Updates

Online education

2017

Updates to the rights of persons with disabilities issues have documented recent work to highlight web access for persons with disabilities, notably, the US Department of Justice (DoJ) that free online course content must be accessible to persons with disabilities, or it must be removed from the UC Berkeley site. Discussion about this decision, such as Justice Department Disability Demands Raise Serious Free Speech Issues and Obama-Era DOJ Violated Free Speech Through Burdensome Demands for Disabled Access indicate that the decision is still controversial and may face review. Before the current Berkeley case, a related ruling in 2015 Justice Department Reaches Settlement with edX Inc., Provider of Massive Open Online Courses, to Make its Website, Online Platform and Mobile Applications Accessible Under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The debate continues, including objections by scholars, and support for removal of the non-compliant materials from some educators: 'Berkeley’s move to ensure accessibility in all of its public materials is necessary, though the college could also consider making choice selections from its past wealth of material accessible for all students'.

 

 

[Update] The online site LBRY has irrevocably mirrored the content removed from the  UC Berkeley site. While already available from a command line, the content will be available to the public in April.

On 15 March, the University of California (UC), Berkeley, will begin restricting access to more than 20,000 audio and video files from its free access to course content. In a statement on March 1, UC Berkeley vice chancellor explained the process and reasoning to the campus community, noting compliance with a US Department of Justice (DoJ) finding that the content must meet higher accessibility standards as a condition of remaining publicly available. The cost of compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act to enable the university to continue to make these free resources publicly available is prohibitive, she said. According to Inside Higher Ed, some other universities indicated that they have no plans to follow suit.

TheBlaze attributed the case to government over-regulation, and a blog post Department of Justice: If Disabled People Can't Use Berkeley's Free Online Courses, No One Can by Robby Soave of Reason criticises the DoJ decision. 

A UK government programme led by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, will train at least 5700 teenagers in the country in cybersecurity skills by 2021 in order to boost Britain's defences against online attacks. The government has decided to do so after warnings of future skills shortage and concerns about security of the country's economy and infrastructure. Officials say the new Cyber Schools Programme aims to support and encourage pupils to develop some of the key skills they would need to work in cyber security and help defend the nation's businesses against online threats. Ministers are making up to £20 million available for extracurricular sessions which will see expert instructors drafted in to teach, test and train teenagers selected for the initiative. A "cyber curriculum" will be drawn up to mix classroom and online teaching with real-world challenges and hands-on work experience.
 

India's Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has presented the 2017-18 Union Budget, which is characterised by a focus on digitisation, infrastructure, and rural India. A number of digital policy-related proposals can be highlighted:

  • An abolition of service tax on digital rail bookings in an effort to push digital payments
  • Connecting remote areas with fibre optic Internet across the country
  • Improving medicine, education, and skills in rural areas through the use of digital technology
  • A new digital pension distribution system, as well as 'smart cards' containing health information for senior citizens
  • The establishment of a dedicated Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) for the financial sector.
  • Digitising payments and promoting cashless transactions through a new app.
  • Online education platforms to help people develop skills and gain employment

 The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has found that a Lithuanian man, and prisoners in general, must be allowed Internet access to learning and study programme websites. The court cited Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which addresses freedom of expression and access to information ('... the freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information ...').

2016

A report published by MarketsandMarkets on the cloud computing in education market estimates that the market will grow from $8.13 billion in 2016 to $25.36 billion, with an annual growth rate of 25.6%. The report notes that cloud computing solutions in the education industry allow efficient management of business processes and effective knowledge delivery to students, thus resulting in higher student engagement, better collaboration, and improved student performance. The major driving forces for the market growth are the growing need for a centralized system for the management of academic processes and competition among academic institutions.

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