At the moment many educational establishments provide professional training for people with hearing impairment and that's great. We have also been asked if our LMS is valid for people with limited hearing, so we decided not to leave the topic unattended. After analyzing the sphere of education for hearing-impaired people we found out that it is not as perfect as one expects after all.
Lack of signers is a major issue. The profession of signer isn't too popular, there are few specialists and educational establishments could never boast of providing a decent salary. That's why it's a frequent case when a group of learners with hearing impairment is taught by a teacher who doesn't know sign language. What is he or she supposed to do? They couldn't find a signer, or the signer is on a sick leave, or works only at a certain time of day etc. The issue can be resolved if there is a multimedia device that can display the learning material, for example, as a presentation. The problem would be partly solved. But not every educational establishment can properly equip the classrooms. So it still happens sometimes that the teacher is writing the summary of the lesson on the blackboard and students are copying it to their notebooks... Obviously, the material can be simply printed and given out to students but then what is the teacher to do at the lesson?
If we think of it, distance learning can be a good solution here. It's possible to completely replace the full-time educational process with the distant one or organize distance learning as support for the main educational process.
In most cases, to setup the distant learning process, you would need a few specialists and a Learning Management System (LMS or VLE). Let's take a look at the LMS/VLE tools that can transform the educational process for people with hearing problems:
- 1. Web-conference tool. Allows organizing real-time interactive studying. The main point here is the opportunity to use web-cameras and record the video of the lessons that can be replayed at any convenient time. Web-camera will show the learners the sign language translation of the study material while the material itself can be displayed on the screen, e.g. as a presentation.
- 2. Forum. Forums are widely used for learning support at schools and higher educational establishments. Forum technologies allow creating groups of users, organizing topic discussions etc. It is possible also to attach files in different formats to discussion boards, submit comments.
- 3. Chat. Allows organizing real-time discussions of the materials or common chat with the teacher on the necessary topics. It allows detecting the learners' knowledge gaps and removing them successfully.
- 4. Online quizzes. Quizzes are of key importance when checking the learners' knowledge. It's essential that the quizzes are provided with different types of questions like multiple choice, multiple response, filling in the gaps, matching etc.
- 5. Task completion. Most LMSs allow flexible control of individual and home tasks. Teacher can use the comments system to clarify some points or organize a competition with the rating system of task evaluation. Using LMS means it is also possible to organize online examinations or learners' presentation of their works.
Most modern distance learning systems, including our JoomlaLMS, are equipped with the above set of tools.
Although the key advantages of distance learning over the standard learning process for the given group of learners are quite obvious, we should also remember such weighty factor as social communication. The distance learning system isn't just a learning environment; it's also a social platform for learners' communication, which is also very important for people with hearing problems.