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Samantha Byrne

EH25310

Assignment 2 –The Digital Divide in Education This assignment will explore, analyse and compare the digital divide present when accessing both traditional Higher Education and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). Until recently, learners could really only access higher level education from enrolling at a University, where they could attend lectures and visit the campus library. MOOCs have facilitators, participants, course material, and a start/end date just like traditional universities do. However, MOOCs are also free to access and are accessible and flexible, MOOCs are not just places to learn a topic, they also allow learners to connect and collaborate while developing Click the picture to take a look at Dave Cormier’s YouTube video on MOOCs.

digital skills, Cormier (2010: Online). The digital divide has no precise definition; it changes from the view

point of the author/theorist. While some define the divide as unequal access to the internet, others define the divide as the unequal ability to make use of the internet, Warschauer (2011: online). This assignment will look at these approaches to the digital divide with reference to the concepts of traditional and online education already outlined. Additionally, issues relating to research and scholarship, copyright and plagiarism and digital literacies will also be outlined. When the Coalition Government came into power in the UK in 2010, university fees skyrocketed from £3290 in 2010/2011, (Rodgers, 2010: online), to a £9000 average in 2012/2013 (Buckley-Irvine and Burn-Murdoch, 2012: Online) for learners from the UK and EU. According to Ellis (2013: online) “58.4 per cent felt their first year wasn’t worth the £9000”. It is inevitable that £9000 tuition fees will have an impact on people’s decisions to head to university, when free access to MOOC’s is available.

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Samantha Byrne

EH25310

As suggested in the introduction, some will define the Digital Divide as unequal access to technology and/or the internet; this can also be seen within Wakefield’s (2010: online) report for the BBC. This section will look at access to Universities and MOOCs from this approach. The drawback of gaining access to MOOC’s is of course, access to technology and the costs of accessing the internet. While MOOC’s fully require learners to have full internet access, traditional universities don’t fully. To enrol into university, most students will apply from college through UCAS, others may apply in different ways, assignments usually require students to include a variety of sources and so access to the internet is inevitable, also when submitting assignments students are usually required to submit online, for example via Turnitin. By looking at this, it is clear that internet access is needed to gain access to and to study at University, it cannot be avoided, but the difference between traditional Universities and MOOCs, is that universities offer more choice to access technology and the internet via their libraries. Whereas to access MOOCs, although it can be achieved through a public computer, overall for practical reasons, the demanding nature of MOOCs probably requires learners to have access to a personal computer, as software may need to be downloaded and a large workload may be required and so a personal computer is more practical. Therefore it may be that traditional universities offer greater opportunities for access and does not restrict learners with access to technology, though it does come with a substantial price. The previous statement about UCAS brings this assignment to another phase in the digital divide, accessibility to courses and the ability to effectively make use of the internet. Most students can only enrol into a University if they achieve the minimum UCAS points required. As stated on the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) website, Universities already expect learners to be working at a certain level and so this limits who can attend 2


Samantha Byrne

EH25310

university. MOOCs however, are accessible for anyone who is interested in the topic, though to collaborate effectively, learners may be required to occupy certain skills, these will be discussed further on. There are many MOOCs available to join in the present day; MOOC List provides a list of MOOCs from various providers. Cormier (2010: online) suggests that MOOCS are: open, participatory, distributed and promote life-long networked learning. Under participatory, which can to some extent run side by side with accessibility, Cormier states that there are no assignments, but learners can collaborate with each other on material. This raises the question as to whether MOOCs are as freely accessible as first thought? Some learners may not have the skills to contribute as much as others and as suggested by Liyanagunawarden “being up-to-date with the ongoing discussions can be challenging or even overwhelming” and “many MOOC participants struggle to keep going” (Liyanagunawardena et al, 2013: online). This is where the digital divide is evident, for people such as Martha Lane Fox (2013: online) Click picture to take a look at Martha Lane Fox’s blog on the Digital Divide.

and Virginia Eubanks (2011: online), it is not the lack of access that is causing the divide, but the

lack of skills that enable people to use technology and the internet

Click picture to take a look at Virginia Eubanks, talking about the Digital Divide.

effectively. Prensky (2001) proposed two terms relating to the amount of digital skills people possess; ‘Digital Natives’ being those who were born in the digital age and are fluent in digital literacies, and ‘Digital Immigrants’ are those who were born outside of the digital age and therefore have to adapt and learn the digital language. This suggests that not everyone has the ability to take part in MOOCs, as supported by Liyanagunawardena et al,

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Samantha Byrne

EH25310

(2013: online) and accessibility is not as open as first thought. However, Prensky (2009) later reconsidered these terms as a reaction to the growth of the use of technology by the entire population and proposed ‘Digital Wisdom’, from which he suggests that technology “can be used to make us not just smarter but truly wiser” (Prensky, 2009:Online). It may be that with the continual growth of technology, more learners may come to occupy some degree of digital wisdom, and be more able to effectively take part in MOOCs. Some may suggest that the ability to search for reliable sources is in itself a skill. ‘Crap detection’ is what Rheingold (2009: online) suggests we use to seek out valuable information on the internet. For those with access to books, for example at a University library, crap detection is probably not needed; it has already been done via peer

Click here to go to Howard Rheingold (2009) blog, about Crap Detection.

review and publication. Online however, reliable sources are less easy to come across, as anyone can post online. Crap Detection processes as suggested by Rheingold (2009: online) include: identifying the author, their professional status, their agenda and the sources they have included, and to look at reviews of them from other sources. It could be that those studying at University may find it slightly easier to ‘crap detect’ than those taking part in MOOCs as they might have been taught how to look for reliable sources online, they also have free access to a library that offers course material. A brief statement was made previously about digital literacies, Rheingold talks about how digital skills are different to digital literacies. According to Rheingold (2009: online) skills are determined to the individual, by this he means that skills are created by the individual for the individual. Click here to watch Howard Rheingold (2011) video on Crap Detection.

However Rheingold (2011: online) suggests that individuals need to 4


Samantha Byrne

EH25310

go past 'skills' and occupy 'literacies'. Unlike skills, digital literacies involve collaborative processes, these are: attention, participation, cooperation, critical consumption and network awareness. It may be that even though there are no qualifications needed to access MOOCs, instead learners may be required to occupy literacies as a tool of crap detection as a result of the aim being to work collaboratively. On the other hand, those at University may only occupy skills of crap detection because students usually concentrate on their own assignments rather than helping others. Regardless of digital literacies and skills, the majority of MOOCs fail to provide learners with accreditation at the end of the course; therefore there is debate as to whether MOOCs are useful or a waste of time. Williams (2013: online) discusses that universities provide learners with qualifications and are therefore the most important form of education, however, Williams also adds that MOOCs can be useful also, because they keep learners up-to-date with information and can help them take their career to the next level. To conclude, Universities offer more opportunities to access to technology via their libraries, compared to MOOCs which may restrict learners’ access to technology, to owning a personal computer. However, as people such as Martha Lane Fox (2013: online) and Virginia Eubanks (2011: online) suggest, it is not the lack of access that is causing the divide in Higher Education, but the lack of skills that enable learners to use technology and the internet effectively. It may be that those attending University are on the bottom end of the digital divide according to Rheingold (2009: online), because students may only possess digital skills, compared to those taking part in MOOCs, who are more likely to possess digital literacies, and possess digital wisdom as suggested by Prensky (2009: online). Words: 1538.

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Samantha Byrne

EH25310

Bibliography Journals: Prensky, M. (2001) Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants. On the Horizon. In: MCB University Press, 9 (5), p.1-6 Online Journals: Liyanagunawardena, T., Adams, A., & Williams, S. (2013) MOOCs: A Systematic Study of the Published Literature 2008-2012 [Online]. Available from: http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/1455/2531 [Accessed 17th March 2014] Prensky, M. (2009) H. Sapiens Digital: From Digital Immigrants and Digital Natives to Digital Wisdom [Online]. Available from: http://www.wisdompage.com/Prensky01.html [Accessed 21st March 2014] Online Sources: Buckley-Irvine, N. & Burn-Murdoch, J. (2012) Guardian university tuition fees league table [Online]. Available from: http://www.theguardian.com/education/datablog/2012/aug/15/students-tuition-fees-2012-leaguetable-data [Accessed 17th March 2014] Cormier, D. (2010) What is a MOOC? [Online]. Available from: th https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eW3gMGqcZQc [Accessed 17 March 2014] Ellis, D. (2013) University: was it worth it? The £9,000 question [Online]. Available from: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/universityeducation/student-life/10036720/University-was-it-worth-itThe-9000-question.html [Accessed 17th March 2014] Eubanks, V. (2011) Deconstructing the Digital Divide [Online]. Available from: th https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pJwZcUJQFkk&feature=youtu.be [Accessed 20 March 2014] Lane-Fox, M. (2013) Our Digital Future – Tackling the digital divide [Online]. Available from: http://www.thedrum.com/opinion/2013/01/04/martha-lane-fox-our-digital-future-tackling-digital-divide [Accessed 20th March 2014] Rheingold, H. (2009) Crap Detection 101 [Online]. Available from: th http://blog.sfgate.com/rheingold/2009/06/30/crap-detection-101/ [Accessed 19 March 2014] Rheingold, H. (2011) Crap Detection 101 [Online]. Available from: th https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AHVvGELuEqM [Accessed 19 March 2014] Rodgers, S. (2010) Tuition fees 2010/11: find out how much each university charges [Online]. Available from: http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2010/oct/12/tuition-fees-universities [Accessed 17th March 2014] Wakefield, J. (2010) World wakes up to digital divide [Online]. Available from: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/8568681.stm [Accessed 20th March 2014] Warschauer, M. (2011) A Literacy Approach to the Digital Divide [Online]. Available from: http://www.gse.uci.edu/person/warschauer_m/docs/literacy-approach.pdf [Accessed 7th March 2014] Williams, M. (2013) Online learning can help your career, but degrees are here to stay [Online]. Available from: http://www.theguardian.com/education/2013/nov/14/the-future-of-the-degree-online-learning [Accessed 17th March 2014]

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The Digital Divide in Higher Education