Virtual schooling exposes digital challenges for Black families

Sudden shifts to virtual schooling following COVID-19 exposed digital divides among Black families

July 30, 2021


Brian Consiglio: The COVID-19 pandemic caused a sudden shift to virtual teaching and learning for many schools, and many families struggled to keep their children engaged in their education. A new study from the University of Missouri found the unexpected transition to virtual schooling exposed the disproportionate lack of digital resources among Black families in the United States, including access to Wi-Fi and technological savviness.

School of Health Professions postdoctoral fellow Adaobi Anakwe interviewed parents and primary caregivers of Black families in Missouri with school-aged children to better understand their experiences suddenly shifting to virtual schooling due to COVID-19.

Anakwe: “Speaking to those parents, they felt disempowered to be able to provide support to their children in a way that they needed to given the constraints on technology. The other thing is parents felt stressed from not having the savviness to work with technology the way they needed to.”

Consiglio: While MU Extension and the University of Missouri System Broadband Initiative have helped increase access to broadband internet for Missourians, more collaborative partnerships among community leaders, schools and local governments are needed to assist underprivileged Black families.

Anakwe: “With this increased reliance on digital technologies, the challenge we then face is when people do not have access to those equitably, then we have a huge challenge, a lot of people will be left behind. Going forward, the idea is to really start thinking about how do we provide these resources in a culturally sensitive way. How do we find community solutions, working with governments, working with schools, to be able to provide resources to these families.”

Consiglio: For more on this research, visit

I’m Brian Consiglio, with a spotlight on Mizzou.

Learn more about the research here

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