I think that the future of education lies in technology. A pretty heavy sentiment, but it seems reasonable to suppose that any medium that combines (relatively) cheap multimedia communication with global access is particularly suited to the dispersion of knowledge. The trick is to make technology work for us, and not mold our learners to work for technology.
There are two experiences in particular that have shaped my interest in this topic. Living with a non-sighted father has given me insight into the needs and demands of those who do not experience the world (and technology) as I do. I have learned how the current online environment marginalizes people that have difficulty using a computer mouse. I also see other disadvantages of online learning practices, such as the use of video that does not contain written translations for those who have difficulty hearing. It amazes me to think of the untapped potential audience waiting for accessible technology.
Another accessibility roadblock can be seen across economic divides. After spending a year teaching in a government-run housing project, it seems clear to me that the (relatively) cheap possibility of visiting a website for information is a much more real possibility than taking a municipal bus to a local museum. This is not to say virtual manifestations eliminate the need for brick-and-mortar institutions. Far from it! Rather, these institutions should embrace the wider audience they will certainly receive with a well-created and marketed presence.
It is also clear to me that money, not the wellbeing of others, seems to be the major focus of most institutions and corporations. While I personally believe the bottom line should always be focused on human welfare, it seems possible that a creative, engaging and rich environment can be created on a profit-based system.
The question then becomes:
How can we create an accessible (in terms of cost and ADA standards) online learning environment that engages and empowers learners?
The major disconnect I see in current online learning stems from two facts I've noticed:
1. I have yet to encounter a student who has taken an online class that they have enjoyed.
2. I know many people who spend most of their lives connected to a rich internet-based community.
This leads me to believe that engaging and empowering online classes are both possible and necessary for the continued dissemination of knowledge from the elite to the masses.
Note: The picture above is of the cubical I worked in for 3 years. Feather boa was not included.