Hundreds of University of Auckland students have secured access to devices necessary for online learning as part of the university’s response to COVID-19.
As of the 21st of May, the university has loaned 443 laptops to students. A further 190 laptops are planned to be sent out soon.
As well as the laptop loan scheme, the university has taken a number of measures to address the effects of COVID-19 on students. Students have been encouraged to access the COVID-19 Hardship Support Fund, and resources on dealing with the effects of COVID-19 have been made available online.
It is clear that the COVID-19 pandemic has had varying effects on students. In order to mitigate issues such as lack of secure internet access, the university has set guidelines for online teaching activities that discourage the use of live video conferencing applications such as Zoom. Despite this, some students have still reported that such technologies are being used in their courses to deliver online classes. Some students report they have resorted to venturing to public spaces to access stable WiFi.
As part of the government’s response to COVID-19, students are able to borrow an extra $1,000 worth of course related costs in order to cover costs associated with the move to online learning. A $20 million fund has been established to ensure that tertiary students have access to appropriate devices and an internet connection, and the University of Auckland has received approximately $800,000 of this. The fund is estimated to help 18,500 students across New Zealand.
The New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations (NZUSA) has welcomed the move. “This is a win for students across Aotearoa,” says the NZUSA. “It reflects the pressure that ourselves, Te Mana Ākonga and Tauira Pasifika have been placing on the Government to ensure that tertiary students have access to the technology they need to continue studying.”