Online Education – A Cause Of Disparities?

Online education:

Online education is a type of distance education that takes place independent of location – in contrast to conventional education that takes place in the confines of the same classroom day after day. With the advent of advanced technology every day, online education has become more prevalent and has changed significantly with every iteration.

All sectors, especially higher education, corporate training, and professional education, take advantage of the internet to provide education, training, and collaboration capabilities to a great extent, to geographically-dispersed populations for enhancing educational experiences and increasing their enthusiasm for learning.

One of the challenges faced in planning effective distance education programs is the selection of the appropriate mix of synchronous, asynchronous, and other activities. The determination of the roles of teachers and peers is yet another hurdle to overcome while planning a distance learning program.

Factors to consider when it comes to distance education include sophistication, quality, cost, and development time of online learning curricula, while rethinking and redefining educational activities, materials, and courses outside the four walls of a classroom.

Online learning versus conventional education:

Traditional education methods serve to be a role model for children of all ages. Sociologically, there are increased benefits when it comes to face-to-face imparting of knowledge and education, where the maturity and self-discipline levels of the child are still under construction and development. 

Classroom education is delivered by a single person, who may or may not have had extensive learning in the field of teaching and lecturing. It is important to understand that research and lectures are two exclusive fields of work, and a good professor must be an extensive education in both to be a great teacher.

In parallel, online education does not demand a single person do the research and deliver the wisdom as well – in fact, a relay chain of people can be created per field when it comes to researching knowledge and delivering it to students, thereby increasing the effectiveness of both fields

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There are a few hiccups that exist in online education, most of them usually amplified versions of pre-existing problems in conventional education. Exempli gratia – cheating. While it is relatively difficult to cheat on examinations in a human invigilated examination, it is very easy to cheat on online examinations unless advanced methods of anti-cheat are deployed, ruining the crux of the meaning of an examination.

As eLearn Magazine puts it, “Arguably the biggest opportunity in moving away from the confines of the classroom is the ability to redefine the notion of a course: What type of interaction is most beneficial to students? What will help them learn the best? Educators grapple with how to rethink education. 

As John Maynard Keynes said, “The difficulty lies, not in the new ideas, but in escaping the old ones, which ramify, for those brought up as most of us have been, into every corner of our minds.”

Disparities that arise from online education:

The single major necessary requirement when it comes to taking up an online education program is high-speed Internet. And where a resource is lacking in order to access beneficiary content, there exist disparities.

The Internet’s presence may feel global, but physically, it is not a worldwide establishment. A UPI study puts the approximation at 48%, wherein 3.58 billion people around the world have access to the Internet. In reference, the total global population is estimated to be 7.6 billion people.

With Africa and Asia facing the lowest Internet usages across the world, how do we find a solution to enable them access to online learning programs?

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The problem here is two-fold: economic disparity, and regional disparity.

Regional disparity:

The terrain of land varies across the world. But technology is uniform. And herein lies the problem – a one-size-fits-all network does not physically fit when it comes to more rugged, difficult terrain.

Another problem that causes regional disparity is land control. Freedom, like the internet, is not global. Political crises, terrorism, humanitarian causes, among many others, are some of the reasons why companies hesitate to create a network. People living in such beautiful facets of nature are left behind in the information race.

Navigation of challenging geography is a problem that is too costly to undertake by for-profit organizations. The less uniform terrain gets, the poorer the living situation is, money-wise. And so to undertake a costly project just so that people that cannot afford to pay can access the Internet is a debatable idea for many such organizations.

Economic disparity:

Even if all terrain can be made uniform, all people cannot.

The living situations of differing people are commonly different – in comparison, one of them always have a better living standard in comparison with the other. Hence, a minimum-wage worker that has to save for his child’s future may not prefer a commodity as luxurious as Internet access.

This gives rise to an unfair field of play for geographically and economically blessed people. Circumstantial advantages give some people an upper hand, and is usually fair – but knowledge is for all, and all must be equal when it comes to accessing whatever information they require.

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This is the age of information, a technological race to whoever can unlock access to the most. More information, better living – a virtuous cycle for all. But this must not be locked behind financial and/or geographical luck – it must be made available to one and all.

Contextually, such disparities give rise to the gap between children hailing from families with differing economic conditions. The rich-poor gap widens as one of them gain an advantage by unlocking access to advanced educational content, especially in the face of disasters or quarantines.

Money must not determine what a child can be, but it does. And while it requires an impossible solution to resolve, we can make it better for them by giving them a helping hand. Other forms of distance learning, such as self-learning and correspondence courses, are still very accessible by a huge chunk of the population, and someday we must be able to do the same with Internet-accessible educational content.



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