FacultyEnlight

BRIDGING THE DIGITAL DIVIDE TO GET MORE STUDENTS ONLINE

In recent years, students have clamored to take advantage of online courses in order to free up their schedules for work, internships, child-rearing, and other important responsibilities. Despite the recent proliferation of online courses and degree programs thanks to partnerships between colleges and universities and startups such as edX, Coursera and Udacity that offer massive open online courses (MOOCs), there still remain those who are unable to take full advantage of online courses.

Even in the digital age, a divide still exists between those who have access to high-speed Internet at home and those who do not. According to available numbers from the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, 22 percent of adults with less than a high school education as well as 52 percent of high school graduates have broadband access at home. This leaves these individuals and their children at a marked disadvantage, given that college attendees and graduates statistically tend to have much higher rates of broadband adoption.

According to the San Jose Mercury News, San Jose State University recently encountered issues while offering MOOCs to high school students on an experimental basis. The school found that some of the lower-income teens who attended the high school did not have access to either computers or the high-speed Internet access required to keep up with the coursework. The problems that some of the individuals who could best be served by digital innovation in education continue to face do pose challenges to the new model. To remedy the issue, the high school made available a computer lab and faculty support in order to help the students understand and complete course material.

Microsoft is also pitching in. The company recently announced a crowdfunding program called “Chip In,” that promises to help students by paying for 10% of a personal computer or tablet purchase if they can secure the other 90% from friends and family. This seasonal program has the potential to assist many students in getting their first computer just in time for the fall semester.

Over time, the digital divide has shrunk as costs for computers and internet access have decreased. With assistance from schools, upstarts, and inveterate organizations, more students than ever will be able to keep up with burgeoning digital trends in education.

Image courtesy the San Jose Mercury News