How the Digital Divide has Affected Online Education
Online learning has become an alternative to traditional forms of education in the past few years. It can be more flexible, more convenient, and more affordable than attending college classes in person. But online learning is not perfect: it doesn’t work for every student, and many students have been left behind by this emerging trend.
For online education to reach its full potential, we need to make sure that all students have access to the technology they need to benefit from it. Otherwise, some students will continue to fall through the cracks while others reap the benefits of this exciting new educational opportunity.
Now, this is not to say that online learning resources are just plain biased. Many students have benefited from online resources accessed from home or at public libraries, like the ones available at SweetStudy.com (which was earlier known as HomeworkMarket). The problem is one of access. As more and more public libraries close down, students who could once use these public resources to study, find themselves at a loss.
We have, therefore, written this article to highlight some of the chief problems associated with online education. If these problems are addressed, and each student, especially students from lower-income or historically oppressed backgrounds, are given proper and unlimited access to the online resources that benefit their more privileged peers, online education could become a truly revolutionary force in our time. That, and free and universal education.
Lack of Computers
The digital divide is a problem for many people, but it’s an especially big problem for students. The lack of computers and internet access in schools can have a significant impact on the quality of education that students receive. Students who don’t have access to technology at home often struggle with their school work, which can lead to lower test scores and reduced graduation rates.
The digital divide has also affected teachers’ abilities to teach effectively. Teachers who do not have access to computers or internet access in the classroom may find it difficult to incorporate technology into their lessons or use educational resources outside of school hours.
The digital divide affects more than just students and teachers; it also affects communities as a whole. Communities with high levels of poverty tend not only to have less access to technology overall but also have higher rates of unemployment and crime due to their lack of economic opportunities.
Lack of Stable Internet
Struggling to access the internet is a common problem for students living in rural areas. Internet connectivity is often limited due to the distance between homes and cellular towers, and this can make it difficult for students to stay connected.
For students living in urban or suburban areas, another barrier to accessing online education is the cost of high-speed internet services like cable or satellite TV. While these services may be available in your area at first glance, they aren’t necessarily cheap—and if you’re already paying for cable TV service, adding internet access could potentially double your monthly bill.
Technology is Expensive
One major factor that affects people’s ability to access online education is the cost of technology. It can be difficult for some students to acquire the necessary tools and devices needed to participate in an online course. In addition to purchasing a computer, many students also need to pay for software, internet access, and other technology that is required for their courses.
Although this may not seem like a huge barrier right now—after all, you probably already have those things at home—consider how quickly these costs can add up if you’re not careful! Software often costs hundreds of dollars per year in addition to monthly internet bills. And if your computer breaks down or needs repairs (or, heaven forbid, upgrades), then you’re going to have some hefty repair/maintenance/upgrade bills on top of everything else too!
It can feel overwhelming when trying to think about all these expenses at once; however, there are ways around them by researching different alternatives beforehand, such as buying used computers or taking advantage of free resources like public libraries. This means they aren’t completely out of reach, depending on how much money people make.
But as we’ve mentioned, public libraries are closing down due to a lack of funding and a general disinterest in community spaces that predates the COVID crisis. Where public libraries were once the heart of many communities, their closing down keeps students from accessing resources vital to their education and makes communities a little less close over time.
Teachers Aren’t Trained to Teach Online
One of the biggest challenges in online education is finding teachers who can effectively teach students. This is especially true at community colleges, where teachers are often not trained to teach online. Students aren’t the only ones who come from different economic backgrounds; teachers do, too.
As a result, teachers sometimes lack the necessary skills and experience to teach online courses. They may not know how to use technologies like Skype or Google Docs, or they may be uncomfortable with sharing their screen with their students. In addition, many teachers lack training in pedagogy (the study of learning) and instructional design (the process by which instruction is planned). This makes it such that they do not have the resources or training needed for teaching online classes.
Many teachers also do not have enough time available for training in new teaching methods because they are required to meet other commitments such as grading assignments and creating lectures for face-to-face classes on campus as well as preparing coursework materials such as syllabi that can be used by colleagues who teach similar subject matter but do not have access.
Students Aren’t Prepared for Online Learning
Students aren’t familiar with computers, the internet, and how to use them for learning. They also aren’t prepared for the learning environment of online education. Although this is not a barrier to all students, some do need additional help or resources to learn effectively. There are several guides on how to get started with computers and Internet access, except these are generally found online, and getting online is the first barrier to entry, as we’ve already mentioned.
Students Can’t Get Support From Teachers and Peers
Students aren’t able to get help from teachers or peers, which leads to a lack of support. In traditional classes, students have the opportunity to get feedback from their teachers and classmates. However, when you’re working on an online course by yourself, you’re often not getting that same kind of support.
Even if you do have someone in your class who is willing to help out (which is a rarity), it may be difficult for them—because they’re not seeing what you see on your screen—or because they don’t know how you’re trying to solve your problem and just want help with their projects.
This lack of support can be discouraging when trying new things and asking questions about how things work in an environment where everyone sees everything differently than they do because everyone has different backgrounds and experiences with technology.
The Digital Divide Prevents Some Students From Being Able to Benefit From Online Education
The digital divide is a term used to describe the gap between those who have access to the internet and those who don’t. The term itself was coined in 1997 by U.S. President Bill Clinton, who defined it as “the gap between people who have computers and phones and high-speed Internet access and those who do not.”
The digital divide affects many countries around the world, including Canada and Mexico, not just America (although it’s especially prevalent there). It also affects many different types of people—not just poor people or elderly people—because anyone can be left behind if they lack proper education or resources.
As we have seen, the current digital divide means that many students are being left behind when it comes to online education. While educational technology continues to improve access for some, there is still a long way to go before all students can truly benefit from it. The first step is identifying this problem and making sure that policy-makers and educators recognize the need for equal access for it to become a reality.