Updated: Nov 28, 2020
By: Caleara Mai, Business Analyst for BIBC
In the highly-developed century of innovations and technology, people are always searching for “the thing” that could transform the world and make it a better place - like Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple. “The thing” that people from investors, to founders, and even leaders are looking for is a revolution, a thing that has the power to reconstruct the world, and yes, it lies in The Big Four that are mentioned above - Technology.
Technology has made a huge impact on how our lives have changed, and we can’t deny the fact that it has made our lives better in some ways - more convenient, useful and yet diverse. It had created a virtually similar model of the society through social media and improved remote communication; invented scientific technology that could support researching and could create a vaccine within a few months in this COVID-19 pandemic; created the internet that includes all the information used to be only in books and documents; and yet invented automatic robots and the as-smart-as-human technology - AI that can help human in our daily choirs, in the industries, and companies. Technology has changed the world more than what we thought when it first came out and it still continues to do so in many aspects.
Through this COVID-19 pandemic, many people, including me and my teams have been working and learning remotely, thanks to the help of technology. However, not everyone has equal access to remote learning, and even in the normal classroom, some are still searching for an education that suits their needs and abilities. Those include disabled students.
When the NHLC Tech Case 3 first came out, my team and I sparked a question: “Technology has changed and improved so many things but why aren't there any technologies that could give accessible and personalized education to all students with different needs and abilities?”. After days of discussing and researching, we have come up with a solution to this question and how we can improve the technology that we have been using in the previous case: eLISA-A, an accessible and leveraged version from eLISA, with various accessibility features.
Let’s look at the two personas, Mark and Julie and see how eLISA - A can help solve the problem above! Both are enrolled students at BIBC from the eLISA program. They have different needs, abilities, challenges from their personal disabilities.
Mark was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) at a young age, which gave him challenges to stay focused. He learns best when he is instructed at a slow pace and needs support when doing big projects. However, during the COVID-19 remote learning, he had faced many difficulties even though with the supportive help from teachers and school staff.
On the other hand, Julie likes planning over action. She was not diagnosed with any disability. Through extracurriculars and learning, her parents always told teachers that she is a kinesthetic learner. Over the school year, she also discovered that she likes to generate ideas through thinking, going for a walk in the park can help clear her head and reflect ideas in her mind.
Both of these students are different with different strengths, weaknesses and challenges.
So how can eLISA-A bring fair & personalized learning to them?
Training & Development: It’s the first step in creating accessible, suitable and personalized learning content for all students, especially those with disabilities. Over a 1 week span, staff members are required to take part in accessibility, disability and inclusion training to familiarize themselves with various types of learners (visual, audio, kinesthetic), and common disabilities and challenges faced by students.
Implementation & Accessibility Features: In 1 month, with the help of BIBC’s partner, we’ll be funding and using many new technology features, including student diagnostics & badges, “Break it down’ button, “Pause” button, Text-to-speech & Speech-to-text, VR and many more that can be found more detailed below:
3. Student Diagnostics: All students will take a diagnostic to determine their strengths, weaknesses, best learning types and the suitable technology that can be used to support them with their disabilities. The diagnostic will be sent to their parents & school so that they can support them in their studies and will create a “learner profile” that will give out badges for the recommended learning for the student.
4. Full Accessibilities Integration: Students will have full access to all online learning resources and support from BIBC platform. Have the choice to choose a learning path that suits them the best and that will help support their studies and future dreams!
User Stories: What did Julie and Mark think of eLISA-A when we first showed them our early developments? And how has it helped improve their learning?
“eLISA was an amazing platform before they added the accessibility features, but now it’s even better. After I took the diagnostic, I not only learned about where I could gain more support and succeed more, with the badges, but I even learned more about myself! The discussion badge led me to try another learning method, and I love it so far. Not enough platforms do what BIBC does, they’re taking a step towards a better future for sure. I can’t wait for more final developments!” - Mark
“WOW. I originally enrolled in BIBC to help me prepare for the workforce, but my experience has provided me with so much more than that! The accessibility addition has made my experience much more personalized, and I can tell that I’m getting even more out of it than I was previously. I’ve already recommended BIBC to all my friends, but I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to learn! 10/10” - Julie
What does it all boil down to? Our technology’s unique capabilities:
Personalized learning curriculum developed for each student and their learning needs - done with their profile, badges, and buttons
2. A wide variety of learning options that promote accessibility (using VR, audio, draft-builder & other software/tech)
3. Safety & protection: Parent & support portal to support student/user success, discussion forums, the "Pause" button
Overtime working on this case about accessible learning for all, I have been looking more deeply into the inclusion and accessibility for education. All students are different and unique and they should all have fair access to education and support. However, that is not the case in many countries and regions of the world. I was born and raised in Vietnam, it’s a developing country and definitely not as developed as Canada, the USA or any other developed country; and sometimes we are even called “poor”. And yes, while they are developing different industries in other countries, many people in Vietnam are still having the only question: “how to get out of poverty and how can my children go to school if I’m this poor?”. Education is not free in Vietnam, and what it means is that families with low income will not be able to provide their children with an education, not even saying a good education. This is not what we call “inclusion and accessibility”. But it does not stop there when their children drop out of school and work for money instead, they lack knowledge, skills and again, they become poor just like their parents and another cycle of that happens again and again and ends up having many generations without the needed knowledge and skills. Many people would ask why the government doesn’t do anything like giving free education? The answer is that poor countries are still struggling to solve many problems that are prioritized more than an inclusive and accessible education. This is happening in many countries around the world, especially in developing countries.
Since I can go to school and have a good education, I felt really lucky and thankful. In the summer of 2019, I moved to Canada to study abroad as an International student. I thought that a developed country like Canada with free education would bring inclusive and accessible learning to all. But no, I was wrong when I was there. There are still many students who drop out of schools, so many that are treated unfairly and so many that are lack support. I volunteered for many organizations that provide free resources to students or support education in developed countries, but even when there is hard work from so many people, the problem still seems unsolvable. Especially when COVID-19 hits, it even sparked more problems with inclusive and accessible education.
With me, yes, having inclusion and accessible education is really important as it will nurture many talents that will contribute to the growth of society. But is it hard, yes definitely. It’s a challenge that will need a solution and help from so many individuals and organizations. Our society is always growing and improving and I hope to see “the thing” that could bring an inclusive and accessible education for all.
For the upcoming school year, I do have some advice on how we can demonstrate inclusion and embrace accessibility for students with disabilities.
Inclusion and accessible education has been an issue that we are seeking for a solution and I hope that by introducing eLISA-A, we hope we will be able to bring new changes to the current education bit by bit for a better future!