Web-Based Distance Learning and the Second Digital Divide

Web-Based Distance Learning and the Second Digital Divide

Sheryl Burgstahler (University of Washington, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-935-9.ch087
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Abstract

In no field have we witnessed a greater impact of emerging technologies than in that of distance learning. Correspondence courses using printed material and postal mail have been replaced by Web-based courses with the potential to make learning available to anyone, anywhere at anytime. This potential cannot be realized, however, unless two digital divides are eliminated. Some people are on the wrong side of the first “digital divide” between the technology “haves” and the technology “have-nots”. The benefits of technology are less available to those who are poor, who live in rural areas, who are members of minority racial or ethnic groups, and/or who have disabilities (Kaye, 2000; U.S. Department of Commerce, 1999). Lack of access to new technologies limits their options for taking and teaching technology-based courses. This is true for individuals with disabilities, even though the rapid development of assistive technology makes it possible for an individual with almost any type of disability to operate a computer (2003 Closing the Gap Resource Directory, 2003). Unfortunately, many people with disabilities still do not have access to these empowering tools, putting them on the “have not” side of the first digital divide.

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