In all the hubbub over whether MOOCs (massive open online courses) are the way of future higher education, much of the discussion has focused on things such as monetizing courses, verifying the identity of exam-takers, whether to offer degree credits, and low completion rates.
But, as Andrew Barbour, executive editor of Campus Technology, points out in a viewpoint piece, there’s another major aspect being overlooked: insufficient or nonexistent broadband Internet access. Millions of people live in remote areas or urban pockets where broadband connections are iffy at best.
These are the people who—by virtue of their geographic distance, work schedule, or family situation—cannot get themselves to a college or university campus in person. They’re the ones who might benefit most from online education, including MOOCs.
Yet, as Barbour notes, MOOCs typically use a lot of video and other broadband-dependent content. Students without broadband are effectively shut out of MOOCs, and often other courses with online components as well.
“And it threatens to leave large swaths of the country isolated, uneducated, and unemployed, because broadband is the 21st-century equivalent of the interstates and the railroads rolled into one,” he says.