Sunday, April 5, 2015

Online learning holds great promise — but mostly for the well-off - Marc Sollinger, Public Radio International

It’s easy to be hopeful about online learning; a world where anyone — regardless of income, race, or gender — is able to access the same high-quality instruction. Some have imagined that it could truly democratize education. Perhaps even reduce inequality, break down barriers, and give kids from poorer neighborhoods a shot at on-demand lessons. That’s all a wonderful dream, but according to Mimi Ito, a cultural anthropologist at the University of California Irvine, it’s just that: a dream. “Often, when we think of the open Internet and resources being freely available, we assume it has a democratizing function. That anybody can access this stuff, it’s free and open, so therefore it must be more equitable. The sad fact is that we know historically, that when you provide fancier technology, it actually increases inequity.” Still, even with all this inequality, Ito says there is a ray of hope about the future of online learning. “The sector around around educational technology is very progressive and quite aware of these issues, and is grappling with them in a serious way.”

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