Bridging the Digital Divide
The Tri-C Foundation provided computers to more than 600 students to help them thrive in the online learning world forced by the coronavirus crisis
Aba Paintsil’s days typically revolved around the schedule at Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C®). She arrived when Eastern Campus opened to get into the Technology Learning Center before classes. She’d stay and do homework until it shut down at night.
So when the campus closed and courses shifted online due to the COVID-19 outbreak, Paintsil wondered how she’d manage without a computer at home.
At first, she tried tackling assignments with her tablet. That led only to frustration. “What should have taken me two hours took all day,” the full-time nursing student said. “I honestly thought about just stopping and taking the classes again in the fall.”
Then came a gift that saved her semester.
As COVID-19 changed the delivery of education, the Cuyahoga Community College Foundation distributed computers to more than 600 Tri-C students ― including Paintsil ― to remove the technological barrier to online learning.
The campaign launched quickly after Tri-C canceled face-to-face classroom instruction midway through spring semester and moved to virtual classes. The reason? Many students lacked home access to a computer, which created challenges as courses moved online
Finding a solution became critical for students to continue their studies and progress toward graduation, said Megan O’Bryan, president of the Foundation.
“We could not allow the response to the coronavirus crisis to become an obstacle for our students,” O’Bryan said. “This was about providing the tools they needed to overcome the technology gap and achieve academically.”
Students responded immediately to the Foundation’s offer, flooding phone lines and email inboxes. Computers were handed out over several days during a drive-up process at Metropolitan Campus in Cleveland and Western Campus in Parma.
Donations to the Foundation made it possible to provide the computers at no cost to students. The Foundation purchased the computers from two nonprofit organizations: PCs for People and RET3 Job Corp.
Adam El Oualladi said the computer he received kept him moving toward graduation. He expects to earn an Associate of Arts degree this summer before transferring to Cleveland State University in the fall to study psychology.
The older laptop he used previously struggled to meet the increased demands when his four courses moved online. “Speed was an issue,” El Oualladi said. “The computer I got made the transition much easier.”
Yvette Mitchell said the computer she picked up eliminated a logjam of users on the lone laptop in her mother’s home. Four people were sharing the device for work, school and other needs. The lack of technology caused Mitchell to fall behind in her event planning studies.
“Everyone was fighting for the same resource,” Mitchell said. “It was just wasn’t enough.”
Those stories and hundreds more like them showed the impact of the computer distribution, O’Bryan said. The College also worked to connect students with internet providers if they lacked service.
The project offered immediate assistance while putting students in a better position to find long-term success. Many students said receiving the computer gave them more incentive to push forward with their studies.
“With every computer the Foundation distributed, we built a bridge across the digital divide,” O’Bryan said. “We’re giving our students the chance they deserve to reach their goals.”
Donors to the Cuyahoga Community College Foundation made the computer distribution possible. Visit tri-c.edu/give to contribute to the future success of Tri-C students. The above story appeared in the Summer 2020 issue of Tri-C Times.
June 30, 2020
John Horton, 216-987-4281 firstname.lastname@example.org