One of the shortfalls of online education, unfortunately, is a lack of Internet bandwidth in certain areas of the United States. According to a recent article that appeared on the Denver Post Web site, the “digital divide” is greater than we think.
Hardware Envy is So Yesterday
It used to be that we were envious of computer hardware. Now our jealousy is of the access some people have to high-speed Internet through cable television and satellite providers, as well as fiber optic access is select areas of the country. As we well know, a high-speed Internet connection is crucial to obtaining optimum benefits from online training courses. Without it, we might as well return to the traditional classroom.
Unfortunately, the quality of high-speed Internet access varies depending upon where you live. If you’re in a rural location, chances are, you don’t have access to top speeds. But, in urban centers and surrounding suburbs, you have lighting fast speeds and plenty of available bandwidth.
In addition, Internet access might be more costly in rural areas; less subscribers means passing along increased fees to existing users, while users in more populous areas might be able to get a break with the bundling options the cable and satellite providers entice us with.
“I think the divide has been redefined,” said Randy Boyer, executive director of the San Juan Boards of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES), which serves five counties in southwestern Colorado. “It’s more about whether you have equal access to what’s available through the technology — and no, we don’t right now. It’s a completely different divide than we used to have.”
At a time when “flipped” classrooms, online courses and blended learning — a combination of in-person and online instruction — present new educational opportunities for students, a lack of high-speed access to the Internet puts far-flung districts and the urban poor at a distinct disadvantage.
Many regions in the United States are grappling with the transition from classroom education to online training, and the problem of Internet access is only now coming to the forefront. States like Colorado are addressing the issue, but others need to get on the stick and upgrade public works in order to give learners in rural areas the access they need in order to take advantage of this most important ability to acquire education and much-needed skills online.
Tell us, does your area have adequate high speed Internet? Has poor connectivity kept you from obtaining the online training courses you need? We want to hear from you!