Classroom Technology

See the Cities Best (and Worst) Positioned for Virtual Learning

By Alyson Klein — January 27, 2021 1 min read
Image of Seattle skyline

Virtual learning continues to be a tough lift for most city school districts in the country. But some urban school districts are much better positioned for remote learning than others simply because of the cities where they are located, concludes a recent analysis.

The findings underscore longstanding concerns about digital equity that have been heightened by the pandemic.

So where is the best city to be for virtual learning?

Seattle. (Yes, the home of some big tech companies, including Amazon and Microsoft, although it is not clear there’s a direct connection.)

And what city’s tech infrastructure was least prepared for online learning?

Detroit.

That’s according to an analysis, published Jan. 18, by Grand Canyon University, a private, for-profit Christian school in Phoenix that offers online learning options.

The analysis examined a mix of factors, including: how many households across the city have a home computer, how many have a broadband internet subscription, the average number of people in each household, the median household income, the average hourly rate for tutors, the annual cost of infant care, statewide school spending, and the statewide percentage of children in poverty.

It also factored in the percentage of kids age 2 to 17 diagnosed with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder with Hyperactivity because, according to GCU, research has shown that students in that population have a particularly tough time with digital learning.

Seattle’s high ranking is partly due to its high median household income of more than $85,000, meaning that families have the means to pay for broadband access, computers, and daycare. Detroit is low on the list in part because 20 percent of households do not have access to a computer.

Here are the top ten cities best positioned for virtual learning:

  1. Seattle
  2. Virginia Beach, Va.
  3. Portland, Ore.
  4. San Francisco
  5. Salt Lake City
  6. Denver
  7. San Diego
  8. San Jose, Calif.
  9. Raleigh, N.C.
  10. Minneapolis

And here’s the bottom ten:

  1. Detroit
  2. Memphis, Tenn.
  3. New Orleans
  4. Miami
  5. Birmingham, Ala.
  6. Cleveland
  7. Dallas
  8. Hartford, Conn.
  9. San Antonio
  10. Kansas City, Mo.
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