Thursday, 25 July 2013

Using non-Personal Computers for eLearning

In most of the developed countries many learners taking eLearning courses have their own computer and connectivity. However, the situation is drastically different in developing countries where computer and Internet penetration is low. In those countries communal facilities (such as telecentres, libraries, or even internet cafes) provide access to students who do not possess their own computers and/or connectivity. 

(Translation of the major text: The spread of the global village project - The services supplied to you: Internet facility, email, local telephone calls, international telephone calls, information and advice on finances for self employment, fax, photos, photocopy, information queries, computer classes)

Are we aware of the difficulties the students face in engaging with eLearning using these communal facilities? During my PhD research I talked to many students (enrolled in either fully online or blended programmes) who were using communal access facilities to engage with the online component of their degree programmes. The paper Using non-Personal Computers for eLearning: Sri Lankan Experience published in the Journal of Education and Training Studies discusses the experiences of Sri Lankan students. I am delighted to have co-authored this paper with my advisers/supervisors: Prof. Andrew Adams - Meiji University Japan, Prof. Naz Rassool - Institute of Education, University of Reading, and Prof. Shirley Williams - School of Systems Engineering, University of Reading.

The paper discusses various issues faced by students such as: cost, excessive administrative procedures, logistics, connection quality and the list goes on. These centres have blocked access to some websites such as Facebook and YouTube claiming that it was a) due to limited bandwidth b) due to students using these sites for chatting, viewing videos etc. However, in my interviews I found students who wanted to use YouTube for educational purposes. They were designing a product and wanted to investigate other similar designs on YouTube videos. But because the site was blocked they could not access it. Sadly none of these students had home internet connectivity, which meant that they had no other way of accessing these blocked resources.

I am not going to spoil the fun of reading the paper by discussing it all here again. But I am going to end this blog with a quote from one of my interview participants who said
“Well if you don't have an Internet connection at home it is very difficult. In my opinion it is compulsory that one has a home Internet connection [in order to take up a course that uses eLearning]” (Translated to English from Sinhala).

We know that generally MOOCs use multiple learning spaces: YouTube videos, Slideshare, Blogs to name some. What does this mean in terms of accessibility to MOOCs? Even when MOOCs are free to enroll and learn, still these students who do have 'access' (in terms of motivation, access to internet - well partly due to restrictions, skills - to use computers for learning) do not have provision to fully engage in them. If these students who are using communal access centres wanted to study in a MOOC, would they be able to access the wealth of resources generated in a MOOC with these restriction in place? 

Liyanagunawardena, T.R., Adams, A.A., Rassool, N., & Williams, S.A. (2013). Using non-Personal Computers for eLearning: Sri Lankan Experience, Journal of Education and Training Studies, 1 (2), 152-158.


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    Really i appreciate the effort you made to share the knowledge.The topic here i found was really effective to the topic which i was researching for a long time.

    1. Glad you found this useful. There are other papers, especially my PhD thesis (available on that explore these issues. Perhaps would be of interest to you?

  2. There will always be a way if one is really willing to learn, finding means to go online through renting and any other resources there may be.


  3. The best thing is to teach in academics because you would come to the fresh minders who have the curiosity to learn and the students are interested in learning new creations and that technology has given them.By getting Microsoft excel training they can learn how to use various tools in excel.Those who didn't have their own PC's there are other options for them like cyber cafes who helped them to learn and practice it.