Academic journal article Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness

The Mediator Role of Perceived Stress in the Relationship between Academic Stress and Depressive Symptoms among E-Learning Students with Visual Impairments

Academic journal article Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness

The Mediator Role of Perceived Stress in the Relationship between Academic Stress and Depressive Symptoms among E-Learning Students with Visual Impairments

Article excerpt

The 2014 Korean census reported that the total number of registered people with disabilities was 2,494,000, which is about 5% of the total Korean population. The number of those with visual impairments was 253,000 (Korean Ministry of Health and Welfare, 2015). Higher education provides an opportunity for a better quality of life among people with disabilities; thus, the need for higher education among people with disabilities is increasing. However, higher education for such individuals still has many limitations. For example, learners with disabilities, who need educational accommodations to meet their special or unique needs, often struggle in traditional educational settings with, for instance, printed texts, written papers, and inaccessible classrooms. The dropout rate of Korean students with disabilities in higher education increased to 6.2% in 2011, mostly because of academic difficulties (Park et al., 2011).

Distance education is available through various settings using a variety of educational methodologies and assistive technology. It can be categorized into three types (Hanna, 1998): the first uses conventional print-based courses distributed by mail; the second uses various technologies such as satellite or two-way video and audio systems to reach students at distant sites; the third (e-learning) is the emerging online web-based universities that were developed to use online technologies exclusively. Korean cyberuniversities fall into the third type.

Distance education has become an alternative for learners with disabilities. It provides disabled students with educational accommodations that include diverse formats of study materials; makes physical attendance in the classroom unnecessary; and allows flexibility of study time. Despite those advantages, a relatively small number of students with disabilities--2.2% (1, 748 individuals) of the total number of students in Korean cyberuniversities--were enrolled in distance education in 2013 (Korean Council of Cyber Universities, 2013). Also, among many types of disabilities, the number of students with visual impairments who enrolled in 17 Korean cyberuniversities in 2012 was 419 (Korean Council for University College Education, 2013). Distance education opens up new opportunities for students with disabilities, but students face many stressors related to academic life. However, there is a lack of research on adult learners with disabilities, especially those with visual impairments, in distance education.

In higher education, students in general perceive academic life as stressful (Hammer, Grigsby, & Woods, 1998), due to external pressures and self-imposed expectations (Misra & McKean, 2000); lack of time and issues relating to time or task management (Trueman & Hartley, 1996); adaptation to new learning environments (Van-Rooijen, 1986); assigned academic workload (Fonseca et al., 2013); examinations (Marshall, Allison, Nykamp, & Lanke, 2008); and constant self-regulation (Fram & Bonvillian, 2001). Students in distance education experience the same stress-inducing academic demands; in addition they suffer from technical difficulties, confusion over course objectives (Song, Singleton, Hill, & Koh, 2004), and a perceived lack of community (Drouin, 2008), because of the educational setting of e-learning. Students with visual impairments can face additional academic stressors in the process of distance education because of the technological gaps between the latest e-learning environment and outdated rehabilitation technology (Oh & Lee, 2013). Advanced e-learning settings cannot be fully accessed by the adaptive technologies because of limitations in recognizing flash animations; web images; and programs constructed with Java, a general-purpose computer programming language that is largely inaccessible to screen readers.

Stress can be defined as the state in which individuals' perception of the environmental demands or mental strain go beyond their regulatory capacity or their interpretation of the available resources (Cohen, Kessler, & Gordon, 1995; Lazarus & Folkman, 1984). …

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