Addressing the Digital Divide in Higher Education

The digital divide is often defined in terms of access to computers and the internet.  However, this definition of the digital divide does not fully capture the extent of the disconnect between people and the technology that makes information available to them.  While the digital divide—in the sense of technology availability—has narrowed significantly in the past decade, there remain a large number of people who are unable to make full use of the internet and its associated applications.  Thus, scholarship on the digital divide has shifted away from providing access toward discussing barriers to inclusion in the “digital society.”  These barriers are new forms of the digital divide that limit both the adoption of the internet and its useful usage by certain social groups.  Consequently, the digital divide has been redefined by van Deursen and van Dijk (2015) to indicate four types of access necessary for utilizing the full potential of the internet and its applications: motivational access, material access, internet skills access, and internet usage access.  These new dimensions of access reveal further divides between urban and rural communities, between majority and minority groups, between higher and lower income populations, and between people with higher and lower levels of educational attainment (Armenta, Serrano, Cabrera, & Conte, 2012; Cohron, 2015).

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The Need for E-Learning in Higher Education

There are two major challenges confronting e-learning.

The two challenges confronting e-learning in higher education contexts are access to technology and professional development.

Despite some resistances, access to technology in the classroom has expanded rapidly in higher education, with many classrooms being outfitted with some form of technological enhancement in recent years. Televisions, DVD players, desktop computers, and projectors are all part of the makeup of the higher education classroom now and the rollout of new technologies seems to be proceeding apace.

When it comes to professional development, however, higher education is sorely out-of-date.  Despite the presence of new technologies in the classroom, many instructors are ill-equipped to use them and report rarely doing so in current research.  Resistances on the part of instructors to new technology is certainly a part of the problem, but the most pressing issue is the lack of professional development opportunities for expanding one’s knowledge and training in such technologies. Read More …