Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Online Education for Prisoners

Greetings from mLearn 2016 in Sydney, where Louise Patching, USQ, is speaking on "Using Offline Personal Devices to Enable Access to Higher Education in Prisons" for the Making the Connection Project. Louise pointed out that lack of Internet access is only one factor limiting e-learning in prisons; also there is limited access to hardware, limited prior education of the students. She explained that USQ had decades of experience in teaching prisoners. USQ has a special server for providing materials to prisons and a way for materials to be loaded to portable devices.

It occurs to me that the same techniques would be applicable to military personnel, who have limited access to the Internet due to deployment and security restrictions. The same could apply to students in very remote regions. Additionally, students being examined need to have their access to external materials limited. Lastly, all students could benefit from learning off-line, away from the distractions of the Internet.

USQ selected an 11inch DELL Latitude 3160 notebook for the students. This is a good choice, being low cost, portable and reasonably robust. Work had to be done to disable the communication devices (such as cameras) of the device and also modify the educational software (Moodle).

Some of what USQ has done would be useful, more generally for students. For example, a problem with webinars is where students have inadvertent left their microphones turned on.

As well as the Technion platform, USQ worked on preparing prisoners, with limited education for university studies. One aspect is having to take into account the length of sentence if the prisoner and their cultural background. Also vocational courses have to be suitable, not requiring practical work which cannot be done in prison and not for a career which former prisoners are excluded from.

I suggest that the off-line features could be built into Moodle and the Linux operating system, allowing the approach taken by USQ to be made available world-wide at no cost.

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