Academic journal article Journal of Distance Education (Online)

One Laptop per College Student? Exploring the Links between Access to IT Hardware and Academic Performance in Higher Education E-Learning Programs

Academic journal article Journal of Distance Education (Online)

One Laptop per College Student? Exploring the Links between Access to IT Hardware and Academic Performance in Higher Education E-Learning Programs

Article excerpt

Abstract

In an attempt to foster student integration in virtual education programs, several higher education institutions have launched systematic large-scale hand-outs of personal computers, inspired by the "One Laptop per Child" distribution model. However, the level of impact of these initiatives on academic performance is not yet well understood. This article aims to explore student responses to changing levels of access to IT hardware, applying multiple correspondence analysis. Some of the broader socioeconomic factors affecting education are also examined.

Résumé

Dans le but de favoriser l'intégration des étudiants aux programmes d'enseignement virtuel, quelques établissements d'enseignement supérieur ont distribuées des grandes quantités d'ordinateurs personnels à ses étudiants, suivant le modèle de distribution du projet "One Laptop per Child". Cependant, les effets de ces initiatives sur le rendement scolaire ne sont pas encore bien compris. Cet article vise à evaluer le rendement des étudiants vis-à-vis ses differents niveaux d'accès aux ordinateurs, en appliquant l'analyse des correspondances multiples. Des facteurs socio-économiques qui influent sur l'éducation seront aussi explorés.

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1. What is the Digital Divide?

In November 2007, the One Laptop per Child Association (OLPC), a non-profit organization create the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab, began the production of the CM1 computer the first working prototype of an affordable, crank-powered, Linux-based laptop especially design for the use of children six to twelve years old in developing countries. The OLPC project was foun on the belief that unequal access to digital resources will become one of the principal causes of so exclusion in the Twenty-First Century (cf. Madon 2000). As computer and Internet use grew exponentially among North American and Western European families throughout the 1990s, vast regions of the world were left behind. According to Chinn and Fairlie (2004), in 2001 there were the computers per hundred people in North America, but only 0.5 per 100 in South Asia. In response this imbalance, the OLPC project took on as its mission "to create educational opportunities for the world's poorest children by providing each child with a rugged, low-cost, low-power, connected la with content and software designed for collaborative, joyful, self-empowered learning".

OLPC's underlying premise is that the large-scale distribution of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) among the less privileged will enable us to tackle problems of accessibility to computers and simultaneously improve IT literacy rates. OLPC thus links access with use and practice, relying on models of self directed learning and top-to-bottom approaches to education. Nicholas Negroponte, founder of the OLPC project, has summed up this association between acce and use with the phrase "you can give kids XO laptops and just walk away" (Vota 2010). The availability of ICT resources and the development of ICT skills, in turn, are expected to have a positive impact on interrelated socio-economic factors, reducing multiple forms of deprivation suc poverty, social exclusion and illiteracy, not just among the children but also within their broader community. The OLPC initiative has been welcomed by several non-governmental organizations a educational institutions (such as UNICEF, the NEPAD, and the University of South Pacific) as a ste forward in the fight against global inequality and an efficient means of increasing public awarenes the problems associated with the digital divide.

Bharat Mehra defines "digital divide" simply as "the troubling gap between those who use compu and the Internet and those who do not" (2004: 782). The term originated in the United States between 1995 and 1997 (Irving et al. 2000), when it was allegedly adopted by the Clinton administration and a group of journalists to describe the growing social inequalities in the level of access to technology. …

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