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Learning loss and the digital divide: Summer resources for all students

Ari Howard

May 17, 2021 — 4 min read

The average student will be 10 months behind in the math curriculum by the end of this school year. Here's how your child can catch up on schoolwork this summer, regardless of internet access.

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Those who have lacked a reliable connection to the internet in their homes have had an immensely challenging time adjusting to quarantine throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The gap between those who have consistent access to the internet and those who do not is known as the digital divide. The long-term effects of the divide are particularly devastating for low-income students who have fallen behind in school as a result of not being able to access online classes or complete internet-intensive assignments. 

Another aspect of the digital divide is known as the homework gap. Although internet service providers (ISPs) and the Federal Communications Commission have worked tirelessly to ensure all students are able to attend school during the pandemic, the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society estimated in January 2021 there are 12 million students who still lack access to the internet in the U.S. 

Research conducted by the McKinsey Institute in December 2020 has revealed nearly all students have fallen behind in their schoolwork due to online learning. For instance, McKinsey reported the estimated learning loss for the average student in mathematics will be 10 months by the end of this school year. This number increases to up to 16 months for students of color and drops to as low as five months for white students. For students whose parents have not been able to afford private tutors or provide supplemental homeschooling, the summer may be an essential time for students to try to catch up.

Best online learning resources for summer 2021

One of the best things parents can do to help their child catch up on schoolwork this summer is to reach out to their child’s school for curriculum-specific resources. However, if you want to find free educational resources for additional online learning this summer, our list is a great place to start. 

Additionally, because we understand millions of students will face the same challenges of accessing the internet this summer as they have for the past year, we have divided online learning resources for elementary and middle school students based on how much internet access each resource requires. While these resources are mainly academic-focused, some also include physical exercise activities, such as the ilovelibraries website. 

Educational resources for users with limited internet access 

The following resources are great options for online learning activities for families who lack consistent access to the internet. These websites offer great printable worksheets, in-person project and activity ideas (either at home or at your local library) and book recommendations. All of these resources are entirely free except for the book recommendations. Plan ahead and print these worksheets and project guidelines out at your child’s school or your local library if you don’t own a printer at home. 

Educational websites requiring moderate internet speeds 

For families with more consistent access to the internet, websites that offer quizzes, educational resources and lessons are a great option for free online learning this summer. These websites are simpler sites so even if your household only has 5-10 Mbps internet speeds, your child can still access these resources.

Interactive online activities requiring high-speed internet 

If your household has access to at least 25 Mbps, which is the FCC’s definition of high-speed internet, then the following websites are the most interactive way for students to continue their learning. These websites offer interactive games and fun videos in every subject imaginable.

Low-income internet discounts 

If you currently do not have internet in your home due its high cost, then you might qualify for an internet discount. There are various ways to receive money off on your internet bill but the main ways are through the FCC or your local internet provider. 

Low-income FCC discounts 

There are two main ways to receive broadband discounts from the FCC: the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) and Lifeline. While the EBB offers the best discount available at $50 off your monthly bill, this discount will only last for the duration of the pandemic. Lifeline, in contrast, although an underfunded program, offers $9.25 off your monthly bill for as long as you qualify for the program. 

Low-income internet service providers 

The following service providers all offer amazing discounts on internet plans for low-income households. Eligibility varies depending on the provider.

  • Altice Optimum – Up to 30 Mbps for $14.99/mo. 
  • Altice Suddenlink – Up to 30 Mbps for $14.99/mo.
  • AT&T – Up to 10 Mbps for $5/mo. or $10/mo.*
  • Cox – Up to 15 Mbps for $9.95/mo.*
  • Mediacom – Up to 10 Mbps for $9.95/mo.*
  • Spectrum – Up to 30 Mbps for $14.99/mo.*
  • Xfinity – Up to 15 Mbps for $9.95/mo.*

Learn more about eligibility for all broadband discounts 

Ari Howard

Written by:

Ari Howard

Associate Writer, Broadband & Wireless Content

Ari is an Associate Writer for the Allconnect team, focusing on broadband and wireless news, as well as broadband and TV provider deals. She recently graduated from Davidson College with a bachelor’s degree in… Read more

Robin Layton

Edited by:

Robin Layton

Editor, Broadband Content

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