The Digital Divide on College Campuses
Evening. On behalf of the indiana, university. College of arts and sciences, i would like to thank you for joining us tonight. I'm vanessa, khloe and i serve as the college's, director, of alumni relations. Our food for thought live streaming, series serves as an opportunity, for alumni, and friends to hear from faculty, experts. Explore topics, of interest, and stay connected, with iu, and the college of arts and sciences. During this time when we are unable. Unable, to easily, connect in person. Before we begin tonight's, program, i'm excited to announce that the college is kicking off a celebration. Of the enduring, legacies, of our alumni, over the next academic, year. Our celebrating. Alumni, contributions. 200, plus years of impact initiative, will highlight the contributions. Of our alumni. Have made to their professions. In their communities. Into the university. In addition to weekly, social media alumni, spotlights, we will host a special, series of events like tonight's discussion, for alumni, community. In addition to marquee, virtual events with alumni dignitaries. Please follow us on social media, and watch our inbox for an official announcement, about this special year of celebration. With that i am pleased to introduce, tonight's, featured, speaker, professor. Jessica, calarco. From the department, of sociology. Professor, clarko's, research. Examines, inequalities. In education. And in families, health and well-being. With a focus on how privileged, people, use their privilege, to gain and maintain, an unfair advantage, over others. Following her presentation. Professor, clarka, will be joined by department, of sociology. Alumna. And ph.d, candidate. Marissa, steele. Steele's, dissertation. Research, which is sponsored, by the national science foundation, examines, the relationship, between, discipline. And student learning environments, in elementary. School, classrooms. You can submit your questions, at any point during this evening's discussion, or during the moderated, q a. Simply, click on the questions, tab located, at the bottom of your screen. Now it's my pleasure to welcome professor. Jessica. Calarco. Thank you so much vanessa, it's a pleasure to be here with all of you this evening uh thank you so much for the invitation, i am certainly. Um, excited. To have a chance to talk with you about all of this research, that i'll be sharing this evening. Which, was conducted, before the pandemic. But which unfortunately. Has. Tremendous, implications. Of, for iu students. And iu faculty, and iu staff as we move through this pandemic, right now. And so let me share my screen with you here. So i'll be talking today about the digital divide, on college campuses. And specifically, as it relates to equity, and. Inclusion. During the transition, to online, instruction. That we're seeing this year. So. It's easy to look around a college campus, and essentially, think there's, no digital divide, here, students, are.
Constantly, On their laptops, or their cell phones, to the point where, some college professors, have opted to even, do things like banned digital, devices, or. Relegate, them to certain corners of the classroom. At the same time and despite, the ubiquity, of technology. My research with amy gonzalez. And teresa lynch, suggests, that today's college students are still very. Much. Divided. Along digital, lines. We find in our research that i'll talk about this evening, that some of our most vulnerable, students, low-income, students and students of color are less likely to have access to the kind of, reliable. Digital, technology, that they need in order to be successful. Online. We also find that students with more limited, access to reliable, technology, tend to get lower grades in college and also report significantly. Higher stress levels. Even when campuses, are operating, normally. And so. Along those lines, i'll tell you a little bit more about the research in a minute but based on what we found, i i'm worried that if instructors, and university, officials. Don't proceed, carefully. That this current pandemic, will ultimately. Have a huge, and exacerbating. Impact, on the inequalities. That already exist. Between, students, at iu. So. To, tell you a bit more about the research, uh the study that i mentioned. Involved, more than 750. Undergraduates. At a large, midwestern, university. Uh we started with focus, groups, asking, open-ended. Questions and this was conducted, in 2014, and 2015, so pre-pandemic. Um but i'm hopeful that the, results that we found can at least speak to, the challenges that existed before the pandemic, and are certainly likely to be exacerbated. Now. So we started with focus groups asking, open-ended, questions, about, students experiences. With, technology. And the challenges, that they face, in maintaining. Access, to the internet. And to digital devices, like laptops. And tablets, and smartphones. The focus groups we divided, them socioeconomically. Based on students family backgrounds. So that we could get a better sense of students, experiences. And concerns, and how those varied. For students from different income or socioeconomic. Groups. There were about 25, students who participated, in the focus groups which each lasted about two hours. Uncovered, a wide range of topics, related, to students technology, use and their experiences, on campus more generally. We then used what we learned from the focus groups to develop a detailed, survey. About, college students experiences, with technology. And the role that those experiences. Play, in reinforcing. Inequalities. In school. And as an aside that survey, actually was used recently, as the basis for a survey that was conducted here in bloomington, to better understand. Uh, digital inequalities, that exist, among community members, um and they're, recently putting together some results from that as well and so we've been excited to see how. The questions, that we developed for our own survey which were some novel questions, not only about access to technology, but access to reliable, technology. How that's being pushed out into the community and used there as well.
So We offered the survey. In introductory, courses on campus, and we had. 748. Undergraduate, students take the survey. And then we used, the data from the surveys, and from our focus group conversations. To be able to understand. Which students, are struggling, to maintain, access, to reliable. Digital technology, the kind of technology, that they can actually count on to get their work done for class. And then how are those struggles, related, to things like students grades, and mental health in college. And then how do those struggles, contribute. To. Larger, patterns, of inequality. That already exist on campus, particularly, in relation, to student socioeconomic. Status. As well as to race and ethnicity, or patterns based on sort of long-standing, histories, of of racism, that exist, in our country, and in these models we controlled for other factors, that are likely, to impact things like students grades and student stress levels. Things like students age and how long they've been on campus, uh their race their racial and ethnic backgrounds, their parents, income. Uh their financial aid status, year in school. Um all of those things that might also, influence. Their technology, access and certainly their education, and health outcomes, as well. So let me talk you through some of the key findings, here. So first. We find evidence of inequities. In students access to digital devices. Certainly, most of the students in our sample this was an online survey and so we weren't surprised, to find that most of the students in our sample had access, to. A smartphone, or a laptop, but those access numbers were higher for students who were, affluent. And white, than they were for students from more vulnerable, groups from. Students from low income, backgrounds, and students of color. Low-income, students and students of color we found were also more likely to share a device, to not have their own laptop, or their own cell phone, but instead to share one with a roommate, or a family member which in thinking in the context of the current, pandemic.
Could Make things more difficult, now that students are doing more of their coursework, online. The students who participated, in this project were all taking on campus classes. At the time of the study and so we can think about how if they were pushed to do all of their coursework, online that could have, implications, if they have to share a device with someone else. Compared to their more privileged, peers, low-income, students and students of color were also more likely to be living off campus, as opposed to on campus. And less likely to have access to wi-fi. Where they lived, because of that many students, from marginalized. Groups in our survey. Were relying. On things like cell phone data. When they weren't on campus, and they often ran out of data minutes, before the month was up and so again we can think about that in the context of the current pandemic. If students are having to, participate, in synchronous, classes. Um and be able to, uh watch, that live video that is going to eat up a much larger chunk of their data every month than they were likely using, uh pre pandemic, and those students are often bearing the costs as i'll talk about. Next. So. These problems, in access and in part reflected, the fact that, low-income, students and students of color were much more likely than affluent, white students to be responsible. For all of their own technology, related costs. Affluent, white students in our sample relied, heavily, on their parents, for financial, support, in college. Not only for tuition, but also for technology, costs their parents. Bought them laptops, and cell phones, paid their monthly cell phone bills for them, and paid to have their devices, replaced, or repaired, when they broke. One of the questions that we asked on the survey was if your device became, unusable, how long would it take you to replace, it and, overwhelmingly. The affluent white students in our samples said i would basically, i could get it replaced within a day or two i would just and then in focus groups they would tell us oh i would just call mom and dad or they would tell me to put it on the credit card and it would be replaced within a day or so, and they'd have a new or functioning, device. Students, from students of color and students from low income families, on the other hand. Generally paid for all of their own tech, they bought their own laptops, or sometimes, got old hand-me-down, laptops, from friends or from family members.
They Paid for their own cell phones and they paid their own monthly cell phone bills in most cases. And so because of those cost differences, or those differences, in who was paying the costs. That led to inequalities. In the reliability. Of the tech that students, owned. Essentially, because they were the ones who had to pay the costs of technology. Students from marginalized, groups, they had laptops, or cell phones at all, tended to have, older. Slower, more broken, and less reliable, devices. In focus groups for example, these students told us about having laptops. With missing h keys that they couldn't ever type the letter h they had to go and copy and paste it from somewhere else anytime they wanted to type the letter h. Or laptops, with batteries, that wouldn't hold a charge. So that they couldn't actually take them to class with them or move around or go to public places that they had to be tethered to an outlet. Phones with screens, so shattered that they couldn't reliably, answer phone calls which in some cases led to, missed opportunities, for work shifts or in one case almost a missed call with a law school game. And so. They also talked about things like cell phones running out of data halfway through the month as i mentioned before, or, in some cases devices, especially, laptops, that were so old and slow. That they couldn't run the programs, that they were supposed to use for class. And so, essentially. Because, they. Had. And relied. On, less, reliable. Tech. Students of color and students from low income backgrounds. Also, experienced. More frequent, and, longer, lasting, disruptions. In their access to technology. In our focus groups low-income, students for example, told us about, laptops, and phones that created almost daily, frustrations. Even before, classwork, was mostly being done online. They told us in some cases about going weeks or months without a functioning, device. And about having to borrow a friend's laptops, to write their papers or to take to class with them uh because their laptop was just too glitchy, or too frustrating, to use so they technically had a laptop. Um but it was often not as reliable, as they needed it to be. Meanwhile, and because they could rely, on their parents, to pay for their devices. Affluent, white students, had devices, that were. Newer, faster, and, more reliable. Certainly. Those students occasionally, had problems with their devices, oftentimes, that was things like broken screens, or trouble connecting to the wi-fi. But. Those disruptions. Rarely, lasted, more than a few hours and those students as i mentioned before. Could easily, rely on their parents, for help with. Fixing, or replacing, devices, that became, unusable. So. Unfortunately. Our research suggests that these inequalities. In the reliability. Of students access to technology. Have. Real consequences. Even in situations. Like pre-pandemics. When, universities. Are operating, normally. We find for example in our research that students who experience. More frequent, and prolonged. Problems, with technology. Also report, lower grades in college, and higher levels of stress, than students who don't have those same frequent, and prolonged, problems with technology. And so essentially, what that suggests, is that even before, the current disruptions, that we're seeing during the kobit 19, pandemic. Technology-related. Inequities. Were already contributing, to inequalities. In students, grades, and mental health. And certainly i would argue that those unequal consequences. Are. Likely to be felt even more, acutely, in this current moment, with so much of students coursework, uh being conducted, online. So, along those lines and to give you a better sense of, what those challenges, look like in real life let me tell you about two of the students uh that took part in our focus groups uh they called themselves sam and jimmy they got to pick their pseudonyms. So. Sam and jenny were both seniors, in college at the time at iu. And uh both were highly. Motivated, students, but sam was from an affluent family whereas, jimmy's family had much more limited, resources. Like, most affluent, students, sam owned a laptop, and a smartphone. And both of those devices were relatively, new and problem-free. For example, when sam cracked the screen on his iphone, he called his parents right away and as he told us i mean they weren't very happy about it but they let me get a new one it just took a couple days they pay for all my phone stuff. Now. That broken, cell phone, screen, was the worst tech problem sam had experienced, in all four years of college. And it only took a few days to resolve, and it had almost no impact, on sam's schoolwork. On his stress level or on his life more generally. Jimmy, on the other hand. Had, numerous, ongoing, issues with technology. Jimmy for example, started his freshman year with a hand-me-down, laptop. But it died, almost right away he told us i had a paper due for this class i had to take and i did have my laptop at the time, but it completely died on me like i couldn't get it to start it completely overheated, on me and i hadn't saved the paper anywhere else because i didn't know better then and i didn't have a smartphone, so i had no way of emailing the teacher, i didn't really know what to do so i had to talk to the professor the next day the day the paper was due and they weren't cool with it, and i pretty much lost all the points on that paper they gave me like 20, when i turned it in a few days later.
So, After his laptop, broke jimmy couldn't afford to buy a new one and he couldn't ask his parents for money, and so as we saw in that scenario. He. Ended up having to go to the teacher, go to his professor and say hey look i'm having this problem with technology, and that was another thing that we found in our research. We asked students about how comfortable they felt going to their professors, to let them know if they were having problems with technology. And then also how they thought that their professors, would respond. And one of the things that we found was that low income students. Were much less likely to say that they were comfortable, going to their professors, to acknowledge. Uh that there were, um that they were having problems with technology. And then they also reported, that they didn't expect they were much like muslim, they were much less likely to say, that they thought that professors, would be receptive, to those requests. And we have some sort of open-ended, questions saying so why do you think that would be the case and whether you said, yes the professor would be responsive, or no the professor would say no to those kinds of. My laptop broke or i'm having problems with technology, and i need an extension, or i need some extra help. Why do you think that they would or wouldn't be responsive, and essentially, what the low-income, students told us was that, in the past they've been treated like jimmy had been treated here that the professor, maybe gave them 20, of the points for maybe just told them. You should have done a better job dealing with technology, in the first place or you're a college student you should have a reliable, laptop. And so because of that because of how students had been treated in those kinds of interactions, they were less likely to, trust, their professors, to trust their faculty members, to, be responsive. When they were dealing with the kinds of technology, disruptions. That they. More often, faced, than their more privileged peers and that's consistent, with other research that i've also done pre-pandemic. Looking at elementary, school students and middle school students, and their differences, in their comfort level. Asking for help and acknowledging, when they're struggling, in the classroom. Essentially what i've found in that research, is that, there's a huge trust gap. Between, students, from different socioeconomic. Backgrounds. With, more privileged, students. Feeling more confident. And more entitled, in the classroom, to support, and accommodations. From their professors, from their universities, from their schools, as a whole. And, so. Essentially, it's important to keep in mind, um as students, are dealing with these kinds of problems, that the students who are experiencing. The most, challenges, related to technology. May also be the ones who are least comfortable. Asking for help. Sorry i'm here hey buddy, i have to do a talk right now can i come in a little while. I'm sorry bud. I'll see you in just a little while kiddo thank. That you. So anyway this is why i'm out on the porch, um. With the birds, unfortunately, or fortunately. Uh so anyway, so. Like jimmy as we heard in the story, so. Jimmy. Didn't have his own devices, didn't have these reliable, devices, and. Ended up in a situation, where because of that he like many of the other. Low-income, students in our study. Relied, heavily, on, campus resources. Especially, on campus computer labs, after that laptop, of his, uh broke during his freshman year he never got a new one uh instead for the for the remainder, of his college career. Uh he continued, to rely heavily, often spending, uh over 10 hours a week, in campus computer, labs. And so. Certainly, it is it is great, that campuses, like iu, are able to provide, those kinds of public resources, for students. But those resources. Also have, limitations. Now for example that students, are being expected, to complete. More or in some cases even all of their coursework, online. It's not clear that there are enough of those public resources, to go around. As we know for example.
Clustering, In public spaces, places like computer, labs or libraries. Also, increases the transmission, risk of clovid 19, and so. That means that because of the digital divide, because of the, more limited, access to reliable, technology. Uh students from marginalized. Groups in many cases may have to make the decision about whether to put their lives at risk. If they want to be able to get their schoolwork, done. So. Ultimately. And because, of these, digital, inequalities. We can't assume, that all of our students, and especially, our most vulnerable, students. Will be able to complete, the work that they're supposed to be doing online, this year. And we also can expect, that the course policies. And procedures. That we might use in normal, circumstances. Things like mandatory. Attendance. Or timed, exams, or proctored, exams. Or even grades, at all possibly, and that's something we can certainly talk about in the q a i've been. Using an ungrading, model in my own classes. This year and that's something i'm happy to talk about if you're interested. We have to be questioning, whether those standard, course policies, and procedures. Are equitable, now. If they ever were at all. And we have to be mindful, about the unequal, health burden. That students, might be facing right now in trying to get their work done for class. For example, if, uh students. Have to. Come to campus, in order to access their resources, if they have to physically, be in in-campus, spaces. Whose health is that putting at risk if some students have access to their own personal devices. And others do not. And so this also raises the question of so what do we do, how should we address these kinds of inequities, and inequalities. That we're seeing on college campuses. And that existed before the pandemic. But are likely to be even more consequential. Now. So certainly. Giving every student, access, to a reliable. Personal, device, and reliable. At home internet. Would be a huge step in the right direction. And that would allow students to have the flexibility, no matter whether courses are in person, or on campus. To have the technology, that they need not only during these particularly, challenging, times. But also for the long term as well. At the same time and for public schools like iu, the costs of that kind of program, serving, 40 000 undergrads, across the state of indiana, would be huge.
Short Of that then i'd argue that we also need to think about how we can approach this current crisis. Uh from a faculty, and institutional. Perspective. With as much empathy, and equity, as possible. So, what does that look like what would that look like to close the empathy gap on college campuses. Broadly, and i'm happy to talk in more detail about any of these in the q a. Offering, resources. And support. Essentially. Faculty, and administrators. Should be taking steps, to, make as clear, and accessible, as possible, for students. Uh, how to access, the resources, that exist, on campus. Locally, and nationally. And that's not only technology. Resources. Uh things like access to, uh low-cost, internet programs, though those are far too difficult. To sign up for and require, far too much paperwork, and far too many hurdles. Um also resources, related to mental health. There have been, data recently released by the cdc. Showing. Shockingly. And and, dismayingly. High rates, of. Anxiety, and depression, and suicidal, ideation. Among young people in the wake of the pandemic. And so we have to be helping students to connect, to those research or sources, on campus, and locally. And putting more resources, into those resources, for students, as well. And then also, at the faculty, level in the university, level adjusting, expectations. Being reasonable. About what kinds, of work can get done and what counts as success, during a pandemic. That might for example. Mean things like getting rid of traditional, grades or traditional, exams. And rethinking, whether those are the right solutions. For students in the wake of a pandemic, is it fair for example if you have. One student who is. Taking an online, exam. In their, bedroom, quietly, by themselves, with perfectly, reliable, access to internet on their brand new. Um. Apple. Laptop. And another student who has to take. That same, exam, maybe from her car in the parking lot of a mcdonald's, with two young kids in the back seat the whole time because that is the only place that she can get access to reliable, wi-fi, and she doesn't have access to child care. Because her child care center is closed during the pandemic. And so we have to think about, is that fair. Are those two students being given equal opportunities, and is it fair to grade them both on the same scale. We also have to think about making, universal, accommodations.
Essentially, As i was mentioning before. The students who often need the most help with technology. And more generally, in school. Are often the ones who. Have, the least amount of trust in institutions. And deservedly. Have the least amount of trust in institutions, and that can make it difficult for them to acknowledge, and to not feel. Like they are being a burden, or not feel embarrassed, about needing the help that they need, and so the more that institutions. And individual, faculty members. Can give students, access to the support, and the resources, and the flexibility. That they need, without, having to ask, uh building, in, accommodations. Building in flexible, assignments. Um offering, classes, both synchronously. And asynchronously. For those students who, are dealing with challenges, that make it difficult for them to join synchronous, class meetings right now, uh building those into the structure, of courses can go a long way in in helping students, to. Uh better navigate, the digital divide, if you have a student for example who is sharing a laptop with a classmate. If they both have the class or with a with a um not necessarily with a classmate but with them or with a roommate or with their sibling. They and they have classes that they have to take at the same time. Then they have to make hard trade-offs. About, uh whether or not uh who gets to go to class that day and so by offering courses asynchronously. We can help to ensure that all students can get the material. That's being presented, this semester. And then also granting, individual, flexibility. Uh one of the things that i've strongly, pushed for this semester, is for faculty members, and instructors. To get to know their students, even if they're teaching them online i've created some resources, that i've shared on canvas, and on social media. Including, surveys kind of beginning of semester, surveys that faculty, can use to ask some of the similar questions.
And Then the instructors, can use to ask some of the kinds of questions, that we asked in our research. In order to better understand. The challenges, that their students are facing right now, um so that they can better put in place the kinds of supports, that students will need. Without, having students have to come to them and ask individually, for help, faculty, will know up front on what kinds of challenges, their students are likely to be facing and hopefully. I'll be willing to redesign, their courses, or at least be flexible, in their requirements. And in the assignments, that they're offering. And the kinds of assessments, that they're using for students, this semester, as well and not, forcing, students to jump through hoops and prove that they need those accommodations. When we know with certainty, that so many students right now are facing the most difficult, and challenging, and, and. Uprooting, times. That they've experienced. In their lives. So. Essentially. And of course, the specifics. Of how we, adjust, our expectations. For students, and for courses, will have to vary across. Different disciplines. Across. Different campuses. Across, different classes. Across different instructors. But essentially, what i'm arguing, here, is that. In this, moment, of transition. If we want to. Reduce, the chances. That this, kovid 19, pandemic. Will. Exacerbate. Inequalities. On campus, and inequalities. In society, for for years to come. And we have to shift, not only the way that we teach our students, and not only the resources, that we give to our students. But also the expectations. That we set for students, in that process. And we have to ensure that those expectations. Reflect, a high, level of equity. And empathy. Especially. Toward those students who are. Most, vulnerable. During this especially. Difficult, and destructive. Time. So with that i see that there are a number of questions, in the q a in the chat and in the chat, i'm going to turn things over to marissa, i'm going to turn off my screen share here. Though certainly i encourage you all to keep in touch with me i'm pretty active on twitter, and social media, you're welcome to check out my website. Or drop me an email if you have further questions that we're not able to answer tonight. But i'm so grateful that marissa, is able to be with us tonight uh she is, um, as vanessa, mentioned, she is a, stellar, graduate student, here in the sociology, department, in bloomington. Also the recipient, of a national science foundation, graduate research fellowship. Which she's used to spend the last. Two years doing a, really, in-depth, and innovative, ethnographic, and interview study looking at, both how children learn about race and ethnicity, in the classroom and also at how teachers behavior management's, management, strategies. Impact, students in rural elementary, schools, and so i will turn it over to marissa. In order to. Ask some of the questions that you all have posed, on and thank you for sharing those as well.
Thank You professor calarco, that was wonderful. We've had a number of questions pop up here, one of them is about the idea, that iu or other universities. Might offer a technology, class. To bring students, up to speed, on, how to use technology, in college and perhaps different strategies, that are useful. And so my question for you is, have you seen any prevalence, of this in the university, setting. And what kinds of things would a class like that address that you would recommend, to help students bridge this gap. Sure and so i mean i think. There is some really good research on, students, technology, skills, and how those are stratified. By. Socioeconomic. Status. And by race and ethnicity, as well matt raffalo, is a sociologist. Who works at google. Who's done some research on the way that schools. Uh with different demographic, profiles, differently, police, or encourage, students use of technology. And he finds for example that in africa, primarily. Affluent, and white schools. Students are actively, encouraged, to use technology. As part of learning as early as elementary, and middle school. Whereas in schools that primarily, serve elementary and middle schools that primarily, serve. Lower income students and have more students of color. In many cases, in those schools, students use of technology. Is highly, and tightly policed, and strongly, discouraged, by teachers, and not treated as something that is part of the learning process. And so certainly those students, they he he talks about this concept of digital play, and so certainly those students they learn digital play. Most students, if they've grown up with a cell phone if they've had access to the internet. Do have a basic familiarity. With. Using technology, and often being very creative, with technology. But what's often. Um. More discouraged. Among students of color, and and lower income students, in the schools that they're attending, for k-12. Is. Actually seeing how technology, can be integrated, into learning. And so i would say that, if a course like that were offered i mean i think first and foremost. The. Inequities, and access, are are the most important thing to address. But making sure that all students have access to. The kinds of reliable, devices. That they need in order to be successful. Is sort of the the first and foremost, priority. But then once students have those devices, certainly it could be helpful to help students see. To learn some of the basic. Uh technology, skills that faculty members often take for granted, um in terms of, uh in terms of coursework, and i'm not sure that, a sort of general technology, class. Might be. The most useful because the technology, skills that students need vary so much across different disciplines. I think if anything what i would encourage, is for, um, in some of my other work i talk about this concept of the hidden curriculum. Which are is essentially, the things that students are expected, to know. But are rarely, explicitly. Taught. And so, the hidden curriculum. Varies across different disciplines. And so. Faculty members in writing intensive courses for example might expect that students. Will come to college, with the ability, to. Craft, an essay. That has an argument, and uses, evidence and knows how to cite that evidence, when in many cases students have never been taught to do that. And may never have been taught to use kind of word processing, software. In ways that support, writing, in a constructive. And sort of college-ready. Kind of way and so for those kinds of courses you might imagine. Technology. Courses that help students and kind of, integrate. How to use technology. For writing, and similarly for classes for departments that are more stats heavy or more math heavy, um helping students building in the technology, and helping, faculty members and instructors, to sort of um. Start by, addressing, their own assumptions, about the technology, skills, that students often bring that they that they're expecting, students to have and then saying well let's assume that students may not all have those technology, skills so how can we make sure that there are places, within our department, for students to gather, to get those kinds of technology, skills that are necessary. For the kinds of coursework that they'll be doing within a particular, field. Thanks. Great, and so thinking particularly, about this year where we have a whole class of incoming, first-year, students. Who are experiencing. College for the first time mostly online. What kinds of challenges, might that bring that are unique, to starting, out college in such a way where maybe they don't have the same support resources. That they otherwise, would. Absolutely i think this is a tremendously. Challenging, time. For. Especially. Students from more vulnerable, groups for students from low-income, backgrounds, students living in rural areas that may not even have reliable, access to the internet.
Um In many parts there was a study that was done of k-12, students in in, indiana. That found that 85, 000 students k-12, students across the state just don't have access to internet at home, and many of those students live in rural areas, where. It is not, cost effective, for internet service providers like comcast. To lay cable so it is just not possible. For those students to get high-speed, internet access, uh where they live, and so thinking about the, the tremendous. Need that we have for. Um, digital, infrastructure. For public, investment, in digital infrastructure, to support those students, uh for students who maybe they came to campus, and they tested positive for covid. And they would have preferred to go back home and live in a place where they were comfortable, live with their families. Live with their support networks, especially, this this, in such a difficult, transition. But they were forced to move into the quarantine, dorms instead. Because they otherwise, had no access to internet at home and so we can think about how. Tremendously, traumatizing. That would be for a first-year student to show up on campus. And end up in that kind of a situation, and so i think there's there's. A whole host of challenges, uh that students. From vulnerable, backgrounds, or, students who are especially vulnerable, right now are facing, as they transition, especially during that first year of school. We could also imagine how much more difficult, it is, we know how difficult it is for students from. Low-income, backgrounds, and students of color to seek help. When they are struggling with problems, on campus. And we can imagine that with without. The availability. Of. In-person. Um. Support structures. Uh, or the more limited availability, of in-person, support structures, how much more difficult that's going to make it for students to feel, connected, to their faculty members, uh to. Their classmates. Uh to, uh res key resources, on campus whether that's uh, caps, or to student advising. Um or to other groups that are, um. Intended, to support students, through this time of difficult, transition. But who, students might have more trouble reaching out to, because of the digital, the digital, inequities, that they're facing right now and the lack of face-to-face. Opportunities, as well. Thinking about from your own experience, in your research, talking to these students and then perhaps your own experience, in academia. How receptive, our faculty, and particularly, at indiana, university. To the idea that they need to build trust with less less affluent, students. I mean i it's. I don't think i have hard numbers on how common that kind of an approach might be, um and certainly, in my own experience, as a faculty member and in talking to students i think there is a, hugely, wide range. Of. Different opinions. About. The way that faculty. Should interact, with students, and the level, of. The level of trust that faculty should extend to students, as well. And oftentimes. When faculty, engage, in punitive, practices. Having harsh attendance, policies. Or. Using things like. Strict exam proctoring, rules, or. Other types of punitive, policies, that we might imagine in the classroom, harshly penalizing, students for late. Submissions, of assignments, because of technology, problems. That oftentimes, that comes from. A place of not trusting students. And also a place of. Privileging. A version of academic, rigor. Um that assumes. That. The students, who. That sort of puts a high level of weight on a view that success, in college is meritocratic. Um that, students who do better are the students who work harder. When research, consistently, shows us that that is not at all what's happening that there are huge differences. In the resources. That. Students, bring with them to college, um. In part as a function of the kinds of. Opportunities, that they had in the k-12, schools that they attended before they got to iu, and in part because of the, additional, inequalities. That students might be facing. As, they, leave k-12, schools and come to college as well and so we have to think about how. And i've done a number of webinars. Over the past few months in the in the wake of coven 19 and i've been heartened. To see so many iu faculty. Being responsive, to these kinds of messages. Talking about these digital inequities, talking about other types of inequities, that students are facing with respect to things like, hunger and homelessness, or challenges, related, to child care. Or challenges, related, to. Uh students with disabilities, and trying to navigate, new environments, on campus that there's a whole host of challenges, that students are facing right now and i have been heartened, to see. How many iu faculty, have shown up for those kinds of webinars, been receptive, to those kinds of messages. And even been willing to, consider. Pretty dramatic, shifts in their own teaching, uh, things, considering, things like.
Not Using exams, and finding alternative, ways of assessing, students or considering, things like ungrading. Uh ungrading, to give you a, taste of what that means it doesn't mean not giving student grades. Um if what it means instead, is that students grades, are. Determined, through a conversation. And sometimes a digitally, mediated, conversation, through text between the faculty, member the instructor, and the students. Essentially, students, provide, self-assessments. The way they would often be called upon to do in the workplace. Where they are self-evaluating. Their own learning and their own contributions. And then, submitting that to the instructor, and saying here's the grade that i think i deserve for the work that i've done in the course so far. And then the faculty member, or the instructor, has the opportunity, to then, ask questions. About that self-assessment. That the student has provided, and then, make a decision whether to accept that or not, and essentially, what it does especially. When instructors. Build in lessons. About how to self-assess. Uh it can provide, students with a valuable set of skills, that they will need in the rest of their careers where they will often be called upon to. Evaluate, their own contributions. To an organization, or to a learning, or to a, work team. While also making sure that the, faculty, member or the instructor. Is, fully aware, of the effort and the work that students are putting into the class as opposed to using. Arbitrary. Or often, biased, measures. To evaluate, students progress instead and so i've been really. To get back to the original question, i've certainly been heartened, to see that there is does seem to be, a growing, interest and a growing awareness, of the need for those kinds of. Um. Alternative, policies, and alternative, practices, uh especially in the wake of this pandemic, but i'm hopeful that some of that momentum, will continue, beyond the pandemic, as well. So you've mentioned things such as ungrading, and, different types of assignments, that might be. Better suited for online learning can you give some examples, of how faculty, might adjust their expectations. Or their course policies. To better facilitate, online learning and perhaps some of the ways that you've done this in your own teaching. Yeah absolutely. I think one of the key things, is to. Give students, as much. Flexibility. As is reasonable. Uh within the parameters, of the course uh so for example with um with my own classes, doing both, synchronous, having both. Synchronous, and asynchronous, options if you're going to have a, synchronous, class making sure that you have ways to. Record, those discussions, and make them available, to students who are not able to attend in person, i think that's beneficial. Um. In in the times of covid, and not in the times of povid in that we know that we have students who are always dealing with, um, illness, or the death of a family member or other challenges, in their lives that can make it difficult for them to show up for class and the more that we can help students get access to the material. And participate, on their own time. That's helpful in the long term as well, i think getting rid of things like, graded attendance. Um that if you're going to be holding synchronous, classes being mindful. Or at the very least offering students, uh flexible, attendance, policies where they don't have to prove that they were sick or prove that they had a valid reason to not show up for class on a particular, day. I think also giving students some flexibility. Around. The types of assignments, that they do uh you might be mindful, for example, that, group work uh may be especially, challenging, uh in the midst of a pandemic. I typically so like last spring for example when we had to sort of rapidly, shift, uh to online, instruction, i teach a large 250. Student uh introduction, to sociology.
Class And. One of the capstone. Projects, for that course is a an assignment where all of my students work in news teams to make podcasts. About a social problem. Um, that is uh confronting, the iu community. And so, having to pivot at the last minute because it was very apparent that, forcing, students to complete a group project. When they were not supposed to be. Uh. Physically proximate, to each other uh was going to be deeply problematic, and so coming up with, alternative, assignments, that students create. For students to do instead. That allowed them to either do group work to, finish out their podcast, if they'd already gotten far enough along that that was that that was reasonable. Or for those students who weren't able to do that, developing, an alternative assignment where they could essentially, write a covet diary, uh where they were reflecting, on the sociological. Concepts. That we had discussed, in class, and then applying the sociology. Sort of has this idea that uh human lives are shaped by a combination, of biography, and history, um it's sort of who you are and where you are uh in, in context, and so encouraging, students to. Write diary entries instead that reflect, on sort of the social context, that they are in and who they are within that social context. To. Um. To pull in the course content but also give them a chance to reflect on their experiences. During. An incredibly tumultuous. Time and so. To the extent possible, giving students that kind of flexibility. Having assignments that can be completed, either individually, or as group work. And with exams for example. Not doing timed exams. I mean i kind of like the. Student in the parking lot, example that i mentioned before. Um. Giving. Exams, and giving especially. Timed, exams, right now to me feels. Problematic. And so something i've long done for students is to. Make exams, essentially, open book um and to write questions that are more critical thinking questions, um and that that are less about sort of just regurgitating. Knowledge, than about applying information. And so i think to the extent that faculty members are. Willing and able to. Rethink, the way that they assess student learning. In the wake of this, and and to create, options that are not going to penalize. Students. Because of the, challenges, that they are facing, and, at the same time not privileged, students, uh because, of the the lack of challenges. That they may be facing during the pandemic, as well. Great and then you've mentioned as well and talked about in your other work too, challenges, that individuals. Might. Face in just terms of the actual access. To broadband, and to wi-fi, particularly, in rural areas. And so. Thinking about those kind of issues and those being things that, the university, cannot necessarily. Fix. What kinds, of programs, or assistance. Can the government or foundations. Um, how can they step in to better help, solve that issue. Absolutely i mean i think things like the rural broadband, problem, is something that has to be addressed with federal money, we have to essentially, treat internet. Like, a public, good, the way that we treat a rural phone service, and mail delivery. In the sense that this is an essential, public, good, uh that all people need to have access to it's not cost effective as i was mentioning before, for. Private companies, to run cable to those rural areas there simply are not enough subscribers. In those areas. To make it to make it cost effective, and so that is a clear place of a public goods problem, where, government intervention, is absolutely. Necessary. To make sure that families, and and students in those communities. Have access to the digital resources, that they, need to be able to participate, in online learning whether that's at the college level or the k-12, level. Um and so. That is one kind of clear place uh for government involvement. Even here at i mean certainly there are things that iu has been doing and i can see a couple questions in the chat to this end, uh sort of what are some things that we've seen happening here at iu. Um one thing that. In order to serve some of those students um in in more rural areas. Um. Iu was able to provide, uh personal hotspots. Um, to a number of students, across. The state at both the bloomington campus and at other campuses, and also to some, uh staff members. And to faculty, as well who, live in more remote areas, and who often are more low-income, faculty or staff members on campus. And who did not have access to the internet necessary, at home to the high-speed internet access necessary, at home to be able to offer courses, online. And so for those students and faculty, and staff members. Iu was able to provide. A limited number, of, these personal, hotspots, um that. Use cell phone or cellular internet as opposed to, um cable-based.
Internet, Um instead and so that was a tremendous benefit. Um but a limited one and that's the kind of place where. With an investment, of federal money or private money. Iu could certainly expand, that kind of offering for students, and make sure that all students have that need them, have access to those kinds of devices. When they're taking courses. Online, to make sure that students have access, uh not, not here and also make sure that instructors, in many cases especially graduate student instructors. Who may have, uh relatively, low incomes and who may be struggling to to, to cover their own costs during the pandemic. Uh making sure that they have the tech that they need to be able to provide, those classes. As well. So thinking of my own experience as a graduate, student who's, taught my own class and also been a teaching assistant. The types of training that i received prior to the pandemic, didn't really address online, learning, and so i'm curious from that perspective. How can we better prepare instructors. As we're teaching them how to be instructors. To address, inequalities. In education. And particularly, this digital divide. Especially looking towards the future where we might have a lot more remote learning. Absolutely i think building this into. I mean certainly the preparing future faculty program, that we have that's, often run through the sociology, department here at iu is a tremendous, resource. For. Associate, instructors, to help prepare. Current graduate students as future faculty members, to. Address the kinds of challenges, that they face in the classroom not only pedagogical. Challenges. But also. How to. Address. Inequities, in the classroom and to raise. Instructors, awareness, of the kinds of inequities, that they may inadvertently, contribute, to. Through the kinds of policies, or practices, that they develop in their courses, i've also been heartened to see. A, large number, of. Webinars, that the, university, is offering, um in the wake of, uh the death of george floyd, and the protests, that we've seen across the country and brianna taylor. And, and, reflecting, on this moment, of, uh racial, inequity, and racial injustice. That we see in our society, and encouraging, and providing. Instructors. Um with tools, to acknowledge, and understand. Uh the impact of racism, on our society, and in their own courses. And so i'm, i'm hopeful that and i've seen large, numbers of attendees. In those kinds of webinars, and also in some webinars that i've offered around, other types of inequities, that students are facing. On things like the digital divide. And other types of challenges, especially resource, related challenges, uh that students are dealing with right now and and so seeing. Large numbers of, instructors, and faculty, participating, in those gives me hope um that we can build that in as a normal, part of.
The Curriculum. For. Graduate, students who are learning to become, the future instructors, at iu and at colleges and universities, across the country that these are things that need to be. Sort of baked into the curriculum, and not left for individual. Instructors, to sort of come to and figure out on their. Own. There's been a question about when this kind of disadvantage, begins and you've done research, starting in elementary, school and through. Middle school and k-12. And so just based on your research, and your understanding. Um really when does this disadvantage, begin and how can we. Um. Try to resolve, it earlier in students education. Absolutely, i mean these, inequities. Between, families, exist. Even prior to birth, i mean there's sociological. Research, showing that birth outcomes. Are impacted, by, socioeconomic. Status, and by exposure, to racism. And so really the inequalities. In students lives. Start. As early as we can possibly, intervene. And really it, shows. The. The necessity. Of intervening. As early as possible, and making sure that all families, have access. To the resources, necessary. To, to live. Without. Worrying about putting food on the table or a roof over their heads without worrying about being exposed to persistent, racism, uh or systemic, violence. And so thinking about how. Uh. Large-scale, shifts in the social structure, would be necessary. To, to, fully eliminate, the kinds of inequities, that we see. On college campuses, because, they start so early, in students lives and are then. Reinforced. By every school system, that students, encounter. Along the way to getting to iu. We know for example that the k-12, system of education, is deeply, unequal. And that's in large part because of the way that our system, of k-12, education, is funded and structured, in the us. Uh the vast majority, of. School funding. For public, k-12, schools comes from local tax dollars. And so what that means is that for students who are living, in more affluent, areas, which because of systemic, racism, are disproportionately. White areas. Those students have access to better funded k-12, schools, the kinds of schools that are able to. Offer computer, labs, that are able to have. Ap classes. That are able to have. Large numbers of guidance counselors, and and college counselors, that can help students apply to college uh that can help. Them navigate, uh, internships. Even in high school uh to be able to prepare them for success, in college and in the workforce, later on, those deep resource, inequalities. At the k-12, level. Then directly, translates, to the kinds of inequities, that we see on campuses, like iu. With students coming in with vastly, different preparations. And we have to think about is it is it fair to grade those students. Against each other, especially, for grading on things like a curve. Is it fair to privilege the students who've gone to the high schools that had the ap classes, that had the extra tutoring the parents who could enroll their kids in, robotics, camp and send them to all sorts of extracurricular. Activities. Should those students get va because of the resources, that they've come to college with, um or should we think about other ways to make sure that we are, equitably, assessing, students. Given the sort of lifetime, of inequalities, that they've. Experienced, and encountered across, uh, before even before even coming to iu. So i'm thinking about students, once they're, in a university, setting and, they're struggling, with these issues you have the, student from your focus group, who had a paper written and then the computer crashed, and they weren't able to even contact their professor, and ended up getting only 20, of the points. Eventually. Those types of experiences, can be very disheartening. Um what is your, anticipation. Of how that might affect retention rates for these students. Yeah and there's um there's definitely some research on that as well on how. Um digital inequities, can. Not not only push students out of college but even prevent them from getting there in the first place. Um in the sense that we know that there is um. What's what's sometimes called the summer melt. Which is the, essentially there's a gap, between. The students who get into college, and the students who often who actually show up on campus, in the fall. And those students disproportionately.
Are, Uh students from low-income, backgrounds, students of color, um and oftentimes, it has a lot to do with, uh the logistical, hurdles, involved, in registering, for classes, in, kind of getting the paperwork, necessary, and figuring, out, how to find housing, on campus, and kind of jumping through all of those logistical, hurdles. Um and and there's a, a terrific book called, uh the making of a teenage service class uh by ranita ray who's a sociologist, at uh university of nevada, las vegas um that follows, a group, of. Low-income, students of color through, they they're all high achieving, students, in in in high school, uh and they're all the kind of students that their their their, teachers are sort of excited to try to send to college. And out of i think the 20 or so students that she was following only one or two ended up actually making it into a four-year college, uh because they faced so many hurdles along the way in some cases, um not having a laptop, and having to go to the public library, to fill out all their college applications, and then when it came time to actually like, pay the tuition, bill and register for classes they were like i don't want to spend 30 minutes on the bus. To have to go across, town to get to the library, to log in to do all this work to to actually get in and just ended up not going, and so we can think about how, those same so certainly for the students, who make it here. They may be more privileged, to begin with, in terms of, technology, resources, or technology, knowledge, but we could certainly imagine, how, a student like jimmy. Uh. Having that many setbacks, in college and having that many frustrations, with technology, that it could certainly contribute. Uh to the lack of, um, persistence. That we see with students, over the over their college careers and who, is pushed out. And who is ultimately, able to to finish their degrees. We have a number of attendees, who are curious, about. What iu is currently doing particularly, the administration. To try to bridge this divide, and in particular. Perhaps, how you would like your research to be used to address this. Sure i mean i think. It's one so like i mentioned before the the wi-fi hotspots, were a big program that was put into place in the spring. In terms of trying to make sure that those students who.
Needed Access, when campus closed, uh had access to internet, and those, um kind of. Demand for those has kind of fluctuated, now that students are back on campus, here, um and there have been initiatives, iu, um did a survey, of, students, in part informed by some of the research that i talked about tonight, um asking students about their access to, devices. And their access to internet uh and what they found was that roughly, ten percent of students. Of iu students. Um across, all campuses. Don't have access, to internet at home, um and so we can think about it, system wide that's a huge, number of students. That are, potentially. At risk, if campus has to close, or if they, for health reasons, are unable to come to campus. Um or feel uncomfortable, doing so given the health risks of being on campus, right now, and so. Those kinds of. Those kinds of data, gathering those kinds of data are critical to understand the scope of the problem. Also putting out, resources, through sidl through the center for innovative teaching and learning. For faculty members, and for instructors. Who are working, to. Incorporate, some of these ideas, in their classes, and in the way that they restructure, their classes. Encouraging, faculty members and instructors, to. Survey students using the survey that i would that i was talking about before making that available, to all instructors, on campus as a mod as a module that they can easily implement in their classes to better gauge, the kinds of challenges, that, uh students are experiencing, in their own classes, and then. Providing. Tons of resources, for instructors. To be able to design their courses. As effectively, as possible including sort of hands-on, support. With technology. And certainly uits. University, information technology, services, uh has been, uh working, tremendously. Hard. To be able to provide, support. To students, and to faculty and instructors, and staff, who are. Scrambling, to figure out new technology, platforms, who are, encountering, problems with zoom or problems with kaltura, and making sure that all of those systems, run as smoothly, as possible. I think i mean certainly it would be wonderful. If iu, could ensure, that. All students, had a reliable. Laptop. To be able to do their work on, i think. The costs, involved, in that kind of a program. Given the financial, constraints, that iu is currently, under in the wake of a global pandemic. With, pressures, on. With a lack of federal funding, uh with, the the cares act providing, only sort of minimal, funding for higher education, and certainly not the kind of funding that we need. In the wake of a global pandemic, i think it is, very difficult, to ask iu, to try to come up with additional, resources, for a massive, program of that scale it would be wonderful. But it would take lobbying efforts it would take efforts to demand. Additional, funding from the state and additional funding from the federal government, uh to make sure that iu is in a position, to be able to. Uh provide, those resources, to students, um.
Kind Of on a on a widespread. Level as opposed to on a more case-by-case, basis. In the case of things like the hot spots where we had, a number of them donated, through. Um, through sprint through a contract that iu has with sprint, that's where those, those came from so it wasn't something that the university had to go out and find money to pay for. So i think in my experience. Um. In academia, both at iu and my undergraduate. Institution. There are a number of faculty, in the majority, i would say who really do care about these issues and really want to help their students, and so thinking about your colleagues now who are in the midst of this semester, a lot of them perhaps teaching online for the first time, who perhaps, already have their assignments, and their syllabus, made up in a certain way, and they're experiencing, these troubles with students not having access to technology. How can they best serve the interests of their students at this point in the semester. And kind of what encouragement, would you give to these instructors, who really do want the best for their students. Yeah and i think, that's a place where the administration, can step in, and be mindful, of. The tremendous. Challenge. That shifting, to online instruction, is creating. For, instructors. Supporting. So. I think one of the reasons that instructors, have not been especially, well prepared. To teach to kind of do this rapid shift to online instruction, is because online instruction, has been sort of, pooh-poohed, for years, as sort of a, lesser than. Uh format, of instruction. But as we've seen. It takes a tremendous. Amount of effort. To create, high quality, content, for students, in online courses. And it's possible to do it is possible to create a highly effective, online learning environment, for students, but it takes. Far more work than just showing up in a classroom and talking for an hour and a half, about a topic that you know a lot about.
And And, learning new skills. Putting in the time reaching out to students, especially, in such a traumatic, moment to check in on students and see how they're doing, and do that work to make flexible, accommodations. For students in need, i really think that the university has to be tremendously. Mindful. Right now of the added burden on instructors. And think about how do we potentially. Adjust, expectations. For things like research, and for service. For tenure for hiring for promotions. Uh to accommodate, for an account, for, uh the added burden that teaching online this semester. Um and potentially, into the future. Is likely to create, for instructors, who've had to. Massively, retool, their. Their courses and then potentially, also think about what are the ways to help, those especially if we're talking about. Faculty but then also about graduate student instructors, how do we help them get back on track. Um how