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New Research Reveals Ongoing Connectivity Issues in Remote Learning

Posted on 01/21/21 by Izzy Jack

A new survey reveals the connectivity gap in remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The shift to online learning in response to the COVID-19 pandemic presented new challenges to teachers, students, and parents across the globe. While in-person classes have long been the preferred method of education, remote learning rapidly became the new normal in 2020. 

Distance learning has kept students and their families safer during this unprecedented public health crisis. However, in the transition to a virtual education model, many teachers, school systems, and families struggled to adapt to their new online learning environments. With an increasing reliance on a reliable internet connection, the COVID-19 pandemic exposed significant connectivity issues. 

child in front of a computer for online learning

In our previous survey, we looked at the effects of poor connectivity on remote learning at the start of the pandemic. Now, we revisit our initial findings and see where things stand months after schools and families first transitioned to online education. 

How do students and parents feel about remote learning? Have households found ways to improve slow internet connections? These are the types of questions that we hoped to answer in our more recent survey of over 1,000 American households. Here’s a closer look at our key findings. 

COVID-19 Exposes Ongoing Connectivity Issues

Even before the pandemic, internet usage across multiple devices was at an all-time high and trending upward. Now, with parents working from home and students attending virtual classes, people rely on their home internet more than ever before. With greater internet usage comes greater chances of network overload and poor connectivity. Our survey results highlight the ongoing problem of poor internet connections while learning: 

1. In the last 6 months, have you experienced internet or cellular connectivity issues at your home (spotty coverage, dropped calls, slow network speeds, lost signal, etc.)?

  • Nearly 53% of survey respondents said they experienced some sort of connectivity issue (internet, cellular, or both) at home. 

2. In the past 6 months, have you used your phone or tablet’s cellular data instead of a WiFi/Ethernet connection to connect to the internet at home?

  • 48% of survey respondents said they have used cellular data instead of a WiFi/Ethernet connection in the past 6 months.

3. Have you bought or are considering buying products designed to help resolve internet or cellular connectivity issues?

  • 24% of survey respondents said they have either already bought or are considering buying products designed to help resolve internet or cellular connectivity issues.

Based on these results, it’s clear that reliable internet connectivity is an ongoing problem for households across the United States. Increased internet usage as a result of COVID-19 has truly tested home internet capabilities for students and families. 

Common Connectivity Issues While Remote Learning

Slow or limited internet connectivity has a significant impact on a student’s ability to succeed academically in an online learning environment. Given the digital divide in America, it’s clear that some households have better access to high-speed internet than others. There are several connectivity issues that students encounter while remote learning, including: 

  • Loss of internet or data. Students may have their internet completely drop out during class—causing them to miss important information, lose valuable class time, or fall behind. 
  • Poor audio or video quality. With students using Zoom and other video conferencing software to communicate with teachers and classmates, poor video quality can greatly hamper communication. 
  • Inability to load materials. Teachers provide helpful learning materials and assignments through online portals. Students may struggle to download new assignments or upload completed work when their internet is poor. 
  • Spotty internet in certain rooms. The quality of internet and data coverage can vary throughout a household, so students may be limited in what areas of the home they can study.
  • Too many simultaneous users. With multiple people and devices connected to the internet simultaneously, home networks may get overloaded and slow internet speeds for the entire household. 
  • Internet only works during off-peak hours. Students need to participate in class at certain times and meet specific deadlines. If they only have a reliable internet connection during off hours, then they will be at a disadvantage. 

All of these issues contribute to a less-than-ideal online learning experience. With a continued emphasis on distance learning, connectivity issues may be a significant barrier to a student’s academic success and development. 

Where Students Learn: Online and In-Person

While learners and educators adapted to a shifting educational landscape, many question whether students can reach their full learning potential in a digital classroom. Online learning makes education more accessible to students, and some argue that it’s just as effective as in-person learning. However, both parents and children miss the face-to-face interaction of traditional classroom environments. 

In light of the current pandemic, our education system shifted to embrace new learning models—from in-person to fully remote to a blended learning experience. How do parents and children feel about their options for education? Here’s what our survey respondents had to say:

4. During the current pandemic, would you prefer that your child learn in person, remotely, or in a blended learning model?

  • 35% of parents prefer for their children to learn online during the pandemic. 
  • 52% of parents would prefer for their child to learn in a blended or in-person learning model.

5. During the current pandemic, would your child prefer to be learning in person, remotely, or a blended learning model?

  • 59% of parents say their child prefers learning in person at least part of the time. 

Taken together, both parents and their children want to continue in-person learning at least part of the time. There’s still uncertainty about what school will look like in K-12 schools in the coming year. What’s for certain is that internet connectivity is likely to continue impacting a student’s ability to learn. 

Alternative Ways to Connect at Home

Given the tremendous impact that internet connectivity has on student success, it should come as no surprise that many households turn to alternative methods to connect to the internet. In our survey, we found that 30% of respondents used their cellular data or hotspot to connect to the internet at home. This goes to show that WiFi/Ethernet connections may not be enough to ensure connectivity while learning.

Cellular data bridges the gap for homes with poor or limited internet connections. However, cell signal can be just as spotty and unreliable in certain areas. Despite these connectivity issues, we found that 82% of survey respondents didn’t have a solution for fixing their internet and cellular connectivity issues at home.

The good news is that a cell phone signal booster can help solve the problem of poor cellular connectivity. With a stronger cell signal, you can better support remote learning in your home. 

Cellular Connectivity for Remote Learning

A weBoost cell phone signal booster works to boost the quality and reliability of cell signals in your home. While distance learning, our boosters ensure a better, more connected experience for students. Our home boosters support multiple users, devices, and carriers simultaneously. Whether you need to boost a single room or improve cell signal strength throughout your home, weBoost has a solution for you:

  • weBoost Installed | Home Complete – our most powerful booster that offers entire home coverage with professional installation included. 
  • Home Complete – a complete solution for whole-home coverage with everything you need for DIY installation. 
  • Home MultiRoom – our second most powerful home booster with coverage for up to 3 large rooms. 
  • Home Room – a home booster that increases signal strength for one large room with simple drill-free installation.
  • Home Studio – our most compact, easy-to-install cell signal booster that improves signal strength in one large room, studio apartment, or condo. 

Connectivity issues shouldn’t stand in the way of a student’s ability to learn during the COVID-19 pandemic. Give your home a much-needed boost and shop weBoost’s collection of cell signal boosters today. 

Download the infographic here

how covid-19 reveals the connectivity gap in remote learning infographic

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