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 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.
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:
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.
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.
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.