How Has Distance And Online Learning Evolved

In this post, Michael Rackley, Online Learning at The Association for Private Education, reviews distance and online learning at the state level.

After the September 2010 Egyptian revolution took place, in which hundreds of thousands of Egyptians demonstrated against the regime of President Hosni Mubarak, he was forced to resign. In light of this recent history and numerous other political uprisings throughout the Middle East, when the leader of a central, industrialized, free nation is forced to resign it poses a challenge to the power structure that could echo for decades to come.

But this is not the first time democracy had tried to bend the palm of one of the most powerful nations on Earth. In 1968, more than 500,000 people in Iran began to gather in front of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran to protest the actions of the country’s leadership. Two days into the demonstrations, shortly after 2 a.m., Persians fired on the crowd, killing 53 and wounding nearly 1,000 more. The protesters were enraged, and the consequences were immediate and devastating: They called for a revolutionary uprising, and it lasted several weeks.

While the hostage crisis continued for 444 days, the hostage-takers eventually surrendered and Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi (image right) fled the country. Now, Iran is a struggling, embattled nation, ruled by a leader not in favor of human rights, so I would love to see another uprising occur in the near future to ensure his ouster. It seems a waste of time to hope the crisis will evolve into another revolution, but it would be even better if the protestors can achieve freedom and a better life under a new system.

So, I am curious as to what technology to use and what to avoid during these demonstrations. While I believe in the on-the-ground movement of a direct application (and sit-in), online tools can be very effective. In my opinion, it would be smart to both refrain from any game-like actions (how could they resist?) but also avoid sitting at home and ordering someone to carry water for them.

In September 2010, Facebook posted an image to their comment section of an Associated Press story, which showed Mubarak walking down a staircase with President Barack Obama. People from all over the world commented on the image, both pro and anti-Mubarak. Some people even wrote messages supporting the Egyptian leader. To be honest, I think the backlash was a sign that people understood the potential power of social media to effect policy change.

Unfortunately, I don’t believe many people in Egypt have this type of awareness. No matter how large the movement may be, I predict Morsi will be the president of Egypt until 2021, and potentially 2022, since the country’s constitution means he could serve until at least that point. As he does so, it seems there will be no revolution, no mass protests, no resistance. Mubarak is still the president, it seems, whether he likes it or not. And he’s arguably the most hated man in Egypt.

The second digital revolution, the Internet itself, was heavily politicized during the 2016 U.S. presidential election, with partisans attacking their colleagues based on the facts and tone of their emails and tweets. Supporters believe the Clinton campaign worked with Russia to influence the election, while others are spreading the hashtag #UniteBlue. They all claim facts are not the same thing and accuse others of suppressing facts, which is what we might be facing with what’s possible in a Ferguson, Ferguson, Ferguson-esque setting in the future.

But again, these are hypothetical demonstrations in the Middle East, which seem only a remote possibility. If there’s one silver lining to the situation, it’s that we can watch what could be a huge Internet change in real time. After all, the U.S. government is watching to ensure we don’t incite such a revolution, and it must be just as important for our version of the internet to stay open.

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