Wyoming may be the 10th largest state in the U.S., but it is also the least populated, according to recent census data. It is also sparsely populated, with an average of only 5.85 people per square mile. With a lot of land and few people, it may be no surprise that Wyoming has more acute connectivity issues than other states. In today’s remote-learning environment, the lack of sustainable broadband access can drastically reduce the number of educational opportunities available to students.
This is true for Casper College, even as it’s located in the second biggest city in Wyoming. Many of Casper College’s students are adult learners who do not live in the Casper area. Their commute to campus can be 30 to 40 minutes in one direction with Wi-Fi dead zones along the way. What’s more, many students juggle multiple responsibilities like full-time jobs or family obligations that make it difficult for them to travel to campus daily for classes.
As the first junior college established in Wyoming, Casper College wanted to ensure its diverse student body was not negatively impacted by the state’s connectivity challenges and sought a means to keep students connected no matter where they were.
Online learning is the solution for many non-traditional and remote students, but that route alone won’t overcome the digital divide in Wyoming. It was vital that Casper College add a layer of flexibility and accessibility to ensure students could access course content directly from a wide variety of devices and locations.
The rural landscape, coupled with the knowledge that students are on their phones more than ever, made it clear what Casper College needed: a mobile app that allowed students to engage with their coursework from multiple access points no matter the stability of their internet connection.
Alone, a mobile application does not sound like the most groundbreaking tech solution. However, when it’s well-made and easy to use, it’s arguably the most effective edtech solution out there.
Casper College worked with its LMS vendor to develop a branded mobile app that was easy to find and provided a clear and consistent learning experience. It is available for download through the Apple and Google app stores and is designed to align with the college’s branding and visuals, helping students quickly find it and begin utilizing its functions.
A key requirement for Casper College’s app is that it has to work not only when a student has Wi-Fi access, but also when they are in a dead zone. The app does just that. Students can access learning materials, contact their instructors, submit assignments, and complete any other tasks that live on the college’s website, even without a stable internet connection at that particular point in time. The app also allows them to easily and quickly upload photos or videos that need to be submitted for various assignments for their courses.
The next time the student’s mobile device reconnects to the internet, the app syncs with the university’s system and ensures assignments, messages, grades, and more are up to date.
The mobile app has elevated the student experience since it launched in January 2022, and the results speak to the incredible impact the app has had on the student experience. Casper College reports that 50 percent of its students have downloaded this resource and use it an average of 11 times per week. This allows them the convenience of learning on their schedule, no matter the location.
Casper College is overcoming the digital divide in Wyoming with a deceptively simple tool and changing higher education in the state for the better.