Mobile WiFi hotspots and Chromebook laptops will be available this fall for Washington State University students who do not have adequate equipment to participate in online instruction.

Students who are interested in borrowing a WiFi device and or a Chromebook free of charge can submit a request via the WiFi HotSpot Program and Computer Loan Program websites. Both pieces of equipment are available to WSU students across the university system.

“We don’t want students to second guess or hesitate. If you need a laptop or WiFi access please reach out to us,” said Craig Parks, vice provost for system innovation and policy. “We aren’t asking students to demonstrate economic need and WSU covers the cost of shipping the devices. The bottom line is we don’t want anyone’s education to be disrupted.”

The WiFI Hotspot and Computer Loan Programs were both started last spring to help facilitate the transition to distance learning for students who did not have adequate equipment to stream classes, obtain course materials, and interact online.

After seeing heavy demand over the spring and summer, both programs are buying additional devices in preparation for the start of the new semester.

The Office of the Provost and Information Technology Services recently finalized a new contract with Sprint to provide 640 mobile hotspot devices this fall to students who otherwise lack internet access. Each hotspot device comes with four months of service that starts when the user first activates the device.

“Students living outside of Sprint coverage in rural areas can also get access to high speed internet via one of many drive-in WiFi hotspots,” Parks said. WSU helped set up hundreds of these WiFI access points at tribal Extension centers, as well as schools, libraries, and community centers across the state.”

The university also purchased 200 additional Chromebooks to increase the overall inventory of the Computer Loan Program to 500 machines for the fall semester. Each computer comes with the full suite of Microsoft Office and Adobe services including Microsoft Word, Microsoft PowerPoint, Adobe Photoshop and more.

“If a student needs to add a particular program for a course, all they need to do is ask us. If it is a program we’re familiar with, we will generally let them install it,” Parks said. “We are currently working to set up a virtual desktop service to provide students with access to some design programs and other pieces of software that the Chromebooks don’t currently support.”

After receiving a Chromebook, the university places a $300 charge on the student’s account, which will be removed when the device is returned. If the student decides to buy the machine, they can let the Computer Loan Program know they are keeping it, and are charged the $300.  The mobile hotspots remain loaner only.