Online Learning is Democratizing Higher Education
By Ross Taylor |
Higher education is critical to our social and economic success; it empowers people to become capable, well-educated, and skilled citizens who can compete in a sustainable, diversified and knowledge-intensive international economy. The ever increasing demand for quality knowledge has grown to the point where accessibility has become one of its biggest problems. These problems include excessively high prices for those who are lucky enough to get their university applications accepted while being too far away from campus.
Will there be enough space for all the applicants? If one does get accepted, how does one physically get there? And how will one be able to afford it?
“What any person in the world can learn, almost all persons can learn if provided with appropriate prior and current conditions of learning.” - Benjamin Bloom
Breaking Down Barriers
Universities and other higher education forms are trying to answer a lot of these questions by taking their courses online—thanks to companies like Google, who are taking great strides to provide free internet access to the developing world. We can already see the benefits of Google's efforts in Cape Town. People in 125 locations across Langa, Khayelitsha, Gugulethu, Delft, Elsies River, and Philippi have currently connected to Google’s free everyday Internet connectivity called “Google Station.” Facebook, LinkSure, SpaceX, and other companies are launching satellite projects to provide internet access worldwide. These efforts are allowing hundreds of millions of people the opportunity to pursue the education they need online. Universities are seeing this as an opportunity for growth, as they are pouring money and resources into developing and honing their online teaching methods, putting aside old ideals to pursue better ways of teaching.
Governments are also seeing the benefits of online learning, and some have even started implementing and amending laws to help further break down the barriers to entry. In the 90s, the US government implemented the 50% rule that required students to take at least half of their classes on campus to qualify for federal financial aid. This was because online education was seen as an inferior way to learn. The Higher Education Reconciliation Act of 2005 was signed into law by President Bush in 2006 and essentially repealed the 50% rule, allowing students to receive federal financial aid while attending online programs. Since then, financial aid for students enrolled in online programs has only increased. Today, the number of colleges with financial aid for online students has grown exponentially.
Taking higher education online will forever change the way people learn. It brings the value of education to the people, allowing them to make a new start in a different career regardless of their geographic location or current financial situation.
The internet has presented an opportunity for education, one that is flexible for those willing to learn and inclusive, connecting more students and teachers than ever before.
Perhaps the most exciting part of Online Education is how fast it is evolving and how it is now not only an acceptable way to learn but a respectable one. Seeing both Government and Enterprise take this so seriously brings hope for the future of learning and teaching.
Motion Graphics Artist at Construct