Education is about sharing knowledge, social networking for teaching and learning and for accreditation and assessment. Technology today can indeed make it easier to make education more accessible and affordable for all people. A student today has the ability to sit in on a class via the Internet from MIT and in the very next hour shift to another class from Stanford, and so on. This opens up the world of possibilities for certain learners who would never have had such opportunities. However, I could not help but ask myself who is this really benefitting? Is the average person, who struggling for a job and has no time or money for a traditional education going to be truly motivated to go on a quest to seek out knowledge from these institutions, however prestigious they may be, without the prospect of any reward or monetary incentives down the road. Are the types of learners that this system (of free learning, free access) claims to potentially help through the attainment of knowledge even prepared to benefit from such a system? How can students who can barely able to finish high school be expected to thrive as self-learner in an online environment?
Organizations like the KhanAcademy are indeed attempting to bridge the gap between the rich and underprivileged students by offering now free instructional videos, practice for various topics and interactive test prep, services which underprivileged students were traditionally lock out of. In 2015 in partnership with the College Board they are planning free test prep software to help all students get ready for the SAT test.
Another angle to consider are the online learning institutions that accept all students for a price. They wave around the prospect of the degree no matter what your background is in a short amount of time at a very high cost. They calculatingly even provide their version of financial aid, which equates usually to loans for their high price tuition. and in the environment of these online schools, it is pay to play where you pay first and play at your own will. The problem with this is that many of the accepted applicants are by no means prepared for the rigors of the coursework they are faced with and inevitably discontinue their enrollment and are simply left with staggering debt. Is this what we mean by accessible education for all?
Teach Now (my personal “favorite”) offers 9 months long course to get Master’s degree and teacher certification all for only $23,800. According to their website their program prepares teachers “to think digital who can create ways to educate with smartphones instead of taking them away””
University of Phoenix – offers hundreds different degrees with an average 4 year degree cost of $66,340…