26th ICDE World Conference news - Education expansion can balance access with equality


Online education holds promise – and also danger when adopted without transformation, in the name of benefiting everyone who needs it – according to Tressie McMillan Cottom, assistant professor of sociology at Virginia Commonwealth University in the United States.

She warned that education expansion in a structure defined by unequal access to resources could deepen inequalities.

Delivering a keynote address at last week’s major conference of the International Council for Open and Distance Education, or ICDE, McMillan Cottom also said that growing access to education via digital technologies and e-learning held the potential to support job creation and tackle cultural imbalances, if delivered affirmatively.

The 26th ICDE World Conference is being held at Sun City, north of Johannesburg in South Africa, from 14-16 October, co-hosted by the University of South Africa under the theme “Growing Capacities for Sustainable Distance e-Learning Provision”

“It is quite easy in the grand political scheme to expand access,” said McMillan Cottom, but there were concerns: “What can access do for equality. What can access do for justice?”

She said open and distance learning was designed to benefit people disadvantaged by, among other factors, race, gender, social class, culture, and differences in income and wealth. While local and national contexts may be different, globally marginalised people were affected by similar issues.

Read the rest of the article on the conference website.