Digital Divide Discussion from ELT 7001 at NCU - Principles and Practices in E-Learning


Access to learning opportunities is not only about enrolling in a course or professional development opportunity and having the funds to do so, access is also about how to ensure anyone located anywhere has the ability to access learning opportunities. e-Learning has opened the door to education for anyone with a computer, or access to a computer, located anywhere and at any time. The term digital divide illustrates how access is not available to anyone anywhere as income plays a major role. “While cultural influences may figure in some of these situations, poverty, by and large, drives the largest wedge between the haves and the have-nots when it comes to technology” (Maeroff, 2003, p. 220). Income levels of individual families and of countries as a whole influence whether digital seamlessness exists or whether digital nothingness is the norm.

The challenge is to ensure that anyone in the world has access to learning opportunities. This will require an ongoing commitment to fund initiatives which will support required changes to the infrastructure. What is true everywhere will be the need for all countries “to install and continually renew a system of inter-connection with the capacity to carry the enormous volume of traffic that will surge down the information highway by the end of the decade” (Maeroff, 2003, p. 220). The key here is not only this decade, but in decades to come as technology change occurs at an increasingly faster pace every year. “In this digital democracy, the role of education is central. Educational systems, public and private, face unparalleled calls to provide the infrastructure for a stable and successful society” (Miles & Milliron, 2000, p. 3).

e-Learning opportunities have profoundly impacted the global learning environment and the expectations of employers in the 21st century. The ability to access e-training opportunities which enhance the technology skills and abilities of workers means there is no excuse for individuals to be technology illiterate. If educational institutions do not teach the skills or have the means to teach the skills, future employment opportunities may be limited. “Young people who do not acquire ease and comfort with technology as students are apt to shy away from or never be hired into jobs requiring extensive use of technology” (Maeroff, 2003, p. 220). The digital divide goes beyond learning opportunities and there exists a need for the digital rich to find ways in which to share the wealth with the digital poor.

Resource Article:

Junui, S. (2005). Digital democracy in higher education: Bridging the digital divide. Innovate, 2(1). Retrieved from http://www.innovateonline.info/pdf/vol2_issue1/Digital_Democracy_in_Higher_Education-__Bridging_the_Digital_Divide.pdf

Note: This article was originallly published in Innovate (http://www.innovateonline.info/) as: Juniu, S. 2005. Digital democracy in higher education: Briding the digital divide. Innovate 2(1). http://www.innovateonline.info/index.php?view=article&id=75 (accessed April 24, 2008). The article is reprinted here with permission of the publisher as a resource article and link, The Fischler School of Education and Human Services at Nova http://www.innovateonline.info/index.php?view=article&id=75 Southeastern University

References:

Maeroff, G. (2003). A classroom of one. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.

Miles, C., & Milliron, M. (2000, November - December). Education in a digital democracy: Leading the charge for learning about, with, and beyond technology. Educause Quarterly, 35(6). Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/EDUCAUSE+Review/EDUCAUSEReviewMagazineVolume35/EducationinaDigitalDemocracyLe/157656