Local | June 22, 2020

Supporting Student Success in an Era of E-Learning

COVID-19 has highlighted a longstanding reality: many Indianapolis families struggle to afford high-speed internet service and lack access to the devices students need to learn remotely. This poses a looming challenge in an era of increased e-learning and threatens to widen existing opportunity gaps based on race and class. Extended periods of e-learning have also highlighted the need to support educators and families with information, tools, and opportunities for collaboration so they can help students thrive in a virtual learning environment.

The Mind Trust joined key civic, philanthropic, and corporate organizations in April to launch a $2.8 million initiative, the Indianapolis E-Learning Fund. The Fund seeks to help Marion County public school students access the connectivity they need to participate in remote learning while providing e-learning support to public and private school educators and families across the state.

The Challenge

The biggest barriers to implementing successful e-learning are lack of internet connectivity and devices like laptops. Across Indianapolis’ district and public charter schools, an estimated 38,000 out of 152,000 students – or 25 percent – lack high-speed internet access at home, according to a needs assessment conducted by the Mayor’s Office of Education Innovation and The Mind Trust. Many of the most affected students in Indianapolis are from low-income backgrounds.

The Solution

Informed by these results, as well as conversations with school and district leaders, technical advisors, and internet service providers, the Indianapolis E-Learning Fund’s Advisory Committee allocated $1.5 million to help meet schools’ and districts’ device and connectivity needs. The remaining contributions will be directed toward longer-term internet connectivity solutions and resources for educators and families engaging in e-learning statewide. These include:

  1. Procuring hotspots to support internet connectivity needs for Marion County public school students during the 2020-21 school year.
  2. Procuring a dedicated e-learning network to serve all students in Marion County. This network will only allow access to educational resources and will be available starting in the 2021-22 school year. We will announce the selected network provider later this summer.
  3. Developing, launching, and operating a dynamic, virtual hub that will provide educators and families access to high-quality e-learning resources and training, as well as opportunities for collaboration and sharing of e-learning best practices. By enabling collaboration, this statewide resource for all Indiana public and private schools will help lower costs for schools and districts so that public and private funds can be used most efficiently.

The Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation and the Eli Lilly and Company Foundation each pledged an additional $250,000 to support the efforts of the Indianapolis E-Learning Fund. We invite you to join these two foundations in helping to address these critical e-learning needs. Individuals or organizations who wish to help match these two grants can visit indy.gov/elearning.

New Era of E-Learning

Ushering in a new era of e-learning also will require stronger support in areas such as social and emotional learning, teacher professional development, and curriculum. The Indianapolis E-Learning Fund seeks to address all of these needs. Schools will have to rethink curricular approaches to fit a new e-learning environment, including for hands-on classes such as career and technical education, as well as for students with special needs and English Language Learners. Taking a proactive approach to address all of these challenges will be critical, which is why the Indianapolis E-Learning Fund is making them a priority.

E-Learning Fund in the News

  • Chalkbeat: Thousands of Indianapolis students don’t have internet. An ambitious plan could help.
  • FOX 59: $2.6 million to jumpstart new Indianapolis E-Learning Fund
  • Inside Indiana Business: E-Learning Fund Launches in Indy
  • WFYI: $2.6M Fund Will Support E-Learning For Indianapolis Schools, Families

The Mind Trust is one of 24 Indianapolis E-Learning Fund partners. If you subscribe to newsletters from other partners, you may also see similar information from them. We, as a group of funding partners, believe drawing attention to the challenge and solutions is essential to ensuring students receive equitable, high-quality education. Thank you for your support.