Sunday, February 20, 2022

Digital Inequality: Academic Heal Thyself

The University of Canberra is hosting what is claimed to be the "First International Symposium on Digital Inequality and Social Change" (ISDISC). The theme is  Bridging digital inequality for a better and inclusive society. Researchers, practitioners and policy makers are invited.

But I suggest university academics need to set their own house in order before being able to claim the moral high ground on digital equality. The scramble to convert university courses and research participation online over the last two years has shown a lack of thought given to this area by academia. Courses were converted from hard to access lectures, to hard to access video lectures. Assessment was changed from hard to access paper based examinations, to hard to access web based examinations. The sad part of this is that there were open online distance universities with decades of experience in how to provide equitable access to a wider range of people, but elite institutions willfully ignored the freely offered advice, as it would place their campus based business model at risk.

Similarly with research: it is open to anyone who  can afford to get to expensive conferences, and passes the entrenched gatekeepers of the academic publishing system.

Fortunately the University of Canberra is leading by example, offering virtual attendance for those who can't get to Canberra, with a low fee.

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