By Caryn Sever
We are witnessing the death of the information age.
There is a continued assault on education from this administration and its cronies. Efforts to privatize and silo education, tax graduate students for their education benefits, and the looming threat of net neutrality reversal, all seem to take aim at learners, benefiting the pockets of some and the education of none. There are countless opportunities to criticize the Trump administration on education, but for this article, we will focus on net neutrality.
For over a decade, online education has grown to reach millions. It is one of the great equalizers, allowing access to those whose schedules or location prohibited them from ever dreaming of continued education or a college degree. It doesn’t stop there; life-long learning and vocational training has never been more accessible. Have you ever watched a free “how-to” video on YouTube? How about taken a class through Udacity? Have you participated in a program through Coursera, Great Courses Plus, Udemy, or the like? The options of online education seem limitless. Open internet principles otherwise known as Net Neutrality provides the opportunity to unlimited education and online resources.
A study conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2016 notes that adults with access to technology and resources are more likely to become online learners leading to job security and advancement. Net neutrality reversal results in learner isolation, affecting wage increase. This is demonstrated in K-12 populations who have little to no internet access, causing “homework gaps”. Students with slower or limited internet access are far less likely to excel in school than their peers with full access.
Online education is a powerful tool for those with disabilities. It grants them an equal opportunity to engage in a learning community. It connects learners who would not have the ability to participate in a face-to-face class. Reversal will strip these people of their ability to continue their education and vocational training inhibiting their ability to enter the workforce.
The post-open-internet landscape has grave consequences that extend beyond the online world into most workplaces, high-schools, colleges, and other classrooms. Imagine only having access to one type of Learning Management System (LMS) — i.e., having access to one course delivery system because your ISP has worked out a deal with one company. If that is hard to imagine, try this: you log into your class, you link to an article, but you must pay for further access to that resource, even though you have already paid for your course. How about this: you live in an area that only has one Internet Service Provider (ISP) and that provider does not support or offer access to resources that you have come to depend on like your “how-to” videos and free coding classes. Now those resources are slow, non-existent, or you have to pay an extra fee to utilize them.
Suppose you are a nurse who needs to complete Continuing Education Units (CEU) to maintain your license and your ISP does not support your online course that you rely on to take this class in your own time. Now, you must miss work to complete these CEUs in a face-to-face course or you are out of a job.
What if you are one of the over 300,000 homes in the US that home schools their children? The learning materials that are required for your child’s education is no longer be available, difficult to access, or costs and additional fee.
The reversal of net neutrality will have a cascading effect on the American populous. Specifically, to those who cannot afford the additional burden of add on services from their ISP to access their online courses, learning resources, and information. The purpose behind reversal is simple — pay to play. It lines the pockets of major providers and fleeces the rest of us. Knowledge is power and seizing access to this power tramples our freedom. In short, the Federal Communications Commission, and Ajit Pai are actively trying to kill the future of education.
Caryn Sever is an Instructional Designer with over five years of experience. She has worked in Virtual Education, Online Learning, and Instructional Design with a variety of learning populations, including Higher Education, Military, Health Care, and Government. Caryn holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Mary Washington in American Studies, and a Master’s of Science degree in Instructional Design and Technology from Concordia University Chicago. She lives in the DC metro area with her husband and son.