As some schools across the country slowly reopen amid the coronavirus pandemic, dozens of school districts in the U.S. are choosing to offer virtual instruction only, affecting millions of students.
While health experts say virtual learning is a safer option, it poses an economic challenge for parents who cannot afford to purchase another laptop or better Wi-Fi at home. It also poses a challenge for children who don’t have any internet access at home and who have trouble learning on their own.
Tech expert Stephanie Humphrey, the author of “Don’t Let Your Digital Footprint Kick You in the Butt,” which is out now, says there are budget-friendly ways parents and kids can navigate the fall semester online.
Here are the tips Humphrey shared with "Good Morning America."
How to get internet at home
According to recent data from the National Center for Education and Statistics, more than 9 million school children will have difficulty completing assignments online and 14% of children don’t have internet access at home.
But with the help of websites like EveryoneOn.org, a nonprofit that connects low-income families to affordable internet service and computers, and CommunityVS.org, Humphrey said there are ways to access the internet.
How to boost your Wi-Fi signal
For those who do have internet access at home, many know that it’s sometimes difficult to get a good signal, especially if there are multiple people in the home using it. While you can just pay to boost your signal, it can get pricey.
So, one way to boost your signal that Humphrey shared is to assess the best places in your house to work with a free app like CloudCheck, which helps find the strongest signal in your home. All you have to do is press one button to find out if you’re working in the best spot in your house.
If you still need a boost, Humphrey said to add an extender for around $30 like the TP Link AC 750, which is compatible with all standard routers and has an easy one-button setup.
How to help kids who need a tutor
With quarantine putting a dent in the way students learn from a teacher or a tutor, sometimes it can be a challenge for children who need that support to get through assignments.
Luckily, Humphrey pointed out that there are online resources like Coved.org and Tutor.com which aim to provide academic support for K-12 students with limited access to resources.
On Coved.org, students can get paired up with one of over 4,000 mentors in the program and on Tutor.com, students can find a tutor from over 2,000 libraries, which provides tutoring sessions.
TutorMe is another resource which provides 24/7 online tutoring for $1 a minute. If your kid is stuck on one homework, you can pay for 10 minutes of tutoring instead of one hour. This is a great, more affordable way to give your student access to educational resources for a short time, Humphrey said.
Discounted devices for virtual schooling
For families looking for new tablets or computers for their kids, Humphrey shared her roundup of tech items all for under $200.
Fire HD 8 Tablet
Starting at $89.99
For parents with younger kids, a Fire HD 8 tablet is a good option for fast performance due to its new 2.0 GHz quad-core processor.
HP Chromebook 14-inch
Starting at $199.99
Humphrey said Chromebooks are a good, lightweight option for students' distance learning where files can be stored online. They also come with a good keyboard and display and provides up to 8 hours of battery. Find one for less than $300 at Staples.