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Inequality as Higher Education Goes Online

  • Laura Czerniewicz
Chapter
Part of the Research in Networked Learning book series (RINL)

Abstract

With the promises of networked learning as a base, this chapter describes changes in the higher education (HE) sector, using inequality as a frame. It provides a brief overview of particular aspects of the reconfiguring landscape where education itself has become intrinsically digitally mediated and disaggregation an important trend. It notes the global shift online and locates the MOOC trend in the broader curriculum provision terrain. Other important considerations include the ways that globalisation and marketisation are playing out, including in terms of the geopolitical differences and contested power relations. The paper then reviews the rise in inequality across the world, noting the UK’s position in Europe and the extreme situation in South Africa, as well as the different approaches in an information age to addressing inequality: through market-led and commons-led approaches. Therborn’s equality/inequality framework is then used to interrogate this increasingly online Higher Education (HE) landscape using three types of inequality: vital inequality, resource inequality and existential inequality. Vital inequality shows how educational inequality is a life-and-death issue. Resource inequality includes a range of capitals: economic disparities (e.g. costs of data and availability of connectivity), discrepancies of cultural capital (e.g. digital literacies), and the value of institutional capital as new forms of certification jockey for legitimacy. Existential inequality, the most neglected, comprises five dimensions: self-development, autonomy, freedom, dignity and respect. Considerations here include issues of virtual representation, discoverability and visibility online, as well as the skewed geopolitics of knowledge, ironically worsened in an open access context. The chapter ends with a call for critical research, inequality-framed experimentation, policy and advocacy. It argues for theorised explorations of the fluid intersection between inequality and the digital as well as for innovations in the development of new commons-based business models.

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Innovation in Learning and TeachingUniversity of Cape TownCape TownSouth Africa

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