Thomas Friedman, ever the technological optimist, heralds the coming revolution in online education.
There is a kind of Hegelian strain in Friedman’s boosterism for neo-liberalism and globalization; not the state, but the free market is the march of spirit on Earth. Any nasty consequences are just the acceptable side-effects and bugs of the beta version of something that will be surely perfected in the next iteration or soft-ware update. Though Friedman’s natural optimism sometimes gets the better of him, his point about the potential impact of online learning in so-called developing countries is hard to deny. This, coupled with increasing access to nimble tools like micro-finance, may well give people in the poorer countries and forgotten places of the world more opportunity to improve their lives.
We often discuss the merits and demerits of online education in the context of life in the developed world. While this is surely an important discussion to be having, it may blind us to the prospect that the most far reaching, world-historical effect of online education may be felt not by us, but by those still struggling to secure basic needs.