Online education like Khan Academy has been hailed as a major innovation which will revolutionize higher & lower education, educate students better, and cut costs. But in general, it seems unlikely that online education will reduce all costs equally and educate all students equally better. Hardly any change ever preserves all relative positions or ratios – someone benefits disproportionately, someone benefits only a little.
So what differentials can we expect from online education? Hoary articles from the ’90s about the’digital divide’ might make one predict that it will benefit middle and upper-class whites; but on the other hand, proponents love to talk about favored minorities (eg. a foreign black female – that is, a girl in an African village) who can now access online education through cheap cellphones, so one might predict that online education will instead level the playing field. No longer will there be a big gap between receiving essentially no education and receiving a real education, a gap that perpetuates cycles of poverty. As Internet access becomes more common than access to quality schools, quality school delivered through the Internet will lead to an equalizing effect (the elites will be no better off than before, and the non-elites now have the chance to obtain a prerequisite to becoming an elite).