New Mexico State University student Lilly McCarty access her online class while sitting in the parking lot of the Valencia County Extension office. Most of the NMSU Extension county offices have wireless internet available for rural students who have limited access. (NMSU photo Jane Moorman)
The New Mexico State University system’s students are among the millions of students nationwide from elementary school through college whose schools and campuses have been partly or fully closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
While they are observing the social distancing mandate to stay at home, they are also continuing their academic progress, so NMSU’s Information and Communication Technology department and Cooperative Extension Service are stepping up to ensure students across the state have the technology and internet access they need to complete the semester successfully.
For some students, staying at home has brought many unexpected challenges.
“We don’t know what distractions or obligations the students are dealing with in their stay-at-home situation,” said Donald Conner, associate dean and director of academic programs for the College of College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences. “These issues could impact their ability to receive the course material and concentrate on their studies.”
One way NMSU is providing support to help students finish the semester successfully is by offering additional access options for internet service.
“We know that some of our students do not have the resources for online learning at home,” said Norma Grijalva, NMSU’s chief information officer. “We are working to provide solutions to help them gain access.”
For students without their own computer at home, NMSU is offering laptops that can be checked out. Wireless internet hotspots and limited computer lab access are also available to students at the Las Cruces campus, in accordance with social distancing and heightened cleaning procedures. The NMSU Albuquerque Center, located at Central New Mexico Community College’s Montoya Campus, is also offering access to its computer lab.
NMSU’s ICT department will soon deploy a virtual computer lab that students may access online.
“In addition, we have identified Parking Lot 19 as work-from-car area for students needing access,” Grijalva said. The lot, between the Rhodes-Garrett-Hamiel and Garcia residence halls on the Las Cruces campus, is accessible from Locust Street, on the northeast side of campus.
For the many rural areas in New Mexico where internet access is less reliable or accessible, NMSU Cooperative Extension Service is offering students a solution.
“We had some feedback from a fairly limited number of students concerning their internet access in rural areas,” said Conner. “We posed the question to our county Extension offices about whether their Wi-Fi could be accessed.
“Most, not all, of the 33 county offices do have wireless that can be accessed from outside the building,” Conner said. “Once again, I am impressed with our Extension folks. They worked to make some technology changes so the students have access.”
The access to wireless internet at the county Extension offices is not limited to College of ACES students.
“We have offered this access to any NMSU student living in rural areas without internet access,” said Rolando A. Flores, dean of the College of ACES. “We are all Aggies and as such we want to help our students to complete this semester under these unique circumstances.”
A list of internet service providers that are offering discounted services is posted on NMSU’s resources page.
Author: Jane Moorman – NMSU
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