While it may seem like almost everyone has internet access, a shocking number of families lack fast or reliable internet connections. There are roughly 5 million households with school-age children who don’t have broadband internet access at home. That means millions of students are being left behind.
There are many ways that a lack of internet access can affect a student’s academic performance. Students without internet can’t connect with teachers or classmates, do independent research, or get online homework help. For families, not having internet access can mean missing out on information or losing out on a direct line of communication with schools and teachers.
One of the biggest problems faced by students without internet access at home is their inability to complete homework. Homework has long been a source of hot debate within the education community. Should homework be assigned? Those who say yes argue that homework allows students to continue learning at home and prepares them for the rigors of college. Others claim that homework is unfair—home is not an even playing field, and some students have access to more resources and a better environment for completing homework.
The internet has only intensified this debate. Up to 70% of teachers assign homework that requires the use of the internet. About 65% of students use the internet to complete homework, which includes doing research, submitting assignments, emailing teachers, and collaborating online with classmates. But what does that mean for students who don’t have internet access at home? They may fall behind, or they might spend hours looking for free Wi-Fi access points.
Schools increasingly expect parents to be able to log on, too. Teachers use email lists to update parents on field trips, class activities, and more. School websites may be the only place for parents to find valuable information. Even grades are going online, with many schools using internet-based grade books. In theory, this allows parents easier access to their child’s grades. In practice, this can mean certain parents are left behind—namely, those without reliable internet access.