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Abstract

Education is often seen as a route to full participation in society, and widening participation in education and lifelong learning as a way of including those who are currently excluded from many of the benefits of society. The use of learning technology (e-learning) is perceived by national governments, the European Union (EU), and academic institutions as a means of widening participation in higher education by enabling participation by nontraditional students. E-learning is perceived as lowering barriers of time and place to enable nontraditional students to attend campus-based education while accessing resources at a time and place of their choosing. Yet, there is dissonance between the espoused belief of governments the EU and academic institutions, in e-learning as a means of widening participation, and the reality of e-learning implementation. The digital divide refers to the gap between those who have access to the information technology, and those who do not. This research finds that the digital divide is not adequately addressed by higher education institutions, with some students financially unable to afford technology and broadband access, others lack the skills to engage with learning technology, and some are culturally less able to benefit from technological enrichment. It also finds gender and generational differences disenfranchising some students. In order to address this situation it will be necessary to first acknowledge that the problem exists.

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