Education is a key issue vouching to promote and ensure the learning of all students. It is the building block of a child’s future. However, it becomes even more important if the child is disabled in any way. Imagine facing daily discrimination in the form of negative attitudes, lack of enough care and attention, teasing and bullying by schoolmates because you’re not capable enough or nowhere near a competition.
Children with disabilities are one of the most marginalized and neglected groups of the society, who are effectively barred or are unable to enjoy the fruits of education. Thus, in considering the role technology and e-learning can play in helping students access higher education and learning experience easily and effectively, a large number of students are now opting for e-learning. E-learning provides perfect learning solutions for disabled students.
What is e-learning?
Quite simply, e-learning is electronic learning based on formalized teaching that involves the delivery of a learning, training or education program by technological means. It is the act of engaging in an educational course in an online setting by use of the internet and an electronic device such as a mobile phone or a computer.
E-learning is learning to utilize technology to gain access to education and information outside of a traditional classroom. It offers a wide range of courses for students to upgrade their knowledge and share the same via webinars (online seminars) and direct chatting with professionals.
Thus, e-learning has become very successful over the years in not only breaking the barriers to learning (especially for adult learners and the disabled), but also delivering education conveniently and effectively.
E-learning for students with disabilities
The Disability Services Act (1993) defines ‘disability’ as: attributable to an intellectual, psychiatric, cognitive, neurological, sensory or physical impairment or a combination of those impairments. It substantially affects a person’s life and leads to reduced capacity of the person for communication, social interaction and carrying out normal day to day activities, with a constant need for support. Disability is considered as being a multidimensional experience for the person involved. The individual does not only face the consequences of his disability but is also denied basic human rights in some cases.
Students with disability continue to face barriers to educational services and constant humiliation at school. In this regard, e-learning provides the perfect learning solutions for disabled students. The possibilities of e-learning and online education are now in the spotlight through interest in the development of the massive open online courses(MOOC) and enrollments are now rising at a much higher rate. In 2012 more than one in three students in the United States (33.5%) were taking at least one online course and online enrollments were growing at a rate of 6.1%. (Source: Allen and Seaman,2014).
The disabled students are the ones who are the most advantaged from e-learning. E-learning thus provides them with a comfortable and peaceful environment for learning and perfect learning solutions for disabled students.
Benefits of e-learning
Listed below are the benefits of e-learning for different categories of the disabled.
Intellectual Disability – E-learning provides students with intellectual or learning disabilities the sufficient time and stress-free environment they need. E-learning provides in depth explanations and greater attention to special students. Also, instructors are ready to adjust their method of teaching according to the student’s needs while having an open channel of communication. Keyboard enhancements and accelerators like shortcut keys, repeat keys and slow keys and devices like Kurzweil 3000 allow information to be learned easily.
Sensory Disability – For the visually impaired students, it is easier to have access to education through a computer at home rather than travelling all the way to the campus. Adaptive technologies in e-learning such as braille keywords (example, Braille Note Apex) and special audio clips are provided for learning in such a way that these clips can be recorded, paused and played repeatedly. For the hearing-impaired students, videos with subtitles, text-to-voice devices (example, Intel Reader) and links to all types of visual material are provided.
Physical Ailment – The most obvious benefit of e-learning for students with a physical ailment is that they don’t have to travel to campus or commute from classes to classes. E-learning allows them to stay at the comforts of their home while taking online classes. Students with physical ailments are provided with both audio and visual material in the form of voice-to-text and text-to-voice as per their convenience. Also, special technologies such as SmartNav 4, Ghotit and Ginger are available for children who cannot write.
Online learning is a growing and exciting new way to learn almost anything and everything. E-learning does not however intend to replace the conventional methods and learning in classrooms and only attempts to make learning more convenient and efficient. E-learning management systems allow greater adaptability to suit the needs of different students.
However, the biggest challenge now is to reform the traditional classroom methods to more updated and progressive approaches for all students, including those with disabilities. , In the days to come, e-learning will provide even greater learning solutions for disabled students.