Since the 1960s, many American educators have anticipated the arrival of what Eric Ashby termed the Fourth Revolution: a dramatic change based on the transformative power of information technology. Yet despite a great deal of optimistic experimentation, the second half of the twentieth century saw relatively little sustained change toward digital learning. In the last decade, however, developments in consumer media, mobile technology, and ubiquitous broadband have brought a greater sense that education’s digital future may finally be arriving.
While the promise of massively distributed education is at hand, many questions have yet to be answered for the many parties implicated in this transformation: school administrators and faculty, students and consumers, content creators, investors and regulators. Everyone’s roles seem to be in flux. The issues are as broad as the populations that will be reached by new distribution mechanisms. In this new world, how will educational opportunity be apportioned? How should we be thinking about producing culturally appropriate curriculum for global classrooms? Who will make the rules for education at scale? How will quality be measured?