Our short paper "Telecentres and eLearning" is now published in the British Journal of Educational Technology (Colloquium) volume 44 issue 5 (September). This paper was the result of a set of interviews I did with distance learning students in Sri Lanka as part of my PhD research.
The paper describes the issues faced by students; in this case study, in using telecentres for eLearning. It questions whether telecenter implementations have actually considered their users' needs when defining telecentre operational guidelines.
I was shocked to hear that the students who used telecentres were supposed to produce a letter from the vice chancellor of their university if they wanted to borrow a set of headphones to listen to a video lecture.
"There is no point in just watching a video note; we need to listen to it too. Sometimes when we ask for headphones to listen to a video note, they [staff at telecentre] tell us to get a letter from the Vice Chancellor. How can a student obtain a letter from the VC, produce it to the NAC head [telecentre head] and listen to a video note? It is such a bother [very disheartening] for the student." (translated from Sinhala).
Is it practical to ask the vice chancellor of the university to issue letters to students for this purpose? or is it practical to expect the student to carry it around every time they visit the telecentre? As an outsider I saw it as cumbersome and felt that it would deter students from using these facilities meant for them. Perhaps there is a reason for this enforcement - perhaps they had such high demand for headphones that the telecentre could not meet? This was just one of the many obstacles that students had to cope with in using telecentres.
Whatever it may be, a facility that implements excessive administrative policies and procedures that inconvenience users unnecessarily is likely to have fewer number of users. So if the purpose is to popularize eLearning among students, providing them access to the wealth of information available online, I am not sure whether this strategy would work to attract learners.
"When implementing eLearning in countries where many depend on public access services such as telecentres, flexibility offered by them is a key factor determining the success of such system. Thus it is vital to make telecentres student friendly and welcoming. Careful attention is also need to the precise location and opening hours of telecentres, to ensure maximum benefit towards the goals for the investment costs. Though these seem obvious it is worthwhile questioning how many telecenter implementations have actually considered these."
I like to invite you to read our full paper here.
Authors' final version is available from here.
Citation for the paper:
Liyanagunawardena, T. R., Adams, A. A., Rassool, N., & Williams, S. (2013). Telecentres and eLearning, British Journal of Educational Technology, 44(5), E156–E158 , doi:10.1111/bjet.12020.