Education Requires Increased Online Access 

Education requires increased online access 

By: Lenae Coyer, Tacoma School District Editor

Amid the COVID pandemic, remote learning became more prominent, particularly in the context of K-12 education. While elementary and secondary school students have returned to the physical classroom, teachers are still leveraging online offerings and adapting curricula to meet ever-evolving student needs. Innovative digital technology allows educators to deliver instruction and facilitate learning outside of the traditional setting, expanding students’ access to courses and programs offered by various institutions without time and place barriers.

The future of education depends on this increased access to diverse, educational resources and expertise that fosters developed perspectives and promotes cultural exchange. Moreover, asynchronous learning enabled by online education allows students to continue their studies throughout the year, even when class isn’t in session. Networks like 5G connect devices to help close the homework gap, enabling access to apps to improve math skills, to VR headsets for a new way of learning about art history, or to laptops to work collaboratively with other students. Without online learning our education system will be at a significant disadvantage.

Unfortunately, this year, the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC’s) authority to allocate and auction new licensed spectrum bands, the backbone of our wireless networks, expired. A lack of auction authority will hinder the ability of Internet users to access stronger, faster, and more reliable networks. The longer this goes untouched, the more it will hamper users’ online experience.

Now, Congress has an important opportunity to work in a bipartisan way to restore this spectrum authority while also establishing a pipeline for future spectrum initiatives, making sure new networks flourish, and improving students’ online experiences across the country.

As a state leading in innovation, Washington must ensure that students who rely on upgraded networks to participate in digital classrooms through online learning programs can unlock the benefits of remote learning. Our students are eager to access innovative and interactive technologies like virtual simulations, discussion forums, and online collaboration tools. These developments are not a coincidence but are thanks to the opening of new spectrum bands and improvements in our networks. As further developments continue, we are seeing a glimpse into how our digital classrooms and online learning environments will continue to evolve.

Student learning outcomes and access to opportunities will stagnate if Congress doesn’t act and give the FCC authority to allocate new spectrum. Entirely online programs are still relatively new, and educators and institutions must be supported so they can fully leverage all the tools at their disposal. Investments in remote digital learning programs address student needs and prepare them for the future.

Disclaimer: I have teamed up with Lenae Coyer, Tacoma School District Editor in support of this campaign. We received compensation for participation in this campaign. However, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

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