January 27, 2022

Data Analysis From Ithaka S+R: “Online Learning During COVID-19 Digital and Educational Divides Have Similar Boundaries”

From Ithaka S+R:

Colleges and universities–with assistance from government and philanthropy–have made efforts to mitigate the [digital] divide for their students. But institutional capacity, just like digital access, varies with geography. And as it turns out, the relationship between colleges’ and universities’ resources and the local community’s digital access means that students in certain regions of the country are doubly disadvantaged.

To better understand this relationship between institutional resources and digital access, and how it may be currently impacting students, we explored 2018 computer and Internet access data at the county-level from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS), and education and related spending at public institutions from the 2017-18 academic year using Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) data, hypothesizing that the least-resourced institutions are located in counties with the lowest levels of digital access.


We found that there is a moderately positive relationship between digital access and educational spending, meaning that institutions with relatively low resources tend to be located in counties where household access to a desktop or laptop and broadband Internet are low.[5] This suggests, in other words, that the schools that enroll a disproportionate number of students who don’t have at-home digital access are the least-resourced institutions, making it even more challenging for those students to have their digital access needs met.

Read the Complete Analysis (approx. 1140 words), View “Digital Access and Spending by County” Map

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.