Student Experiences with Connectivity and Technology in the Pandemic

The Struggle Is Real

Many students struggle with internet access, no matter their housing situation. Over a third (36%) of respondents reported that they always, very often, or sometimes struggled to find an internet connection that met their academic needs; more students in rural areas struggled very often or always (16%) compared to students in suburban (9%), city (8%), and town (7%) locales. Students who live in off-campus housing not sponsored or owned by their institution were challenged the least with their internet connection, while those who identified as having unstable housing situations struggled the most.1 Nearly a quarter (24%) of students said they live on campus, and for many of them, finding an adequate internet connection was difficult, with almost half (42%) reporting they struggled sometimes, very often, or always (figure 2). When asked about how helpful their campus's technology support was for resolving internet connection issues, many respondents said they had never used these services. Some of the most common reasons given were that they had not experienced any internet disruptions, they didn't know how to contact IT support for help, and/or they didn't think they could get assistance with a connection problem, especially if they were not on campus.

Stacked bar graph showing the frequency of internet connection issues by housing type.  Never or rarely (NR), Sometimes, very often, or always (SOA).  Unstable housing NR 38%, SOA 62%.  Off-campus university housing NR 53, SOA 47.  On campus NR 58, SOA 42.  Off-campus non-university housing NR 68, SOA 32.
Figure 2. Frequency of internet connection issues by housing type
I don’t think the campus can help me with my internet connection issues. However, they can assist by having lecturers record their live sessions and post them so if anyone misses class they can review them.

The need for better campus Wi-Fi and/or mobile hotspots was also a common request. Many students told us that having a mobile hotspot provided by their institutions was valuable and convenient, especially if they are in housing situations where their internet connection is being taxed by multiple users or if they don't have internet at home or have unreliable service. One student noted that the hotspot was helpful because "I can take it with me wherever I go to do homework or class meets."

They gave me a hotspot, which helps since my siblings are also using the internet for school.


  1. Among the 2% of students who identified their housing situation as "unstable," 44% said they were experiencing transience, 28% said there is uncertainty in rental housing due to the pandemic, 22% said there is uncertainty in their roommate situation due to pandemic, 18% selected "other," 12% reported that their campus housing might close due to the pandemic, and 9% identified as experiencing homelessness.