Schools and districts everywhere quickly deployed student WiFi hotspot programs in 2020 to ensure students had access to distance learning. While these initiatives were not rolled out under ideal circumstances, this increased focus on digital equity has greatly benefited students without access to reliable Internet. In fact, over the past two years the digital divide in K-12, also known as the Homework Gap, has narrowed from 15 million to 12 million students within the United States.
While this is a trend worth celebrating, connecting students outside the classroom will remain a persistent challenge as more and more educational experiences happen online. As K-12 leaders continue to support digital equity initiatives in 2022 and beyond, it is important to consider that not all connectivity solutions are created equal.
For schools and districts, connectivity must consist of more than just a SIM card – it needs to be a complete solution that addresses the needs of both students and technology departments.
4 Things to Consider When Evaluating Connectivity Providers
One challenge that technology departments face with their WiFi programs is coverage gaps. In most rural areas, students are provided with devices, but still lack adequate access for connectivity. Districts everywhere, especially those in rural areas, often need hotspot devices from more than one carrier in order to provide sufficient Internet access for students. Look for a connectivity provider that allows you to mix and match carriers without the hassle of managing separate contracts.
How it Benefits Students: Students can get connected on the network that provides the best coverage in their area, ensuring they can complete online assignments, stay connected with teachers, and access digital learning resources.
How it Benefits Technology Departments: Working with one provider to manage multiple carrier devices saves districts both time and money. Plus, it allows schools and districts the flexibility to switch to a different carrier if they aren’t getting the coverage they need.
Device & Data Management
When managing hundreds or thousands of student devices, districts need an easy way to track usage, data consumption, and web filters. Look for a provider that includes a platform to manage devices and data.
How it Benefits Students: When administrators have insights into device and data usage, they can better understand the need, manage filters to keep student safe, and allocate data to students with the highest usage.
How it Benefits Technology Departments: A robust device and data management platform can help technology departments check devices in and out for students, remotely suspend lost devices, and keep devices organized by school or program. As a bonus, having key insights into student usage can provide data points that are helpful when establishing need and justifying your investment to secure funding.
Technology departments often need to set up their own web filters for LTE-enabled devices. This typically involves routing traffic through the district’s network filters or purchasing a filtering solution. Look for a connectivity provider that includes out-of-the-box Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) compliant filters and additional security provisions to keep your students (and devices) safe.
How it Benefits Students: CIPA-compliant filters not only keep students safe while navigating online resources, but it also keeps them on– task.
How it Benefits Technology Departments: Onboarding with a connectivity provider that offers filtering capabilities can save smaller technology departments time and provide peace-of-mind. And for larger districts who still wish to run their devices through their network filters, it provides an added level of security.
Dedicated Support for Education
When purchasing devices, technology teams are typically required to prepare the devices for students and provide troubleshooting without any support from the provider. Look for a provider who delivers devices that are provisioned, activated, and ready to hand to students when they arrive. Additionally, ask if they have resources to support students, such as user guides and tier-1 support for families.
How it Benefits Students: When devices are pre-provisioned and activated, it means that devices can get into the hands of students more quickly. Additionally, when a provider offers support for end-users, it means that students and their families can easily connect to their devices and troubleshoot without reaching out to the district.
How it Benefits Technology Departments: A good connectivity provider will be an extension of your technology department. Choosing a provider that provides a complete solution rather than just a device will save your team time by eliminating the need to unbox and activate devices, set up filters, kit devices with chargers and guides, provide ongoing troubleshooting for students, and more.
Finding a True Connectivity Partner
When you are evaluating a connectivity provider, or really any ed tech vendor, you should be asking yourself, “Will this be a true partnership, or just a transaction?”. From an inventory standpoint, having a single provider can allow the district to develop a partnership in the event of an audit or to assist with sustainability of the procurement.
As our world becomes increasingly digital – in which access to resources like STEM tools and software, dual-enrollment programs, mental health resources, ESOL tools, and college applications are all hosted online – technology departments are overwhelmed with device procurement and refreshes, cybersecurity, PD, and so much more.
Connectivity will continue to play a major role in how students access learning long after the pandemic subsides. Ensure that you are working with a provider that will support you as your technology needs evolve and provide the expertise that comes from having solutions specifically designed for education.
Why Work with Kajeet
Kajeet provides complete solutions to make connecting students outside the school building easier for technology departments. All solutions include CIPA-compliant filters, administrator access to our device and data management portal, unlimited data plans, and connectivity on the carriers of your choice.
Kajeet has been in the education space for over a decade and has the resources to support you – quick start guides in over 15 languages, dedicated account managers, and pre-activated devices, just to name a few. Learn more about our full suite of wireless solutions.