It’s too rarely noted that whatever the benefits of new communication technologies like the internet they are also implicated in an overall speed up of work. Thanks to the web, and cell phones, and the like, we all work harder and more efficiently. Unfortunately, this increase in productivity has not been accompanied by a proportional increase in our salaries. I love computers perhaps a little more than the next guy, but so far these tools have favored capital more than labor. A proposed regulatory slow down in online education could help.
In my field, computers and writing, this speed-up is perhaps most dramatically reflected in the 5.5 week session. On the other hand, these short sessions are one of the important ways that the for-profit schools meet working students half-way. As Stan Jones and others have noted, those long academic semesters are ideal only for someone in their early 20s who can afford the time away from work. (Or someone wealthy enough to stop work for 4 years.) I think, though, that our current strategy still benefits capital over (working) students.
I think it’s time that we in the computers and writing field– all of us who love these new communication technologies– begin to recognize the various ways that these same technologies have been used to reduce rather than enhance the quality of our lives. A slow down– resisting the temptation to do everything as efficiently as possible, and fighting to shift some of the financial and social benefits of new technologies away from big-capital– would be a welcome change. Instead of trying to make learning faster, we ought to be trying to find ways to give people the time they need to become educated.