High-speed internet and technology have played an increasingly large role in student success over the past few decades. These resources are necessary for students to complete homework, conduct research, communicate to teachers, and stay informed about academic requirements.
The pandemic has pushed over 50 million U.S. K–12 students from the traditional classroom to virtual classrooms almost overnight, with little time for schools to plan and even less clarity for families about what might happen next. Although many schools were able to distribute Chromebooks or tablets to students who did not have adequate devices for online education, students who live in rural areas or come from low-income families cannot have an effective distance learning experience at home due to the lack of adequate broadband access or affordable services.
While schools began re-opening and/or will offer hybrid models for learning, the homework gap among students is still far from resolved. This is a big challenge for schools across 50 states to enable students with equality in education regardless of their locations, race, or family income.
Without adequate devices and high-speed internet access, some students are completely left behind. Fortinet and Linksys have partnered to help address this issue with the introduction of the Linksys HomeWRK for Education secured by Fortinet.
The Homework Gap and Inadequate Broadband Connections
The homework gap refers to the barriers that students face when working on homework assignments without a reliable internet source at home. According to a recent report from Common Sense Media in 2021, there are 15 to 16 million children in U.S. K–12 schools who lack adequate home internet access. School-age children in lower-income households and/or rural areas are especially likely to lack internet access. This digital divide is particularly pronounced in Black, Hispanic, and Native American households.
Additionally, according to research from Michigan State University, in 2020, 82% percent of students in grades 8–11 reported that they often received homework requiring internet access. Those who have no internet access from home often took longer to complete their homework, spending an average of 30 additional minutes on assignments per night, compared to their peers who have high-speed internet access. The same research also showed that students with fast home internet access report an overall grade point average (GPA) of 3.18. This is significantly higher than the 2.81 GPA for students with no access. As a result, the lack of adequate internet connection has shown to impact student performance.
Increasing Cyberattacks in Schools Due to Insecure Access
While many schools struggle to adopt to the rapid shift to remote learning due to the pandemic, a troubling trend was on the rise—a surge in cybersecurity attacks. A report from the nonprofit K–12 Security Information Exchange (K12 SIX) found 498 cyberattacks against U.S. public schools in 2020, an 18% increase over 2019. Forty-five percent of the disclosed incidents were due to malware, email invasion, and website and social media defacement. One of the primary contributions to these increasing security threats was the insecure access coming from the uptick of Chromebooks and devices that enable students to access remote instruction and digital learning tools.
Reliable and Affordable Linksys and Fortinet Deliver HomeWRK for Education
Fortinet has partnered with Linksys, combining the expertise in cybersecurity and broadband connectivity, to help schools bridge the homework gap with the new Linksys HomeWRK for Education secured by Fortinet. Using the latest security and web-filtering technology from Fortinet, this affordable solution delivers reliable broadband access with nationwide coverage. Schools can easily distribute the provision-free hardware with simple data plans to students who need fast-speed internet connections at home, so they can complete homework and stay on top of their learning requirements for better academic performance.
- Broadband connection with broader coverage and stronger signal. Linksys HomeWRK for Education secured by Fortinet is connecting with major service providers to provide underprivileged students the best broadband connection and service in their areas, without the struggle of unreliable connections from one carrier.
- CIPA-ready solution with advanced security and web filtering. Linksys HomeWRK is protected by the latest Fortinet security technology to intelligently filter inappropriate content and harmful malware. This secure solution helps schools meet the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) compliance requirements with safe internet access for what matters to students.
- Zero touch provisioning devices requires no IT effort. Linksys HomeWRK secured by Fortinet for Education helps simplify students’ onboarding process by offering easy plug-and-play devices with pre-activated Linksys Mobile data plans. Schools can easily roll out the solution to students and have the connection up at their homes in minutes, without IT’s physical involvement.
- Paid by federal funding programs. The Linksys HomeWRK solution’s hardware and subscription plans are qualified for many eligible government grants, including Emergency Connect Fund (ECF), Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER I, II, III) fund, and American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act funding.