MTSU loans laptops, hotspots to help students with remote classes during COVID-19 outbreak

Middle Tennessee State University is supporting students who need technology assistance as the university finishes the semester with remote courses as a coronavirus outbreak precaution.

Like many other schools in the state, the COVID-19 crisis prompted MTSU to move most of its usual on-ground campus classes to a new remote delivery of instruction.

But as the state’s No. 1 choice of first-generation students, and serving more students from low-income families than any other four-year institution in Tennessee, many MTSU students lacked ready or easy access to the Internet.

MTSU’s Information Technology Division came to the rescue by reaching out to T-Mobile to secure 1,000 Chromebooks, which they are loaning to students while supplies last. That’s in addition to 300 laptops that came from MTSU’s existing inventory.

The division also has access to hundreds of internet hotspots and webcams and dozens of headsets. ITD has distributed about 1,250 laptops and hotspots thus far.

“This is important because a lot of our students are first generation who might not have this access as we shift to remote learning,” said Bruce Petryshak, vice president for information technology. “This will enable our students to participate in remote learning and be successful this semester.”

Also, MTSU has turned to Zoom, a videoconferencing platform, for delivery of many of its new remote classes, which started March 23. The first week of remote courses resulted in 1,859 Zoom sessions held with a combined total of 23,470 participants, with each averaging 12 to 13 people per meeting.

The largest class lecture meeting during the first week of remote instruction was a biology class that supported more than 250 students on at the same time for almost two hours.

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