Tackling the Digital Divide with Free College Laptops

19 February 2021

Student engagement with digital learning at North Notts College (part of RNN Group alongside, Rotherham College, Dearne Valley College and University Centre Rotherham) has been boosted by the College providing hundreds of free laptops to its students.

The laptops were funded by North Notts College to help provide students access to online learning throughout the pandemic.

To date, the Group has distributed 592 laptops alongside 200 sim cards with hotspots to ensure those who don’t have access to Wi-Fi can access the internet. Staff are also in constant communication with tutors to ensure the needs of all learners experiencing digital poverty are addressed.

RNN Group Head of Quality and Learner Experience Rebecca Blackburn says throughout the pandemic the Colleges have worked extremely hard to ensure all students are able to access blended and fully remote, online learning.

“Last summer we took proactive steps to make an investment and support those in digital poverty. We placed an order for 600 laptops via Dell (one of our partners); it was a bit of a risk as we weren’t sure at that time exactly how many students needed a laptop, but we wanted to be able to provide equipment quickly and at the time there was delay in supply because demand was so great.”

Rebecca continued: “To succeed at blended learning – and more recently for many students, completing fully remote online learning – we have to make sure that all students have access to the right resources to be able to participate in and complete work that meets the needs of their course. That might involve Google Meets, webinars, videoing assessments and writing assignments, but if a student doesn’t have access to the right equipment to be able do those things, it can put them at a disadvantage. We strongly believe that every student should be able to access a high-quality education regardless of their situation.”

The initiative has had a huge impact on students who were previously struggling to access learning and engage in blended delivery activities. The laptops are also an important step to ensuring that students are developing much needed digital skills.

Rebecca says: “The impact COVID-19 has had on businesses is huge. Their response to pandemic has seen a major shift towards higher-level digital skills and knowledge and as result, this is something we need to prepare our learners to respond to. Many organisations have accelerated processes towards automation and it’s reported that 50% of the entire workforce will need reskilling by 2025. We were fortunate as a Group that we could respond quickly and had a good foundation of digital skills across the Group already being developed.”

If you are a student that needs a laptop or access to Wi-Fi please contact your Tutor.


Can you help support our students?

We are always looking to work with companies who can help students expand their digital skillsets, please get in touch with Rebecca Blackburn at if you would like to discuss how you can support. 

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