Connectivity issues hamper remote learning during COVID-19 crisis

More than 40% of people believe networking troubles during the coronavirus will have an impact on their or a relative's education, Wilson Electronics' found.

COVID-19: How universities made the pivot to e-learning
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The coronavirus pandemic has made remote working and learning the norm. Sheltering in place orders and social distancing efforts have forced thousands of companies and schools to move online. While many people enjoy the work/learn from home lifestyle, the new reality isn't ideal for individuals with internet connectivity issues, a Wilson Electronics report found. 

SEE: Life after lockdown: Your office job will never be the same--here's what to expect (cover story PDF) (TechRepublic)

Internet connectivity is crucial to successfully working and learning from home. As COVID-19 spread across the world, use of video conferencing solutions and online collaboration tools have skyrocketed. 

With faulty or nonexistent internet connection, workers wouldn't be able to communicate with coworkers or clients, and students wouldn't be able to tune into online lessons.   

Nearly 40% of respondents said they noticed an uptick in internet and/or cellular connectivity issues now that they and other relatives are sheltering in place. Before the coronavirus, 35% of people said they had networking issues, according to the report. 

"There are a tremendous number of people that for one reason or another do have connectivity issues, whether that's hardwired internet through broadband or using a mobile network to stay connected," said Bruce Lancaster, CEO at Wilson Electronics. 

"The coronavirus has only exacerbated that as the world has shifted from working in offices that have a very strong infrastructure and a lot of bandwidth to [being] diversified out to people's homes," Lancaster said.

More than 82% of people said they don't have a solution for fixing their internet or connectivity issues, the report found. 

Impact on remote learning 

More than 40% of respondents said they believe connectivity issues during COVID-19 and after will have a negative impact on their or their family member's education, the report found. 

Some of the most common internet issues people have faced included the loss of internet or data during an online class, the inability to load materials, poor audio or video during a class, the internet not working in certain rooms of the home, too many simultaneous users in the house at once, and the internet only working during off-peak hours, according to the data. 

The ability to connect also relies greatly on socioeconomic status, Lancaster said. Some students may have easier access to technological devices than others. 

Rural Americans, in particular, are struggling with connectivity. "The FCC has published some great data: 10 million households that have no broadband connectivity," Lancaster said. "But those students need to learn as well." 

"If they're forced to stay at home and they don't have an ability to do that remote learning, it's a real challenge for them. They're suffering, for sure," Lancaster added.

This disruption during online schooling can inhibit cohesive learning growth. An Achieve3000 report found that the number of students logging onto online classes has declined by 43% since the start of remote learning, and the amount of students completing at least one virtual lesson has decreased by 44%. 

Issues attending class could set a student back five months on potential reading growth, the Achieve300 report found. 

To try and successfully complete online lessons or assignments, nearly 30% of respondents said they used their phone or tablet's cellular data, or their phone's hotspot to connect to the internet at home, instead of a Wi-Fi/Ethernet connection, according to Wilson Electronics. 

"My advice is that mobile networks can help bridge that gap, but there's challenges there as well," Lancaster said. 

Mobile devices can be expensive, Lancaster said. However, access to a mobile device may be easier for some than purchasing an entire new laptop or desktop computer. 

For more, check out More than 9 million students falling behind from lack of internet connectivity on TechRepublic. 

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Image: iStock/scyther5