technology tip of the month Pointer and Clicker Article



October 2000 - Free Internet Service - Get Your Students Connected
By: Michael Lindeman
Keywords: Free Internet Service, Access, Digital Divide

During a recent ION presentation titled “Making the Shift to Web-Based Teaching and Learning,” a faculty member raised her hand and asked “What good is it putting our courses online when our students don’t even have computer at home or access to the internet?”

Good question. 

Schools and libraries can provide computer labs with Internet access, but to be able to fully take advantage of “any time, any place” learning, students should have a computer and Internet access at home.  Benson and Wright observe in their article Pedagogy and Policy in the Age of the Wired Professor, “There's no place like home and there's no computer like a home computer, configured to user specifications and connected to a server. Those with this freedom enjoy doing online course work, those without find it difficult.”  According to the results of a survey by Nielsen NetRatings [link no longer active], U.S. home Internet penetration reached 52 percent in July—the first time more than half of all Americans had home Web access.  But what about the other 48%?  Benson and Wright state, “In order that technology-infused courses become tools for communication rather than measures of distance, educational institutions need to consider policies that ensure students have the necessary equipment.”

So how can we help bring Internet access to students without it?  One way is to help the students at our institutions find affordable computers.  Posting information on campus bulletin boards and computer lab walls about where to buy affordable or used computers is a good first step.  Informing our students about newsgroups [link no longer active] specific to computer sales can also help.  We should educate ourselves about programs like the Illinois Community Technology Fund (ICTF) that are trying to help rural and low-income areas in Illinois gain access to advanced telecommunications technologies

But having a computer in the house is only part of the solution that will allow students to participate in online courses.  The students need Internet access as well.  Few schools have the resources to be able to provide free dial-up Internet service and e-mail accounts, and many students cannot afford to pay the monthly fee (typically $20/month) that Internet Service Providers charge.

Luckily, there is an alternative. Since the end of 1999, free Internet service has become a reality, with many companies jumping into the market.  (Yahoo lists over 30 free Internet service providers)

Editor's Note: As none of the sites in this article are available anymore, the rest of the article is no longer available.
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