By Benjamin Lennett and Danielle Kehl
Will the Internet remake education? Prestigious universities like Stanford and Georgetown now offer free classes to any student with an Internet connection and an attention span. Educators and policy makers believe these new online courses could make higher education more available and affordable for all.
The key word here: could. As people struggle to sort the good from the bad in the world of massive open online education, some are already asking, as The Chronicle did recently, “For Whom Is College Being Reinvented?”
But even that debate rests on a fundamental assumption that access to the courses themselves is not a barrier. Today, data caps—monthly limits that force Internet users to pay for a specific amount of data and bill them even more if they exceed the limit—are proliferating. They threaten to put the brakes on this potential online revolution.
Although much of the data-cap debate has focused on how these restrictions affect streaming-video services like Netflix, a recent study by the Open Technology Institute found that the caps also create barriers to using other data-intensive services, including online education. Sites like Coursera and Udacity, which offer free online lectures and interactive feedback, are growing in popularity, as are downloadable lectures on iTunes.
[ Full article available at The Chronicle of Higher Education: http://chronicle.com/article/Caps-on-Data-Use-Dim-Online/137653/ ]