Online courses ‘are breaking down barriers’


Distance learning through online courses could help to solve the shortage of higher education opportunities in developing countries, a senior educator has said. Writing for CNN, Daphne Koller, a professor at Stanford University’s Computer Science Department, said that in sub-Saharan Africa just six per cent of students who are of age are enrolled in higher education. While this is an extreme example, the figure tends to swing between about 20 per cent and 40 per cent in developing nations, compared with 72 per cent in North America and Western Europe.

However, the growth of the internet may be helping to break down traditional barriers of location or socioeconomic circumstances, as more online courses are translated into other languages, and a new community of trans-national students begins to form online.

“To me, achieving a ‘global classroom’ means using education to erase barriers between people of different cultures and background … and it means giving schools and instructors around the world the ability to transcend boundaries to bring high-quality education to their students,” said Ms Koller.

The comments come shortly after a report in the Guardian newspaper revealing that Stanford University, Berkeley, MIT and Harvard are to collaborate on a new open source learning platform designed to improve global access to higher education.

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