This week we have a special guest blog post from Jeremiah Kopp, former President of the University of Manitoba Students’ Union.

In Jeremiah’s time on the Student Union, he saw that the student experience varied depending on each student’s unique circumstances, making success in education more readily available for some over others. While challenges of accessibility in education has always been a prominent topic, it’s importance has been amplified by the challenges brought on by the pandemic.

Jeremiah writes that it is critical that post secondary institutions prepare their transitions to online education in a way that leaves no student behind. Those who usually rely on campus technology for access must be provided alternate means to engage and stay connected to school and campus life.

In the midst of an already busy winter semester, COVID-19 forced students, educators, and administrators to undertake herculean efforts to bring Canada’s post-secondary education system on-line. Everyone did all that they could to salvage the school year and ensure that students could obtain their credits, graduate on-time, and given the circumstances, receive the best education possible.

Now, with with temperatures declining and students returning to a new kind of classroom, the education system needs to continue to prepare for new and pressing access-to-education issues. Namely, whether students will have the necessary technology to succeed.

The education system needs to prepare for new and pressing access-to-education issues.

It is no secret that greater financial resources provide an advantage when it comes to learning. Those who can afford private-education, extracurricular programs, and the latest gadgets have always had an inherent advantage. However, like many other aspects of our society, the current crisis has only enlarged these benefits.

Before COVID-19, students could access free Wi-Fi, computers in the library, and myriad on-campus resources. Now, the responsibility of these essential services is being placed on individuals, and a student’s personal capacity to access technology will underpin their entire learning experience. Now, more than ever, schools, government, and the private-sector must come together and address this critical access-to-education issue with physical resources and new innovations.

A student’s personal capacity to access technology will underpin their entire learning experience.

One source of inspiration is Nimbus Learning, where young entrepreneurs have created a tutoring app for students to connect online. Eight campuses, like the University of Manitoba, are on the platform already, and in this new virtual environment, learning gaps can be easily addressed by peers. It is this type of outside the box thinking that can mitigate technological barriers to education.

Post-secondary education creates a more diverse and prosperous society, but that is only true if everyone has an equal opportunity to benefit from all that it has to offer. As the education system adapts to a new reality, we need to ensure that access to technology is front and centre — students who happen to have less should not be left behind.

Jeremiah Kopp is a former President of the University of Manitoba Students’ Union and recently graduated with a Masters of Business Administration from the Asper School of Business and a law degree from the University of Ottawa. 

Nimbus Learning now offers an online tutoring platform which allows students virtual access to academic support and mentorship. Click here to find out more.

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