As a new school year approaches and Cal State Long Beach continues virtual instruction because of COVID-19, The Beach is working to ensure all students have the access to technology they need to be successful.
Technology has become increasingly important amid the coronavirus pandemic. Division of Student Affairs (DSA) and Division of Information Technology (DOIT) are partnering to bridge what is commonly referred to as “the digital divide” by using funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
“CSULB has been allocated about $5 million to address the digital divide issues for the fall semester,” said Dr. Min Yao, vice president and CIO of DOIT. “Much of that will go toward supplying laptop computers and internet hotspots for students who need them.”
Students will have access to a loan program for laptop computers and mobile internet hotspots and will be able to use software programs in the virtual computer lab online. Students who have classes on campus will also have access to a technology hub that is being built in the University Student Union (USU) to connect to the internet and be able to use software programs in a temporary computer lab inside the USU.
About 10,000 of the university’s 36,000 students fully depend on financial aid to attend school, Yao said. DOIT, in partnership with Student Affairs and Beach Central, will use the financial aid information to develop criteria to decide which students are eligible for the laptop and internet hotspot loan program. The criteria will be finalized and announced before the Fall semester begins, he added.
“In our ever-increasing digital world, people may not realize the digital divide is a real issue,” said DSA Chief of Staff Travis Tamasese. “But it’s serious and affects a number of students.”
CSULB is committed to student success and ensuring students receive a quality education, but students need resources to be successful, Tamasese said. Many local K-12 school districts provide technology, so when incoming students come to CSULB they might not have technology at home, he said.
“We know that something like a laptop is necessary for students whether they’re coming to campus or not,” Tamasese said. “But these materials and technology are particularly critical to student success right now.”
Among the ways the university is working to bridge the digital divide:
Student Laptop/Hotspot Loan Program
- The student loan program will provide students in need with a laptop and/or an internet hotspot.
- CSULB will spend $2.65 million to establish the laptop/hotspot loan program, which currently is forecasted to provide an estimated 3,000 Dell laptop computers (Windows) and 3,000 AT&T internet hotspots with one year of service.
- DOIT plans to expand outdoor Wi-Fi on campus at these locations: South and west patios at the USU, Nugget Patio, Maxson Plaza (seating area only) and the first floor of Parking Structure 2.
Open Access Computer Lab
- DOIT is working with Academic Technology Services, Beach Building Services and Associated Students, Inc. to build a large open access computer lab in one of the ballrooms of the USU to serve students.
Student Virtual Lab
- DOIT is working on expanding the Student Virtual Lab from 400 to 1,000 seat to accommodate students’ need for remotely using software programs via the internet.
- DOIT is also working to provide students with remote access to existing specialty software programs in computer labs.