1.0 Introduction: Information Technology Assignment
Information Technology Assignment discusses Internet based learning process is getting increasing attention day by day. In recent years, there has been an increasing interest in digital learning. Digital learning is not a new method of teaching and learning; it existed almost ten years ago when education merged with technology. It is evident from the fact that in year a bibliographical search of year1990-2000 identified only 65 items while the same search in year 2000-2011 have identified approx 1085 items. Hence internet based learning trends have increased multifold in recent year due to advancement in technology (Inman & Reinking, 1998).
IBT can be defined as a learning platform which is represented digital resources to support the learning process inside and outside the class to improve learner’s knowledge in several subjects such as history, geography, and maths, as well other subjects in further and higher education. IBT is used to support the learning process outside the classroom and to bridge between school and home in studying, researching, doing home work and communicating with the teacher if the student needs any help via email. Many educators believe that IBT facilitates differentiation and individualization in education in order to meet students’ needs. It can create a more integrated pattern of learning between home and school, such that learning can take place at home again, so there is much more flexibility in the learning process. However, the relationship between the access to IBT and inequality in education is a serious issue (Ravitz, J. 1997).
The term digital divide addresses the issue all over the world regarding access to technology. The digital divide refers to the divide between people with access to the internet and those who cannot access it at all. It includes inequality in physical access to the internet and skills needed to participate. Inequality of access depends on gender, income, race, and location. The digital divide exists also in education and shows clear evidence of issues raised with accessing the internet. In addition, it seems that there is an increasing concern about some learners being disadvantaged in accessing this technology related to the poor, disabled, and technically unskilled.
The Internet learning resources which are accessed by students so not provide equality among all the students due to several factors like: Socio-economic factors, technological advancement, physical disabilities and unawareness etc. Current study will highlight the inequality among students due to two main factors which are socio-economic factors and physical disability of the students.
2.1 Socio-economic Inequality
Socio-economic inequality among the students in accessing the internet based learning resources presents a very troublesome and enduring opportunity in front of world (Phillips et al, 1998). Large proficiency gaps have been identified between high and low socio-economic status groups in major national studies conducted by Coleman (2000) due to non access of internet based learning resources. So every attempt to improve the student proficiency should take into account the significant differences which occur due to the socio-economic factors.
There is a big difference between the internet based resource accesses for the different socio-economic class as stated in OFCOM (2008) report. Pupils vary in accessing to internet due to the significant differences in their families’ income. As a result, this has a serious effect on the equality of access to internet. Report states that there is ‘’More than half of teachers believe that children with no internet access are seriously disadvantaged in their education’’. Perhaps the most serious disadvantage of this method is that IBT is not fully accessed by all students, just those who have access to it which maintains the issue that there is an inequality in accessing to internet between students. As a result poor students may not achieve the same meaningful constructive learning environment as others. Hence, IBT should be accessible to all students (Wong, Y. et al, 1999).
It is recommended that educators need to be aware of looking for solutions to prevent any harmful impact on these students’ prospects. The findings might have been much more useful if the author had included more details about these students learning outcomes if they have not access to internet and how it might affect their learning outcomes. There are some student opinions of this experience. Student number one Danielle, Somerset, UK, said:
“During my last year of GCSEs and during my A-Levels I had no internet access. I was often set work that involved going online and had to stay after school hours trying to do homework. Now I am at university and have the internet but when I go home I still have no internet, so studying for exams is going to be hard as lecturers all communicate by email and all resources are online! It is hard when it is assumed you have the internet’’ (Snow, C. E. 2004).
Student number two is Kaisha from UK ‘’ I’m still at school, and it really is true. I know girls who get in trouble and can’t do any of their homework because they don’t have the internet at home. Another problem is that, at my school at least, teachers assume that everyone can go to the ICT suites at lunch, which they can’t. There are tickets given out on the stairs which run out quickly, which means that not enough people get the opportunity to do their homework at lunch, and students often have other commitments anyway, like clubs, detention, or eating’’.
One of the limitations with this explanation is that providing technology for schools is not enough to those students who need to have access to internet in their home. Since students spend only few hours at their school but rest of the time they spend at home. And also in school they have teachers to facilitate their learning but at home they do not have anyone to facilitate them hence they have much more need of internet resource while they are at home (Inge, C.C. 2002). However, even if the school or the university have internet access the students still need access to internet in their home. A study shows that students can achieve higher grades in their subjects if they have internet access in home (Jackson, et al., 2003).
Researchers may find a proper answer for this issue. For example, BECTA has published a program by a government named Home Access which will help to ensure that more children in England have access to internet at home to support learning where it is aimed to benefit 270,000 households (2009). However, (Zhao et al, 2010) states that the internet inequality for students without home internet access may be eliminated by internet café.
The authors also reveal that internet café often uses for leisure use rather than studying for high school student. As result, internet café might be not a good solution for this issue. Since use of internet café for the learning purpose is still doubtful and imposes several challenges. But the same kind of sharing model can also be worked out where several students can contribute to get the resources and after that same number of students can use these resources on sharing basis in order to decrease the cost (Bowe, F. G. 2000).
2.2 Physical disability inequality
Another significant issue to discuss is disabled students. Most universities recognize the fact that web sites and online resources are have to be accessible to disabled people and if is not, this may lead disabled people becoming ‘‘increasingly isolated from the economic and social mainstream ’’ (Wall & Sarver, 2003, p6). Lahert (2002) states that to enable access to technology for those who are digitally excluded, also to ease of use for the disabled.
Twenty six percent of non-internet users are disabled. Another barrier with disabled access to the internet is physical access. They battle to go to workstation which also poses major problems for them to access to the internet. Furthermore, obstacles that the disabled might face is lack of or the high cost of adaptive technology, either at home or at a public access points, lack of building or room accessibility for wheelchairs or for those who cannot use stairs, lack of adjustable workstations, computer desk or chair, or software to make the computer and the internet more accessible.
The disabled have difficulties reaching places with internet access; they also have a significantly lower income then those without disability (Lehart 2002). Lehart (2002) found that many people do not have internet connectivity in their home, and they rely on libraries, cafés or any community which has access to the internet. However, physically getting to these locations is difficult for the disabled. Nevertheless, students with disabilities face challenges and find difficulties in using and coping with new technology. Training providers monitors the employee Performance Management, after all they all are dealing with these challenges of new tools of e-learning to the demand and expectations of the individuals with disability.
Donnelly (2007) states that:
“Funding has been made available to higher education students with special needs and such grants are to cover costs of purchase of special equipment, materials etc. At the same time, there are growing numbers of support systems for students with disabilities who are undertaking courses in higher education in Ireland, including the setting up of the post of Disability Officer in several institutions’’.
Another helpful program that supports the disabled is TechDis. TechDis services have joined forces with Publishers Association to provide resources which have the potential to transform the delivery of learning materials to disabled students and staff. The JISC TechDis toolbar created in a partnership with the University of Southampton’s School of Electronics and Computer Science. The toolbar enables internet users to have better access to information and interact with web pages. Sal argues: “The JISC TechD is toolbar, however combines the ease and flexibility of word processing programs with the range of knowledge and information available on the internet to enable users to gather and process information with ease.
Users can now browse a web page or search for what they are looking for without having to read through the entire text (Wexler, D. et al, 2005). This can then be collated and exported to a Word document or notepad. Editing tools such as spell check, dictionary, and font and style formatting can also be selected and applied when working within an interactive web resource such as a blog or social media site”( JISC TechDis,2009).
As Lee (2009) states: “I’d like to congratulate JISC TechDis on the beta release of the toolbar. Even as a beta release it is an accessibility tool that brings an enhanced web experienced to a range of users. It has the potential for sustainability through collaboration from a broad community of interested parties”. It is also compatible with all operating systems and browsers. Sal concludes: “We are confident that the JISC TechDis toolbar will become an indispensable, online resource for the worldwide community of scholars, teachers and students” (Honey, M. 2001). However, this method of analysis might have a number of limitations, where it might be offered within specific institutions or not available for public disabled communities. Another weakness is that no explanation is given to clarify how this toolbar will be offered for those disabled students with a prior knowledge how it works.
On balance, most studies in IBT shows the issues where raised in educational sectors. It is difficult to ignore these issues, and it is necessary to conduct an extensive research on its negative impacts on learning outcomes of many disadvantaged students and trying to find solutions to eliminate the negative effects on students. Accordingly, I suggest that most of educational policies should serve and help those students, by using a number of effective strategies to assess the negative effects of IBT (Bingham, M. 2001). Also, governments should enforce these educational institutions with other organizations to improve the accessibility of IBT for every student.
For several years’ people around the world focused on the special education where in teachers taught only to students in a classroom with number of physically able and physically disabled students. But with the advancement in technology physically normal students have gained access to the technology and learning from the internet resources but the physically challenged students are not able to cope up with the technology due to their inabilities (MOSIAC, 2000a).
The need of education for the physically challenged students group against their general education peers aroused with disability education act in year 1997 in which every disable students also have right to public education. Before this act many students with physical disabilities were excluded from the school education hence they were facing many problems in getting education (MOSIAC, 2000b).
For providing students with equality in education for internet based resources special educational systems have been designed which has been named Universal design for learning (UDL). This system help the physically disabled students to understand the intricacies of internet based education and give them equal right to access the internet based educational resources in order to make them equal to their other peer group (Rose & Meyer, 2002).
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According to the Universal design for learning system students have different needs and skills for learning and system should be such that it captures the need of different group of students so as to provide equality among every kind of student group (Bowe, 2000). For providing access to every individual whether normal student or student with disability Rose and Meyer have identified three key guidelines for the UDL system which are as follows:
- Multiple format system for presenting the system has been used so that students with different needs can be catered with the single system
- Different ways to accept the expression from students in order to get what they have learnt from the system
- Multiple system in order to engage and motivate students for learning
For example UDL system supports different media of text like sound text so that students with disability in view can learn from the system as well. Picture and movie media helps the students with other kind of disable students hence the system have been designed with due care from all kind of students.
3.0 Results and findings
Topic for current investigation was effectiveness of internet based learning resources among the different students group where focus was on low socio-economic and physically challenged students. From the above investigation it has been revealed that the student who belongs to poor socio-economic groups do not have proper access to the internet based learning resources. Though the Internet based technology (IBT) which has spread rapidly in last decade, enabled learning through internet among wide range of students. But the main problem with the IBT system is that it requires extensive hardware, software and internet technology which comes at certain cost. Hence it is not accessible by the students having low socio-economic conditions. Due to this inequality prevails among students. Due to lack of resources among the students they fall behind the normal group of students in terms of learning.
Another major finding of the research is that though IBT have enabled students to learn from home and at suitable time but the physical efforts are also required for IBT technology. Hence the students who are physically disabled can’t access to the IBT resources for learning. Hence these two factors which were under study impose major challenges for IBT systems for using into the educational system as equality is not present into the educational system.
The technology like Universal design for learning solve problem of access to physically challenged students. Since through UDL system different media types can be supported which are helpful in learning and testing the physically challenged students.
There are certain implications which came out of the above discussion. The Study explored the topic of inequality among the students groups for low socio-economic and physically challenged. So it implied that there is big difference for access of internet based learning resources for physically challenged and low socio-economic students. The amount of resources required for accessing the internet based learning is much higher than the amount required for accessing the normal learning resources.
So the lower socio economic groups are not able to cope up with the advancement in technology since it comes up with some higher cost which these groups of students can’t access. Hence these costs of equipment deprive them from the access to learning resources. In case of the physically challenged group of students initially these were imparted education in specially formed education centre where they were taught keeping in mind their physical disabilities. But after technology intensive educational resources these group of students are not able to cope up with the change and they do not have access to the resources. Hence this group of students needs to have some specific technology in place which can cater to their need as well.
5.0 Suggestions and Implementations
After discussing the topic of inequality among different group of students for internet learning resources there can be some methods from which this inequality can be handled in a manner which can also give them equal access to the resources. Some of the suggestions which can be put forward for removing the inequality from society can be stated as follows:
- The internet based learning resources should be such that they incorporates cost efficiencies in them so that every kind of socio-economic group can access that
- Government should provide help to the lower socio-economic group students in order to have them access for the resources
- Common learning centres can be incorporated where multiple number of students can share the resources in order to reduce the overall cost for the learning resources used by the students
- Special kind of learning resources can be developed in order to provide internet based learning resources to physically challenged students
- Different media should be allowed for the learning resources in order to have access to wide range of physically challenged students
Implementation issue for solving the inequality among the various student groups can be resolved by implementing the system developed by Rose and Meyer in year which is named as Universal design for learning. It is a special kind of system which has been designed keeping in mind different groups of students which are having different physical disabilities. The system is designed with keeping in mind both the factor i.e. the cost of the system as well as the usage for physically challenged students. This system has special capability of multiple languages which allow students group from different regions can access this. Second important feature of the system is it software which has got multiple presentation media supported by the system. These multiple supported media are such that they enable text, voice and video learning. By using these multiple media students with different incapability can be taught very easily.
Other major aspect of the system is its ability to support the expression system which helps the students to express their views. Testing of the students is as important as teaching them. So after teaching the students testing the students for what they have learnt is also essential hence the system provide different media which can understand the views of physically challenged students and can examine their level of understanding.
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The current study takes up the topic of inequality among the various students group for accessing the internet based learning resources. These different student groups are the low socio-economic groups and physically challenged group of students. The study investigated the effectiveness of the IBT learning resources across the various student groups.
The Study highlighted fact that the student with low socio-economic conditions do not have the proper access to the learning resources since theses resources have high cost for the hardware, software and internet connectivity hence the student group having low family income fall behind their peer group due to these reasons.
For students of the physically challenged groups the main reason of their non accessibility is the unsupportive behaviour of the Internet based devices for learning. Though modern IBT devices captures the latest technology in them but still they cannot cater to the different needs of the students across the physically challenged groups which requires special arrangement of the devices so that they can also get the equal learning opportunities as their other peers groups.
The results from the above studies highlighted the need for a system which can provide chance to all students group irrespective of their variability in terms of income groups and physically challenged students. For providing such a system Rose and Meyer have suggested a system design which is known as the Universal design for learning which will help the entire student group in getting equal opportunity for learning. Hence IBT systems should be replaced with UDL system in order to spread equality among all student groups.
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