Students face obstacles accessing online learning

A+student+uses+the+PAR+computer+lab+on+Tuesday.

Kevin Gao

A student uses the PAR computer lab on Tuesday.

By Laszlo Richard Toth, Staff Writer

As the University has temporarily switched to online learning, many students are facing technological barriers.

For some, the greatest obstacle this switch has brought is simply a changed educational environment. For many others, even accessing class at all has proven to be a challenge.

Whether it be due to limited Wi-Fi access, multiple people in the household trying to access the internet simultaneously or the lack of a computer, the ability to get online to attend classes is not a given for every student. 

Even when students may have easy access to the internet, other obstacles include lack of a printer, webcam or other accessories, according to Katherine Snyder, associate dean of students.

Although it is unclear just how many students may be technologically disadvantaged and to what degree, around 200 students have contacted the Student Assistance Center thus far with concerns related to technology, according to Snyder.

Many students at the University have had to find workarounds to ensure that they are still academically achieving. Jessica Moreno, freshman in DGS, has three other students living in the household but only one computer. 

“The days we all have classes at the same time, that’s when it gets complicated, but there’s times when it’s only one of us having a class, and that’s more manageable,” Moreno said. 

As a solution to this issue, Moreno will sometimes have to attend class from her phone or reach out to relatives for assistance with technology.  

Micheala Leahy, freshman in LAS, lives in rural Illinois and occasionally suffers from poor internet connection. She once lost three hours of work for her RHET 105: Writing and Research class; fortunately, her teacher was understanding and extended the deadline. 

However, this level of leniency isn’t provided by all of her professors.

“They’ve been as lenient as they want to be, but they don’t want to give me too much lenience,” Leahy said.

In response to the needs of technologically disadvantaged students during this crisis, the University has instituted a Technology Loaner Program (TLP), formed through the Student Assistance Center, the Office of the Provost, Tech Services and IT communities on campus. 

The TLP assists students by offering loanable laptops, hotspots, webcams and cell phones with data plans. The TLP also hopes to make students aware of other options they can use for connecting, such as using their cell phone as a webcam. 

Students may contact the TLP by emailing the Student Assistance Center at [email protected]

“We know that students are finding this situation extraordinarily difficult for a variety of reasons, including, but not limited to technology, and we want to help as much as possible,” Snyder said in an email.

[email protected]