Digital Education, @ev, and the 'Broken Internet’

How education is redeeming the internet from the pathologies of Twitter and Facebook.

May 21, 2017

“I think the internet is broken...”

Evan Williams, founder of Medium - co-founder of Blogger and Twitter.  Quoted in NYTimes 5/20/17 - ‘The Internet Is Broken’: @ev Is Trying to Salvage It

Higher education people should be fighting back against the internet is broken meme.  

The internet that relies on surveillance, user generated content, and advertising supported click-bait may be broken.  But the education internet is healthy and thriving.

An internet dominated by advertising (Google, Facebook) and selling (Amazon) monopolies/monopolies may (in the long-run) be bad for society.  But the education internet continues to be a force for good.

Social networks, search engines, online stores, and streaming video platforms get lots of attention.  That makes sense, as the internet has completed upended the publishing, retail, and media industries.

The impact of the internet on education is, if anything, underappreciated.  

We know about the size of the online learning market.  Almost one-third of all students enrolled in postsecondary education take at least one online course.  About 3 million students take all their courses online, and a further 3 million take at least one online course.    

The levels and growth of online education - about two-thirds of all colleges saw their distance learning programs grow between 2012 to 2015 - understates the importance of online education to all of higher education.

Online learning has changed residential education.  Blended learning is breaking down the barriers between residential and online education.  Campus based courses are increasingly mediated by digital platforms - as online assessments, course videos, simulations, and adaptive learning environments complement traditional classroom activities.

The fast growing online and blended learning ecosystem is only one aspect of a changing educational landscape that has been made possible by the internet.  

When I speak to people who don’t work in higher education - and one of my favorite activities is speaking with alumni of the institution that I work - one of the key messages that I try to get across is just what an exciting time it is to work in higher education.  

As an industry, postsecondary education has many challenges.  (The cost disease is real - prices and student debt are too high - and adjunctification and fragile educator employment is not good for anyone). 

Despite all these challenges - and there are many - there is also a sense in higher education that we can figure this out.  That we we will find some way to stay true to our core values, while evolving, changing, and improving.

It is difficult to untangle the future of the internet from the future of higher education.  

Almost everything that we do - be it in open educational resources to traditional online and blended learning - will be mediated in some way by the internet.

Rather than seeing the internet as fundamentally broken, those of us working in digital learning see mostly upside and potential.  

Can you argue the other side? 

Can you point to specific areas where the internet has been a negative force for higher education?


Be the first to know.
Get our free daily newsletter.


Back to Top