ERIC Number: ED456214
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2001-Jul
Reference Count: N/A
Using Computers in Distance Study: Results of a Survey amongst Disabled Distance Students.
Ommerborn, Rainer; Schuemer, Rudolf
A study at Germany's FernUniversitat sent a questionnaire to 300 enrolled distance education students (mostly adult, mostly part-time) who labeled themselves as severely disabled or chronically ill (about 2 percent of students), asking them about the types of their disabilities and their attitudes toward computer-assisted learning and online classes. The study found that a higher (43 percent) than usual (37 percent) number of the students with disabilities were women, and their median age (43 years) was older than the students as a whole (32 years). About 45 percent of those questioned mentioned more than one type of disability or illness, with damage to the skeletal support system mentioned most frequently (38 percent of all answers), followed by central nervous system disorders and internal diseases (13 percent each), sight impairments (10 percent), hearing impairments (9 percent), and mental or psychological illnesses (9 percent). About 30 percent of the students did not use computers, usually because of cost and lack of opportunity to learn how to use them. Students cited advantages of computer use, including easier essay writing; Internet access, access to information and library research; potential for uses other than study; and easier communication with the university. Disadvantages cited included cost, physical problems caused by long work with computers (such as eye strain and wrist disorders), lack of training opportunities, and reinforcement of the isolation typical of distance learning. Students made the following suggestions for improving the use of computers in distance learning with disabled students: (1) better access to study centers for physically disabled students; (2) permission to use computers during written examinations; (3) more training on computers and information about assistive devices; (4) more modes of information transmission (multi-media); and (5) access to the Internet for all students without making it mandatory because of varying needs of students with different types of disabilities. (Contains 59 references.) (KC)
Descriptors: Academic Accommodations (Disabilities), Access to Education, Adult Students, Assistive Devices (for Disabled), Computer Attitudes, Computer Mediated Communication, Computer Uses in Education, Developed Nations, Distance Education, Educational Improvement, Educational Needs, Educational Practices, Foreign Countries, Higher Education, Internet, Physical Disabilities, Severe Disabilities, Student Attitudes, Student Characteristics
FernUniverstat, ZIFF, Postfach 940, D - 58084 HAGEN, Germany. Fax: 49 2331 880637, Web site: http://www.fernuni-hagen.de/ZIFF. For full text: http://www.fernuni-hagen.de/ZIFF/ommsch4.doc.
Publication Type: Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: Fern Univ., Hagen (Germany). Inst. for Research into Distance Education.