It is well documented that there is a correlation between education and income. Well-educated people tend to earn more than uneducated people do. Increasing global access to education should serve to reduce or perhaps even eradicate income inequality and global poverty.
Education technology is shaping up to be a promising means of delivering the increased access to education that is so desperately needed. Technologies such as online degree programs and massive online open courses (MOOCs) are creating opportunities for disadvantaged people in developing countries and even in disadvantaged areas of developed countries to obtain free or low-cost education without enduring the disadvantages of culture shock or prohibitively high travel expenses. Prestigious academic institutions such as Columbia University in New York, New York, Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama and RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia are creating online offerings for global citizens in a variety of their most popular specializations, ranging from certificates in environmental sustainability to MBA degrees to PhD degrees in software engineering.
At this point in time, such academic programs are beneficial, but they haven’t made much difference in solving the world’s massive poverty problem. Before we can solve that problem, we must first understand the things that are currently hindering educational technologies from eradicating income inequality. The following are 5 of the biggest issues:
1. Lack of Awareness of the Technology
Many underprivileged populations do not understand that new educational opportunities are becoming available to them. They’ve never heard of MOOCs. They have no idea that affordable online degree programs exist.
Possible Solution: Perhaps ed tech professionals could develop programs for educating governments about how to make their citizens aware of the opportunities available to them. Nonprofits and for-profit education technology companies could also play a role in educating underserved populations about the opportunities that are available.
2. Language Barriers
Currently, the vast majority of online degree programs and MOOCs make coursework available in English. There are also MOOCs available in French and some other languages. Unfortunately, few of these courses are available in languages spoken by the world’s poorest populations.
Possible Solution: Volunteer course translators could help to solve this problem.
3. High Cost of Technology
In a world where more than one billion of the earth’s inhabitants still live without electricity, not everyone can afford a computer, the power to plug it in or the high-speed internet connection needed to access online video classes.
Possible Solution: Nonprofits, volunteers and governments could get involved with helping to make education technology available to poverty stricken populations — perhaps through public libraries or other public infrastructure so that it remains accessible to all.
4. Ignorance of How to Use Technology
Underserved populations don’t necessarily understand how to use the technology that is available to them.
Possible Solution: Volunteers or public programs will be needed to educate people on how to use developing educational technologies. MOOCs, online courses and other education technologies could be used to supplement public education systems around the globe.
5. Lack of Motivation
Motivation to use educational technology is likely to be lacking unless someone explains its advantages. In some developing countries, parents are using online classes for homeschooling their children. This is an ideal way to use the technology, as the students have someone to guide them in its use and help to motivate them in their learning. Without someone to hold them accountable for learning, motivation often wanes. This happens even in affluent and well educated populations, as evidenced by the typical low completion rate of MOOCs.
Possible Solution: Online educational technologies will be more effective if providers can find ways of holding students accountable for course completion. One possible way this could be accomplished is through peer mentoring groups or peer study groups. Students involved in study groups could support each other and hold each other accountable for completing their online coursework. It would take effort on the part of course providers or volunteers to organize the study groups.
These are 5 of the most compelling problems that need to be solved before education technology can successfully eradicate global income inequality. If we as educators make an effort to work together at implementing solutions to these problems, we will succeed at dramatically reducing global poverty or perhaps even someday eliminating it.
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