Adequate access to learning

In a recent encounter with a faculty member, a student sent an e-mail explaining that she was having difficulty running all the programs at once on her computer during synchronous learning events. She was proactively notifying us that from time to time, her camera would turn off when she had too many things open on her computer. Grateful that she was reaching out to let us know, it also gave us pause. Knowing that many faculty are probably trying to navigate such situations since moving our teaching online, I went to the research.

I found two articles that spoke to this issue.  There have been some new challenges to teaching with synchronous learning that do not present themselves when in person. One such challenge is students’ ability to have consistent and effective access to the learning environment. This ability rests on whether or not they have enough internet bandwidth and a computer that can handle the demands of being on Zoom, accessing the learning platform (Blackboard, Canvas), and taking digital notes simultaneously. One in 10 students reported their primary learning device could not meet the needs in a recent study. One-third of the students said they had ongoing issues with internet connectivity. This finding was based on a survey of about 9500 students across 58 institutions of higher learning (Brooks & Gierdowski, 2021; Koenig, 2021).

This situation sometimes leaves faculty in a quandary as to what to do when a student doesn’t show up for a Zoom lecture, has their camera off, doesn’t complete an assignment or participate in some way, or misses an online exam or quiz. While their computer may have been adequate to meet the demands of on-campus learning, the shift to online resulted in greater needs for additional programs, apps, and internet connection. Some students simply do not have the resources for a newer computer or upgrade a weak internet service.  Seventy-five percent of the student in the study tried to resolve their issues on their own with mixed results (Koenig, 2021). 

So what can we do?

Our role as teachers is to ensure that every student has equal or equitable access to learning, especially when learning is online. We do not want students learning to suffer because they do not have the means.

  1. Flexibility

One of the consistent messages in teaching during a pandemic is allowing for more flexibility and loosen deadlines.  If a student has technical issues, knowing there is some flexibility can help to reduce anxiety and allow them to complete their work.

  1. Technical support

 Another consideration is to be sure you provide your students with information about who to contact for technology support. Most institutions have increased their support departments recently due to the pandemic. Encourage them to reach out if they are having difficulty, not only to the support department but also to let you know so you can both make decisions about moving forward.  

  1. Do not make assumptions

Do not make assumptions if a student misses a Zoom lecture, assignment deadline, or exam. Inquire first.  This may be when you learn of their technology challenges.

  1. Plan ahead

When you begin to think about your summer or fall causes, acknowledge the reality of the technology demands and challenges and encourage students to reach out if they are having difficulty.  Consider exploring whether the institution or your program can loan laptops for student use. While this may not solve the internet bandwidth issue, it may help with some computer issues if students have old devices.


Brooks, D. C., and Gierdowski, D. C. (2021). Student experience with technology in the pandemic. EDUCAUSE Research. Retrieved from

Koenig, R. (2021). Old, slow laptops are sabotaging college student success. EdSurge. Retrieved from


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