I teach at the College of New Caledonia, and only 8 of the 21 First Nations communities served by us have access to broadband internet. It’s easy for the Ministry to forget not everyone has equal access to technology or the infrastructure needed for online (distributed) learning.
This is on top of the issues Jan Weiten has alluded to in her excellent comment about the poor fit between our most vulnerable ABE students and online learning–the research shows that the students who are most successful at online learning are students who already have good academic skills. Our students are usually coming to school to learn those skills.
Here is some interesting reading from one of Columbia University’s series of research papers on the effects of online learning:
Online learning has generated enthusiasm for its potential to promote greater access to college by reducing the cost and time of commuting and by allowing students to study on a schedule that is optimal for them.
The enthusiasm surrounding these and other innovative, technology-based programs has led educators to ask whether online learning could be leveraged to increase the academic access, progression, and success of low-income and underprepared college students as well. However, this review of the postsecondary literature on online learning strongly suggests that online coursework–at least as currently and typically implemented–may hinder progression for low-income and underprepared students.
Online Learning: Does It Help Low-Income and Underprepared Students? (Assessment of Evidence Series), by Shanna Smith Jaggars