Tuesday, March 05, 2013

The access and bandwidth divide in online education

What if online classes and MOOCs really do take over the world? Will that exacerbate the "digital divide?" Will poor and rural US students have to seek out public libraries and other public access spots? An article in the Chronicle of Higher Education focuses on that question.

What about students in developing nations? Good luck taking a Coursera course in, say, Myanmar or Cuba. In much of the world, Internet access is too expensive for the average person and, even if they can get online, too slow to effectively use a modern Web site.

As online courses increase in sophistication, bandwidth will become an even greater impediment to participation.

The Guinean students shown here are studying under street lights (click to enlarge). Will they have access to global online education?

Update 3/6/2013

A followup article talks about the impact of data caps for online students in the US. Again, the situation is much worse in developing nations.

Update 12/8/2013

A University of Pennsylvania study of a million users who signed up for one of 17 courses they offered through Coursera showed that few were from developing nations.