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A Study to Determine the Efficacy of Internet Delivery of Classes in Visual Impairment: The New Vision in Distance Education

Focus: School Years

Topic: Personnel Preparation

Pat Kelley

Research Associate Professor

Nora Griffin-Shirley

Assistant Professor

Alan Koenig

Professor

Pamela Broadston

Doctoral Student

College of Education

Texas Tech University

Box 41071

Lubbock, Texas

79409-1071

USA

1-806-742-2345

pat.kelley@ttu.edu

Internet delivery is becoming a popular method of study in many fields. Personnel preparation programs in visual impairment have been slow to join in this trend, perhaps due to concerns about the efficacy of such training.

Internet classes in visual impairment have been available at Texas Tech University since September, 2000. A study was conducted to determine the efficacy of these classes and to identify problem areas that need to be addressed. Telephone interviews were conducted with 30 students who had completed at least one of the following subjects: Programs and Services in Visual Impairment, Braille, Physical Aspects of Visual Impairment, or Orientation and Mobility Seminar.  Information gathered included, personal issues, technology issues, instructional satisfaction, and content mastery. Students were also asked to elaborate on their answers for more qualitative information.

Personal issues included reasons for taking the subject on-line and personal qualities that the students felt contributed to their successful completion of the subject.  Table 1 summarizes the responses regarding reasons for studying on-line. Students responded with more than one reason in each of these areas, therefore the total number of responses is more than 100%.  The primary reason for taking the subject on-line was distance from a training program.

Table 1

 Reasons for taking subject on-line

Reason

 

Completers

 

Other: Distance from University

 

47% (14)

 

Family or employment made traditional class impossible

 

33% (10)

 

Only class available at the time needed

 

23% (7)

 

Other: Enhance job opportunities

 

17% (5)

 

Other: No other institution offering course

 

10% (3)

 

Intrigued by prospect of new experience

 

7% (2)

 

Other: convenience of study on-line

 

7% (2)

 

Previous experience with Internet

 

3% (1)

 

Table 2 summarizes the personal qualities that the student felt contributed to their success in completing a subject. Students indicated more than one response to this question. The two characteristics most commonly mentioned were being a self-starter and being good at visual/spatial tasks. In elaboration, students suggested that the qualities of self-management, discipline, and self-motivation contributed to their success.

Table 2

 Personal qualities contributing to successful completion

Quality

 

Responses

 

Self-starter

 

77% (23)

 

Good at visual/spatial tasks

 

67% (20)

 

Enjoy attention to fine detail

 

50% (15)

 

Good at technology

 

40% (12)

 

Demands on my time

 

33% (10)

 

Procrastinator

 

17% (5)

 

Technology issues covered several areas, including university-controlled issues such as registration, and student-controlled issues (e.g., type and access to computers and computer skills) were addressed. The Internet proved to be a favorable method of instructional delivery as indicated by the fact that 97% of the students said that they would take another class on-line. Table 3 indicates the student-controlled technology issues responses. Additional comments included: “I learned as I went along, progressed rapidly, and learned quickly”. One student indicated that more training on technology would have been beneficial.

Table 3

 Student-controlled Technology Issues

Technology issue

 

Yes

 

No

 

Did you have adequate computer equipment?

 

87% (26)

 

13% (4)

 

Was the computer accessible on a daily basis?

 

93% (28)

 

7% (2)

 

Did you have the technology skills needed?

 

83% (25)

 

17% (5)

 

Table 4 indicates the University-controlled technology issues responses. Student comments included some trouble with formatting on their home computer. The most comments came on the issue of amount of work and number of assignments. Several students who took the subject during a summer term commented “I suggest a long semester, not summer, for this course”. Since summer instruction is only 5 weeks long and the long semester is 14 weeks, this has had an impact on the delivery of subjects in all formats.

Table 4

 University-controlled Technology Issues

 

Very dissatisfied

 

Dissatisfied

 

Satisfied

 

Very Satisfied

 

Registration process

 

7% (2)

 

0%

 

43% (13)

 

50% (15)

 

Organization of information on the web site

 

0%

 

0%

 

37% (11)

 

63% (19)

 

Accessibility of instructor

 

0%

 

0%

 

43% (13)

 

57% (17)

 

Submitting assignments by email or fax

 

0%

 

7% (2)

 

33% (10)

 

60% (18)

 

Amount of work and number of assignments

 

0%

 

3% (1)

 

77% (23)

 

20% (6)

 

Instructional satisfaction questions addressed the issues of the level of satisfaction with instruction and suggested areas of improvement. Suggestions for improvement included the need for more feedback in some subjects, reduction of repetition of work in Braille, and the need for some face-to-face interaction.

Table 5

Instructional Satisfaction

 

Yes

 

No

 

Were the assignments appropriate for course content?

 

100% (30)

 

0%

 

Did you understand the grading policy?

 

100% (30)

 

0%

 

Was the content appropriate for delivery over the Internet?

 

97% (29)

 

3% (1)

 

Did the course satisfy your need?

 

97% (29)

 

3% (1)

 

Internet effective teaching/learning environment?

 

87% (26)

 

13% (4)

 

Content mastery was to be determined by whether or not the students passed the state or national competency examinations in visual impairment or orientation and mobility. Unfortunately, only 5 of the students had completed the entire program and taken the examinations, so there were not enough responses to this question for the data to have meaning. However, two students have taken and passed the state teacher competency examination and three students have taken and passed the national orientation and mobility specialists examination, therefore, the students have a 100 % pass-rate so far.

We would like to extend a special thank you to Laikuen Siew, Dwayne Matlock, and Xiaoming Liu for their assistance in data collection and analysis. This is a continuing study. After students complete Internet study, we will continue to interview and gather data in order to provide more effective coursework and revise the subjects.


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