You have broadband? Your student might not.

One of the many benefits our students enjoy whenever they’re on campus: really good Internet service.

Don’t laugh. A whole lost of them don’t once they leave.

In a previous blog post, I noted losing quality Internet service was just one of the factors we must keep in mind as we evaluate the work our students complete over the remainder of the semester. Whether it’s a question of access to the highest-possible Internet speeds or being able to afford it, the “homework gap” that exists on the K-12 level is unfortunately alive and well at the higher education level, too.

Consider this: The FCC estimates that roughly 21-million Americans lack advanced broadband Internet. In a country of approximately 330-million people, that means six out of every 100 people lag in their efforts to do online what the other 94 take for granted.

Americans who live in rural areas are far more likely to suffer from slower Internet. JournalistResource.org reports

In this time of pandemic caused by a new coronavirus, systems that many rely on daily, like health care and education, are unraveling. Americans who can telework are avoiding the office, bringing the inequality of telework into high relief. Eventually, there may be silver linings. For now, the pandemic continues to leave average Americans increasingly exposed to a variety of sudden challenges.

Sudden challenges for our students might very well mean figuring out how to complete the assignments we, as faculty, have assigned them. Just this morning, as one example, a friend of mine who teaches at another university posted on social media a plea from one of his students: The student had no Internet at home and was using a hotspot to access the Web, and last night that hotspot became unavailable. The student asked for an extra day to complete an assignment.

That student is not alone.

Think of it this way: If you have 100 students this term, six of them are like that student in my friend’s class. If you have 50, then three of them are that student.

Let’s continue to be reasonable with our students as we all work together to complete this most unusual academic semester.

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