Content Matters: How Online Language Content Gives Rise to Digital Divides

Rob Grace, Caroline Stratton, Fred Fonseca

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Objective: We examine the language content of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) to consider how features of online content unequally structure access to capital-enhancing uses of the Internet and contribute to digital divides. Methodology: This study adopts a mixed-methods approach using descriptive statistics to examine the distribution of language content among MOOCs, and qualitative content analysis to understand the motivations, resources, and methods behind initiatives to create MOOC language content. Results: The availability of MOOCs varies significantly by language, with a preponderance of English-language courses available compared to other world languages. Furthermore, a qualitative content analysis of initiatives to expand MOOC language content reveals a diverse ensemble of actors whose varied motivations, resources, and methods may widen existing inequalities structuring access to online learning despite expanding the availability of MOOCs in non-English languages. Conclusion: By revealing the availability of online content structuring access to capital-enhancing uses of the Internet, studies of online content can help explain sociodemographic differences in Internet accessibility and usage, and can delineate digital divides along lines of inequality, when content is available to some people but not others, as well as inequity, when content is available but not useful in people's contexts of use.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1999-2016
Number of pages18
JournalSocial Science Quarterly
Issue number6
StatePublished - Oct 1 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Social Sciences


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