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Science and Innovations

University Students Struggle With Technology Access During Pandemic

Technology has become another hurdle faced by university students as their classes switch to online formats during the coronavirus pandemic. KNAU’s Melissa Sevigny reports.

Students without high speed Internet or reliable computers at home are struggling with their online coursework. Jeff Jenness teaches a GIS lab at Northern Arizona University. He says NAU has a “virtual desktop” with the GIS software, but not all of his students have been able to access it.

"I can’t get a good sense of how they’re all doing," Jenness says. "Not all of them respond. I’m worried they could be facing a hill trying to figure out how to get back into class, and maybe they just won’t do it."

Students can still use the computers at the Cline Library, which remains open at reduced hours, or take their laptops to a nearby parking lot with a new Drive-up WiFi service. Forestry sophomore Tyrrell Tapaha says he can get the technology he needs, but it’s difficult to stay focused in the online format, "which is fine, because it’s part of me being a student, but also I really relied on the schedule … being able to go to class, and be like: this is when this is due, this is what’s going on, and go from there."

NAU is allowing students to request pass/fail grades this semester, and IT Services has increased its staff to handle the influx of calls.    

Melissa joined KNAU's team in 2015 to report on science, health, and the environment. Her work has appeared nationally on NPR and been featured on Science Friday. She grew up in Tucson, Arizona, where she fell in love with the ecology and geology of the Sonoran desert.
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