Online Learning and Developing Nations

Online Learning and Developing Nations

In developing nations around the globe, online education has become a new front in the war on poverty. In fact, the main topic for 2011’s International Distance Education Conference in Penang, Malaysia, was “Achieving Sustainable Development for the Bottom Billion” – in other words, how distance education can help the billion most impoverished people on earth.

For one thing, it’s much cheaper to offer online learning to people in developing nations than it is to build new schools and colleges in those regions, not to mention the difficulty of recruiting qualified educators to move to those places to teach. In addition, in many instances children are needed to perform basic chores necessary for a family’s survival, and therefore don’t have the time to walk to and from school and take classes all day. With the means of education – the computer – inside the home, students would have the time to do those chores and receive a quality education. 

In some developing countries, girls are prohibited from going to school. Schools for girls are routinely attacked, and the girls who dare attend those institutions often face physical danger. However, if girls were to secretly take lessons at home on laptops, the result could be profound and wide-scale social change over time. 

There are plenty of challenges in this pursuit, however. Many residents of developing nations have no electricity, telephones or indoor plumbing. And to learn online, students obviously need computers and Internet connections – preferably high-speed connections at that. (Students would also have to learn computer skills, too, to be efficient online learners.) Massive government infrastructure projects would thus have to be enacted, and most developing governments simply don’t have the funding for those kinds of projects. And even if they did have the funds, some developing governments would fight Internet access for their residents, especially considering how social media organization led to the overthrow of several Middle Eastern regimes in 2011.  

Still, distance learning in developing regions is underway. The World Bank’s African Virtual University, for example, now educates many citizens of African nations below the Sahara, in places of desperate poverty and starvation. India has been helping train its poorest citizens to become IT professionals through online schools like the Indira Gandhi National Open University. Many more such online schools are in the planning stages, offering hope for education to families who’ve had no such hope for generations.

Online learning market place

Apr 27, 2012