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Computer Assisted Learning in a (Dis-)Connected Age : : Challenges and Approaches to Digital Education and Equal Access


We are experiencing unprecedented global flow of knowledge and ideas, and seeing emergent opportunities for ad hoc educational experiences that are mediated by computer technologies and the Internet. Educators and learners are experimenting with new pedagogical approaches and modes of content delivery, both inside and outside of the classroom, in what has been described as an "online learning revolution". In this dissertation, I take a step back to examine the factors that are enabling this transformation, and demonstrate how not everyone has been benefiting equally -- in particular, recent developments have been failing to include many communities that are already among the most economically and socially disadvantaged. I present the work we have done to help bridge this gap, through designing, building, and deploying tools to allow learners in offline and bandwidth-constrained contexts to access the same types of novel educational opportunities as their more connected counterparts. Two quite distinct lines of research and development are presented and discussed in this dissertation: an adaptive second language learning website, "ESL Genie", and an offline deployment platform for Khan Academy, "KA Lite". I will endeavor to demonstrate that these initiatives share a common emphasis on leveling the educational playing field by using technology to reduce economic barriers to effective learning experiences

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