Lifeline Program  

School-to-Home report: Understanding Why 24/7 Access to Broadband is Essential to Student Learning 
 
Closing the Homework Gap one-pager: Digital Equity Strategies for Learning Beyond the Classroom 
 

Be sure to download survey templates for students and parents, created in partnership with the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation at North Carolina State University.

 

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measuring scale iconshaking hands iconThis CoSN resource is related to the following skill areas from CoSN's Framework of Essential Skills of the K—12 CTO