Online programs often promise to expand access to higher education by providing more flexible options for students to work at their own pace and offer degrees at a lower cost. But according to a new report from a national faculty organization, these programs may be blocking access to a group of students who could benefit the most from the flexibility they offer: low-income, adult and working students.
That's because the technology required for online courses isn't always easily accessible or affordable for these students. Although the course may be cheaper than classroom-based courses, the Campaign for the Future of Higher Education argues in a report released Wednesday low-income students might still have a harder time accessing it.
"We have to wrap our heads around the fact that we can't make assumptions that this will be so simple because everyone will just fire up their computers and do the work," says Lillian Taiz, a professor at California State University, Los Angeles, and president of the California Faculty Association.
Many students, Taiz says, don't have computers at home, high-speed Internet access, smart phones, or other technologies necessary to access course content.