Report Explores How Education Technologies Can Reach A Mass Market

It’s probably fair to admit that online education is just like any other technology, in that it was accompanied by considerable hype around the revolutionary impact it might have.  Indeed, the promise does appear considerable, with platforms such as MOOCs providing high quality tuition for free to students around the world.  The potential to reach those locked out of existing educational opportunities is significant, and yet that promise hasn’t really been realized (yet), as most students to date have been those already enamored with the existing education system.

A new report explores why this is, and what can be done about it.  The researchers compiled evidence from a collection of researchers, educators and technologists.  They shared the challenges they faced, and the solutions to overcome them so that learning technologies can provide the greatest benefits for the most vulnerable in society.

Here are some of the solutions they came up with:

  • Unite around shared purpose – It was thought important that projects are delivered by all stakeholders to ensure that they’re suitably attuned to the social and cultural contexts within which learners go about their work.
  • Align home, school and community – To reduce the digital divide, try and build the capacity of parents and mentors alongside the capacity of the children.  This kind of intergenerational learning can not only provide adults with new skills, but also strengthen family ties.
  • Connect to the interests and identities of minority youth – Peer learning communities can be great, but if they reflect a dominant culture they can exclude minorities.  The team believe this can be overcome when safe affinity spaces for minorities are created, and opportunities exist for the connection of interests outside of school to those inside.
  • Focus on the needs of subgroups – It’s especially useful to fully understand the needs, and obstacles, of subgroups so that programs can be designed specifically with them in mind.

“We stand at the cusp of widespread adoption of new technologies that have the potential to both radically reduce or exacerbate existing forms of educational inequity. A concerted push for research, innovation and joint action around a common purpose of deploying learning technologies in the service of equity could dramatically enhance our understanding of how new technologies can truly democratize education. The time is ripe for a coalition that unites research, practice and design, and that cuts across the public-private divide in the service of a more equitable future for learning technologies,” the authors say.