Distance learning Eliminating the digital divide

Distance learning - Distance Learning Eliminating the Digital Divide Sheryl Burgstahler Ph D Affiliate Associate Professor Director of

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Distance Learning: Eliminating the Digital Divide Sheryl Burgstahler, Ph. D. Affiliate Associate Professor, Director of DO-IT (Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking and Technology), Co-Director AccessIT (National Center on Accessible Information Technology in Education) University of Washington, U.S.A. [email protected] Abstract Today, distance learning is the fastest growing mode for the delivery of instruction. Distance learning programs desire to bring learning to anyone, anywhere at anytime. However, some students, including those with disabilities, cannot fully participate unless design features are employed to make distance learning courses accessible to them. Designed well, distance learning options create learning opportunities for students with a broad range of abilities and disabilities. Designed poorly, they erect new barriers to equal participation in academics and careers. This paper summarizes strategies and lists resources for developing distance learning courses that do not create a digital divide. New distance learning courses seem to be appearing everywhere. However, the idea of learning at a distance is not new. It has been around for a long time. Instructors have used printed materials and the postal system to deliver correspondence courses for hundreds of years. Televised courses were offered soon after televisions began to appear in homes. Today, in specially equipped facilities, instructors teach several classrooms full of students brought together through interactive television. Delivery of courses via the Internet is now common. Many distance learning courses use multiple modes of delivery. For example, class discussions may take place using electronic mail; course content may be delivered via the World Wide Web, printed materials and television; and the class might occasionally meet in a televised instructional facility. Distance learning programs often have as a goal to reach as many students as possible. While they almost always consider people separated by distance and time, they rarely consider issues faced by potential students and instructors with disabilities. Many distance learning courses erect unintended access barriers for students and instructors with disabilities, creating a digital divide between those who can participate and those who cannot. Ethical grounds can be used to argue that courses should be designed so that individuals with disabilities can fully participate. Many people simply consider it to be the right thing to do. Others are more responsive to legal mandates. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 requires that people with disabilities have equal access to public programs and services. According to this law, no otherwise qualified individuals shall, solely by reason of their disabilities, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination in these programs. The United States Department of Justice clarified that the ADA applies to
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This note was uploaded on 03/13/2011 for the course PUK 202 taught by Professor Roth during the Spring '10 term at Universität Klagenfurt.

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Distance learning - Distance Learning Eliminating the Digital Divide Sheryl Burgstahler Ph D Affiliate Associate Professor Director of

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