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Benefits of e-Learning for Differently Abled Learners

e-LearningInclusive education has been the dream of every progressive society. Irrespective of the ability level of a child, his or her emotional makeup and attitude, physical and mental handicaps or socio-cultural differences, we would like all children to be able to reach their full potential. Today, e-Learning and Assistive Computer Technology (AT) has made it possible for us to allow all the children to learn at their own pace using ways that suit them best. Here are different types of learners that need something more than a regular classroom and teaching material used normally. Learning and Assistive Technology can address the learning challenges of all these types of students.

Gifted Children

Gifted childrenEducational Needs: Children with high IQ who have skills or talents beyond their age are referred to as 'gifted' children. Just like underperformers, these super-achievers have special requirements too. To be able to achieve their full potential, they need to move ahead faster than other children. They may also need special programs to develop their problem solving skills and conceptual learning, learn to analyze and synthesize things, and need to be encouraged for pursuit of their creative or special interests.

This is not possible in a regular classroom, which is designed for students of average ability levels.

Assistive Technology Available: For such gifted children, special e-learning programs can be a great way to discover and nurture their skills and talents. E-learning programs are flexible enough for children to learn at their own pace and allow them to advance to next level whenever they want. Virtual classes, online resources, and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) being conducted by the best institutes across the world are great way for such gifted students to learn whatever they want.

Mentally Retarded Children (with Mild Retardation)

Mental RetardationEducational Needs: 80% of retarded children have 'mild retardation' and an IQ of 50 to 70. They can be educated but are often slower than normal children. They can learn to support themselves and do jobs involving inferior skills. Such students may have specific difficulties like difficulty in remembering things; slow understanding of things, short attention span and difficulty in conceptualization. With active learning and a great deal of practice, such children tend to see improvement in their learning and retention capacity.

Assistive Technology Available: E-learning programs that use multimedia technologies and have video lectures that can be run again and again are a boon for such children. Simple games, 3D models, and animated videos to help understand concepts can help such children. Moreover, at home, children remain stress-free unlike a regular class where they are constantly under pressure to compete with other children. Parents or teachers can use high-tech gadgets to keep children interested in the topic and children can watch videos or recorded sessions as many times as they want to be able to understand a topic fully.

Orthopedically Handicapped Children

Orthopedically Handicapped ChildrenEducational Needs: Children with birth problems such as absence of some body organs, diseases that cause impairments such as bone tuberculosis, amputations due to accidents, and other such anomalies also need special help. They generally have average or above average intelligence but need adaptive equipments to be able to function normally.

Besides physically handicapped children are also observed to be passive, shy, less persistent and less motivated.

Assistive Technology Available: Speech recognition software allows learners with physical challenges to just dictate their notes or assignments independently. As such software is evolving; the text can now be punctuated with voice modulation and enunciation. Audio books and adaptive keyboards are also great tools for people suffering from hand tremors. Physicist Stephen Hawking is one of the best examples of what learners with motor difficulties can achieve with the assistance of technology. Research is going on to allow paralyzed people to give commands to the computer and make it work just with their thoughts.

Visually Handicapped Children

Educational Needs: Children with visual impairments may be completely blind or might be able to read only very large prints. Otherwise, they have about same intelligence level as normal children. Hence, they need special types of books (such as ones written in Braille) and special technological tools to be able to learn things.

Assistive Technology Available: Text-to-speech software allows blind or other visually impaired learners to hear whatever is written on computer screen. Hence, the learners can access learning material in a Word or PDF format, participate in forum discussions, and read emails or instant messages too. Using speech recognition software, visually impaired learners can give voice commands to their computers or dictate their notes and assignments to the computer. Other visual aids available for such learners include magnifying certain portions of screen text and converting on-screen text into Braille.

Hearing Impaired Children

Educational Needs: Children who are completely or partially deaf aren’t able to hear regular classroom lectures or video lectures or cannot respond to alerts. Hence, they need assistive technology too.

Assistive Technology Available: Sound amplification tools can be used for partially deaf students while flashing lights and icons can be used to catch their attention at important points. Learning videos with transcripts can be used for them. E-learning programs that employ typed chats for faculty-student interaction or peer interaction can be a perfect platform for them to ask questions and get their doubts cleared.

Socio-Culturally Disadvantaged Children

Culturally DisadvantagedEducational Needs: Deprived or disadvantaged learns have been observed to be more responsive to visual and physical learning elements than oral elements. They are also found to focus more on content and problem and are more inductive than deductive. They are slower, more careful and more patient than other students. They may lack auditory attention and interpretation skills and are more interested in concrete applications of concepts they learn. They may also have poor communication skills and prefer solitude.

Assistive Technology Available: Language enrichment programs that can be pursued at home can make a great difference to scholarly performance of such students. Special instructional programs geared to their needs and ability levels can encourage such students to pursue them actively.

E-learning programs with images, visual aids and videos provide suitable learning material for such students. Online discussions and group interactions can help them open up without making them feel too comfortable. Self-instructional material is also a motivation factor for such students.

Dyslexic Children

DyslexiaEducational Needs: Children suffering from dyslexia often have speech difficulties like stuttering and lisping as well as spatial difficulties where they might read 'b' as 'd' or vice-versa. They may have problems with their spellings, have illegible handwriting and may find it difficult to differentiate letters.

Assistive Technology Available: Multi-sensory teaching where learners can see a word, hear it and write it simultaneously is a good teaching strategy for dyslexic people. Step-by-step logical learning process is required for such students. Practicing one thing again and again and specialist teaching and writing sessions are needed for dyslexic students. Specialised e-learning sessions equipped with multimedia technologies are of great help in such cases.

Children with Dysgraphia

DysgraphiaEducational Needs: Dysgraphia is a result of neurological disability to write.

Assistive Technology Available: Along with special writing sessions, dysgraphia students can greatly benefit with speech recognition software that allow them to dictate notes and assignments to computer without having to write or type them.

Children with Dyscalculla

DyscalculiaEducational Needs: If students are able to do simple math processes such as addition and subtraction, get confused in recognizing shape or size of an object, have trouble in keeping scores and handle day-to-day money transactions, they probably suffer from dyscalculia.

Assistive Technology Available: Multimedia learning technology, repeated drill and revision exercises, and special exercises can help learners overcome this disability.

Children with Emotional or Behavioral Problems

Behavirol problem

Educational Needs: Children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are impulsive and hyperactive. Children with socialization problems feel stressed during lunch breaks or games period while children with personality or conduct disorders may create problems for other in school.

Assistive Technology Available: ADHD students learn better in a quite area. Hence, e-learning sessions at home that require one-to-one interaction with teacher can be a good idea for them. Children who have disruptive behavior or socialization problems can be enrolled in online classes where they can be put through psychotherapy and creative academic remedial projects meant just for them. Conducting such programs online mean that they are accessible to more and more learners.

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