Experts canvass e-learning for special needs children

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Professor Olufemi Fakolade

Online and traditional learning are two modes of learning that are often weighed against each other. Learning through the medium of the internet without the proper assistance of a teacher in real-time is known as online learning. Traditional learning refers to imparting education in institutions with teachers and students interacting in real-time.

Handicapped children in their schools

Learning has become easier with access to different courses available at a click. The traditional form of learning is slowly slipping into the online mode, owing to its various advantages. Both Online Learning and Traditional Learning have their own advantages and disadvantages. Their effects are thus registered accordingly. Let’s have a look at the comparison between the two.

What is traditional learning?

Traditional Learning refers to a setting where a teacher communicates with a group of students in a typical brick and mortar classroom set-up. The students attend the class for fixed time duration and learn about specific topics and subjects, and they often get hands-on experience for a job. Although many schools or institutions make use of technology, the teaching-learning process still involves hand-written notes, assignments, tests, etc. The curriculum follows a standardized pattern using textbooks approved by the government and the education board. Moreover, the students are completely dependent on the teacher for acquiring knowledge of the subject.

Traditional Learning has been there since time immemorial. It is the first and foremost approach to learning considered by educators for imparting knowledge. Though it is a primary approach to learning in contemporary times, it has certain advantages and disadvantages which make it unique.

What is online learning?

Online Learning refers to a process where the students and the teacher are connected via the Internet. This implies that they are not bound by time or space. Moreover, the study material is digitally shared by the teacher, and the students also have access to varied information sources through the Internet. Unlike a traditional classroom, students get a wide range of subjects in an online learning format and are free to opt for any of them depending on their interests.

Online Learning is a comparatively new and emerging approach that is setting the ground for endless opportunities. Let’s take a look at some advantages and disadvantages of online learning.

Online Learning versus Traditional Learning might seem like a highly debated topic with two opposing and fervent sides, but a deeper understanding of both gives an entirely different impression. Taking into account the different perspectives of learning, both methods have certain pros and cons that make them unique as well as effective in different learning situations. While the wide accessibility of online learning may excite the interest of learners, the in-person attention provided in traditional classrooms may be preferred by the supporters of traditional learning. It is difficult to make a conclusive remark as to which mode of learning is better than the other as both weigh equally on the scale of effectiveness.

All learners have different styles and preferences of learning. There is no one specific methodology that can fit all learners. Educators must design curriculums that allow the learners to learn their own way. Adopting different modes of learning may prove helpful in doing so. Offering lessons through online as well as offline mode may allow the students to learn comfortably as per their style of learning. However, be it online or offline, it is necessary to design engaging and effective lessons as the ultimate aim of both modes is to fulfill the lesson objective and foster learning.

But education experts are calling for the adoption and inclusion of e-learning in the teaching of children with special needs. Speaking at the opening of the 34th national conference of the Nigeria Association of Special Education Teachers, the Dean of the Faculty of Education at the University of Ibadan, Professor Olufemi Fakolade, said the introduction of e-learning would make it possible for students with special needs to surmount problems associated with traditional learning.

At the conference themed: ‘Application of e-learning in teaching and learning for learners with special needs in Nigeria’, Fakolade said: “E-learning supports the inclusion of children with disabilities in education by enabling them to overcome some of the barriers causing their exclusion. It complements other face-to-face methods and tools, such as teacher training and inclusive pedagogy.

Christiana Dada of the faculty of education, Kwara State University, Malete, stressed the importance of adopting e-learning in teaching students with special needs. She said the use of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) in the education of children with special needs is possible in the country when concerted efforts are made by the government and professionals. Dada, a professor of special education, recommended training and sustaining teachers’ interests in ICT.

National president of the association, Catherine Atteng, said the topic of the conference was in accordance with global trends. “It’s a globalised world and everybody is deploying technology. We can’t deprive students with special needs the opportunity to be at par with their counterparts across the world,” she said.

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