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COVID-19 Internet Access for Students. An overview to help prepare for Distance Learning

COVID-19 Internet Access for Students. An overview to help prepare for Distance Learning

Understandably, I’ve received calls and email from colleges, schools and school districts in our coverage area asking about internet access for students as everyone is preparing to shift to an online model throughout the State of Oregon. Schools are closed throughout the state until at least April 28.

The way we work and learn has changed

I know people jokingly say something like ‘You can learn anything on YouTube!’ I have learned more from YouTube than I care to admit.

This isn’t an attempt to talk about HOW to do distance learning; that is up to the school districts and teachers. But I’d like to give some examples in my own life of what distance learning looked or looks like.

I did the bulk of my college courses via distance learning. What that looked like not too many years ago was that the college would send me the DVD or VHS of the lectures I needed to watch along with all the course work and the due dates for assignments. People thought it was crazy at the time, but I actually enjoyed it!

Completely online universities are common now and make a lot of sense for many people.

Current K-12 online school in Oregon

My kiddo who is in first grade attends a charter school through the State of Oregon which is done completely online. They use video conferencing for the teacher and students to connect in class everyday. His classmates live all over the state. Assignments and tools are all available online. He has discussions and submits assignments online. Needless to say, when all the schools were shut down, his school was not since they already are completely online (and he was a little disappointed…)

These types of online schools weren’t an option when I was a kid. I think it’s so cool that my son uses is the same technology I use every day (and he teaches me some tricks too!)

The COVID-19 ordeal has highlighted some weakness in internet connectivity for everyone; some due to financial reasons, others due to physical limitations based on where they live. Not everyone can participate in online learning, that’s a fact.

The ‘Digital Divide’ for people/students in rural areas is a real concern that is highlighted now more than ever

Internet Access to rural areas is essential to put students on a level playing field. There is a concept in the industry of an area being ‘over built.’ This means there are usually more than 2 good options for high speed internet. This would be places like downtown Corvallis, Albany or Lebanon where there are generally several options for Internet Access.

While we do compete directly in these areas due to how our network is built, we have the ability to serve people who do not have high speed internet options to help get them over the ‘Digital Divide.’

What Alyrica has been doing to bridge the ‘Digital Divide.’

Alyrica is the best option in the Mid-Willamette Valley for rural internet access. Yes, I am biased, but based on the service we deliver at the price we deliver it for, with the customer ratings that we have, we are the best value proposition out there!

Outside of providing service, we have been working closely with local city and county leaders as well federal leadership to address this issue in a much broader sense.

Being an Internet Service Provider ourselves, we are in a good position to speak to leaders about what hurdles there are and how working together we can help bridge this gap.

While the current COVID-19 pandemic has brought this issue to the front of people’s minds, it has been part of Alyrica’s core business for years!

What is the world going to look like after everyone goes back to ‘life as usual?’

No one can really answer that question, but I’ll give some thoughts on what the world of the internet and distance learning will look like.

With the current situation around the world; we are currently more digitally connected than physically connected. I personally think there is no substitute to sitting across the table from someone physically, but I am super grateful for where technology has come so far!

Jason’s Predictions

I think the world is being forced to adapt to the digital age in a faster pace than would have happened organically. We could be ‘fast-forwarding’ 10 or 20 years due to the necessity of moving learning and business online. Even though most people don’t like to change; it is amazing how we are able to adapt to what life throws at us!

I know there are many people that are struggling with this change. This is not just about connectivity. We all have to change routines, adapt to new technology, adjust our schedules. This is a HUGE transition to ‘business as usual,’ regardless of what ‘business’ it is!

Here are a few areas that have/are changing due to this ordeal that I think will continue to expand:

Online School
Not everyone will move to online only school; but I think there will start to be more hybrid learning opportunities, such as students being able to take classes or electives all online; even grade school kids being able to do class from home one day a week.

The VA hospital system already has a great program for Tele-Medicine and with more platforms being used to connect with doctors that were not allowed to be used in the past (such as FaceTime, Skype, etc.) there will be more demand for Tele-Medicine.

Remote Work / Remote Office Time
This is already a growing trend, but I see more companies that were nervous about ‘taking the plunge’ to remote work being forced to. Many are realizing that it isn’t as bad as they originally thought. For many Millennials and Gen Zs, this move is what they have been craving for a long time and I expect this to continue to grow.

Final Thoughts
I do think that things are going to calm down after this virus is brought into check; but I don’t think that everything is going to go back to ‘normal’ in terms of connectivity and the real need.

I believe that this ‘forcing’ into the digital age highlighted, enlarged, confirmed, (add your own adjective here…) that the ‘Digital Divide’ is real and that we need to do everything we can to connect everyone we can. Even after schools are reopened, the need for rural broadband is still going to be there for students to be able to do homework, connect with family and friends, work remotely, connect to a doctor, etc.

Alyrica may be able to close the ‘Digital Divide’ for YOU

Shameless plug for Alyrica here. The best way I know to help people cross the ‘Digital Divide’ is to see if there are options at your location! We are happy to get people online, especially those who do not have good options.

If that means Alyrica, of course we are excited to have you as a customer, but sometimes that means referring you to one of the ISPs we know that are outside of our coverage area but could cover their location. It never hurts to check!

Solution oriented, friendly customer service; that’s Alyrica!

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