In recent years, many arguments for and against the benefits on an online education have been laid forth. Most have addressed whether the quality of education is the same (a topic that has more or less been decided), however some relevant issues are still under study. One such topic is how online education impacts the educational opportunities for students of differing racial background and economic status.
It doesn’t take a great deal of digging to turn up information related to how traditionally minority groups have been subject to fewer educational opportunities, which typically results in higher levels of poverty. Extensive research doesn’t have to be undertaken to find multiple cases of discrimination or ‘natural’ racial divisions as a result of a traditional classroom either.
Lowering Traditional Barriers
Online education has been touted for its ability to bring together people from all walks of life and throw them together in one ‘classroom’ for a very different educational experience. Doing so exposes all students to different cultures and life perspectives that can be learned from. Many online universities, such as the University of Texas El Paso or Norwich University, pride themselves on having high levels of diversity in their online campuses.
Some educators have even noted the difference that online education offers to diverse groups. One such professor suggested that an online education platform opened doors for students to openly discuss issues that normally were not brought up in a traditional classroom for fear that the topic would appear racially charged. She also felt as though the online platform created camaraderie among students that normally wouldn’t have connected as easily.
Dismantling Racial Profiling
In most virtual classrooms and online platforms one is not required to show a photo or design an avatar that reflects their physical attributes. Meaning, if you’re a young white male and you want to depict yourself as a older black female nobody is going to know the difference except perhaps your professor. Designing an online program to leave out the physical can be a great way to address discriminatory issues and simply get down to the learning.
Many minority students have noticed a significant difference between their traditional classes and their online classes for this reason. Even if they didn’t necessarily feel stereotyped in their traditional courses, there was a certain feeling of freedom in not being forced to show more than academic capacity.
There are still certainly a variety of discrepancies in the advantages of online education for individual learners. For instance, first generation college students tend to struggle more in online courses because they generally need more direction and face-to-face support that is most easily sought on campus. Regardless, there are distinctive advantages to online learning as it pertains to minorities in that there are greater opportunities to reduce occasions where race unintentionally restricts learning environments.