|Peter Anderberg, M.S.E.E, PhDfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|CERTEC, Center of Rehabilitation Engineering Research at Lund University,
Box 118, S 221 00 Lund, Sweden
The Center for Rehabilitation Engineering Research at Lund University, Certec, has been
giving net-based courses over the Internet for three years now. Our initial objective for
doing so was to make available university courses for students with disabilities. But the
development of completely Internet-based courses showed us pedagogical difficulties and
possibilities that in the end led us to the need of starting to treat the traditional
classroom pedagogy as something of a stranger to us. The need for a development of a new
'virtual-classroom' pedagogy was apparent.
The challenge for such a pedagogy is to create a learning situation where students
could bring along all the factors in the traditional educational situation that would make
them feel comfortable enough to feel 'at home' in an often completely new environment and,
with full focus on giving the student ample possibilities to find himself in good learning
situations, to try to find ways to expand the old classroom to a new virtual classroom,
more full of nuances.
This means to explore the possibilities of new, and always better, learning situations for the student taking Internet-based courses, than those possible to present in a traditional classroom.
|We are currently giving a course called "IT and Learning" for 90 students from all over Sweden, where we make use of all the knowledge we have gained in our previous distance courses. Most of the students in this course have backgrounds from Special Education or Occupational Therapy, but also others from a wide variety of professions are represented.|
|We have one main-teacher, Professor Bodil Jonsson, who is responsible for the course. Since we are using so many different expert-teachers and different activities on the web we have found that the need for a person who can supervise it all is crucial.|
|The schedule of the course is based on two week modules. We create every module around a lecture/introduction that is made available on the web (streaming RealAudio with webpagecontrol or plain text/pictures) during the period, and then stays available for the student during the course.|
|The modules contain topics like 'Cognitive Problems -Technical Possibilities', 'Expert-systems', 'Autism', 'Case-studies', 'Research ethics', 'MMI', 'IT&Learning-visual impairments-motoric disabilities' etc.|
|Every module also contains group- and individual assignments.
The platform we are using here is the Webboard conference system, with possibility for
both conferencing and chatting. The students are using the Webboard to coordinate the work
in the group, asking the teachers questions, and participating in seminars.
|The group and individual assignments are presented and commented on the net for all students to see.|
|The individual assignments consist of three questions on every module. "This I didn't know before", "This I do not believe" and "This I will think more about". The answers to the questions have been very good, both quantitatively and qualitatively.|
|Groupwork can consist of making case-studies and searching information about disability and travel, communicating in pictures with people with cognitive disabilities, discussion in the group about their answers in the individual assignments, making collective questions on certain topics etc.|
|This gives both a necessity and an incentive to 'being there'. A problem with distance education could often be to motivate the students to 'hang around' the virtual classroom. There is often a problem with 'nothing new since last login'. We have found that a consistent work on making useful the web by integration of the lectures, group-work and 'corridor talk' has been very successful. And one of our corner-stones here has been our emphasis on the students learning.|
|The asynchronous nature of discussions, seminars and questions in a web conference-system needs special consideration. The advantage is that it allows people to participate in the discussion when they can. This also allows to have as little fixed times as possible. You can work with time-zones instead of exact time.|
|We think we have reached very good results here, judging by how our students use our website.|
|Our hypothesis is: This is a tremendously good learning environment.|
|The observations we have so far to corroborate this is,
|We would like to go on with our initial intentions and see if this learning community we have found amongst our non-disabled students, will also translate into a group with disabled students. Our thesis is that disabled students have even more to benefit from the empowerment factors in such a learning environment.|
|We will initiate a full-scale project the coming fall (98),
with a group of students with a wide variety of disabilities in our university courses.
Certec Homepage with all reports and research information
Falkvall Jonas, CERTEC på Internet - en teknisk översikt