Developing an E-learning Platform for the Deaf Children in Malaysia Dissertation Methodology Example


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Abstract in this research prospectus, characteristics of an e-learning educational tool will be introduced. This research focuses on building or developing an e- learning platform for the partially or completely deaf children in Malaysia. This platform will be integrating animation and avatar technologies along with 3D- representations of signs and alphabets, using the electronic linguistic resources of the Malay Sign Language (MSL) and Manually Coded Malay (MCM), in order to present a Malay- to- MSL/ MCM conversion tool that facilitates construction, storage, and maintenance of educational material in MSL by educators. Adjacent to reference to the development of tool in the context of a particular application, adaptability of the Malay- to- MSL/ MCM converter as a tool is much emphasized with respect to the necessities of the Universal Access and the Design for all principles in the milieu of the Information Society.

Research Problem in the recent years, a number of e- learning techniques have been developed for teaching sign language to the deaf population. This might be primarily because of the increased possibility of learning and advancement of the IT and also due to increased organizational and political attention to address the best strategy that promotes learning (Efthimiou & Fotinea, 2013; Gibbs & Jenkis, 1992; Drigas & Kouremenos, 2005). Additionally, adapted e- learning and web- based materials has been found to present an effective alternative method to promote learning as compared to the traditional classroom learning’s (Chu, 2006; Reitsma, 2009; Mishra & Sharma, 2005). Although this method minimizes multiple access barriers, especially, time and geographical- related, and also is beneficial for written materials over the spoken details, yet, it fails to address the issues of promoting student inclusion irrespective of their cognitive, functional and sensory abilities (Oostendorp, et al., 2008; Lee, 2007). In particular, individuals with partial or complete hearing disabilities might be vetoed from taking part in co-operative synchronous e- learning activities because in such activities, individuals are dependent on voice communication (Antzakas & Woll, 2011; Savita & Athirah, 2011; Gentry, et al., 2005). The speech- to- text systems presents an effective mode for the deaf individuals to follow the communication, however, it fails to enable them to act in the same way (Chaisanit, et al., 2010; Ju, 2009; Mayer, 2007). A number of issues have been pointed out by researchers with respect to the text content usage (Arabee & Mansur, 2006; MFD, 2007). The communication skill in every deaf individual differs such that some prefer communicating by lip- reading or writing while some other prefers oral language while other prefers sign language (Barrett, 2009; Muharam, 2007; Siew, et al., 2007; Neves, 2005). The bilingual deaf individual uses both types of communication mode. These skills are inexorably associated with the experience of hearing loss, which involves certain factors: family profile (how the child is raised and introduced to the sign language), the social context (the policies of education inclusion which are country specific and the type of impairment) and psychological affectations (as a result of the disability) (Laad, 2003; Lim, 2008; RAD, 2010; Martins, et al., 2015; Pivetta, et al., 2014). Research demonstrates that individual who uses sign language find it more difficult to use the e- learning platforms and write or read texts (El-Soud, et al., 2010; Ottaviano, et al., 2010). This is probably because the sign languages are not universal and differs from country to country (e.g., American Sign Language is used in the USA, Brazilian Sign Language is used in Brazil, Libras in prodigal, etc.) (Padden & Humphries, 2006; Brown & Mirri, 2013; Emmorey, 2009; Mirri, et al., 2011).

These further complicates the development of an effective technology that can aid in the translation of the sign language to assist bidirectional communication between hearing and deaf and also in the access of the educational materials by the deaf individuals (Neves, 2010; Wang, et al., 2006; Mokhtar & Anuar, 2015; Siraj, et al., 2013; Kaewkiriya, 2013). Therefore, it is evident that there are multiple barriers to e- learning platform accessibility. Furthermore, the complexity of expressions and words and ambiguity presented to individuals with or without disabilities are not much benefitted to use or access these platforms (Hasim, et al., 2013). Furthermore, research demonstrates the need for the parents to learn sign language as in most cases the child and the parent uses different languages. The use of irrelevant sign by non- skilled parents can hamper the development of the ability to use spoken language and sign language in children (Lichtig, et al., 2011). This can also trigger the deaf population disassociating themselves from the normal community.

Therefore, there is a need for the inclusion of an e-learning platform in the system that is free from communication barriers so that the deaf community is not left aside and is able to effectively communicate with the normal population. Hypotheses The e- learning platform has long been used in the Malaysia; however, its usage intensity is not remarkable. A number of studies have been conducted to check the effectiveness of different* e- learning platforms that has been already introduced in the system and understand the perspectives of the educators, parents and the deaf population. It is evident from these studies that parents’ experiences a number of issues regarding the kind of education they need to provide to their disabled children. In many cases, it has been witnessed that due to *lack of literacy about the sign language among parents, both parents and their deaf child finds it difficult to communicate. Additionally, the Malay culture in itself poses challenges as most parents believe that there is no need for their disabled children to receive similar kind of education as received by normal children.

Additionally, insufficiency of the educators in the school to impart the right kind of education using the right strategies further broadens the issues of effective learning of these special children. Most schools are not well- equipped with different tools or aid to provide education to children. These issues can be addressed if the government, teachers, and parents collaborate to ensure that this population receives the right type of education to compete with the world. Since, the web- based technologies has gained much attention in the past and hold promising future, and sign language has a global scope to be used as a spatial- visual language that are not limited to hand and face gestures/ expressions, it is important to make use of these *technologies to build an effective e- learning tool to educate this population and prevent them from being isolated from the society (Hussein & Nisour, 2009). There are ample of research and platforms available that has been proven to be effective but has not been yet been implemented properly in the education sector. Thus, based on these assumptions that *e- learning platform will effectively aid this population to gain knowledge, this research study will be designed and is expected to bring better outcomes when properly implemented (Bouzid, et al., 2016). Literature ReviewThe reason behind partial or total hearing loss from one or both ears include:

  1. infectious disease,
  2. birth conditions,
  3. medications and
  4. accident (WHO, 2010; Kyle & Woll, 1985).

Sign language is a rich mode of communication that is done by the space and movement of eyes and hands for iconic narration. Like normal children, even deaf children needs early development of literacy in order to develop their linguistic, personal, social and cognitive abilities. A number of countries and its institutions have adopted the bilingual approach for promoting the development of early literacy, where these special children are taught sign language along with the usual oral language. This mode of education imparts literacy to the children with the use of pictures, videos, etc. that aids children to learn new words. This also aids the children to relate the printed words with its meaning. e- Learning is an effective mode to enable knowledge gain on any particular language. This tool promotes the active participation of children and enables the makers to include a huge amount of information in a shorter period (Debevc, et al., 2014).

Every child has his/ her own learning style and processing capabilities, which they do at their own pace. Therefore, in such cases, e- learning is the best option for children as they can repeat it as many times as they want. In addition, children can receive feedbacks from the exercises instantly (Arabee & Mansur, 2006). This, therefore, improves the performance of the e- learning tools. Several researches have proved that the use of animated pictures or videos promotes better learning and cognitive processing among children as the information is transmitted to children using static texts are replaced by multimedia stories, animated sign language, animated pictures, and lip reading (Chu, 2006). This further minimizes the issues of lack of educational media at the learning institutions and also acts as an alternative and effective method of imparting education by educators (Nuccetelli, et al., 2014). This is probably because special children are restricted to text reading, which presents information via multiple representations that in turn promotes deeper learning in an interesting and fun way. In Malaysia, the educators’ uses Malaysian Sign Language (MSL) and Manually Coded Malay (MCM) as a formal teaching language to educate this population. This sign language and codes are feasible to use even on Indian and Chinese population along with the Malay race as it is the official language in Malaysia. Survey reveals that four out of five e- learning tools uses videos to teach children sign language; however, none uses the sign’s animatedly rotational view.

At present, there are only two e- learning tools that are in the software form, where one teaches MSL while the other teaches MCM. The existing operating platform, iKOD does not use MSL and also lacks the use of rotational view of signs and numbers in its videos. While on the other hand, the MySlang uses MSL where the signs are presented via 3D animation and instead of acting as a learning tool it functions as a dictionary. However, one of the major drawbacks of this platform is that no exercise for children is used and is only available in English (Arabee & Mansur, 2006; Debevc, et al., 2014). Therefore, the main objective of this study will be to develop an e- learning platform that uses the Malaysian Sign Language (MSL) and Manually Coded Malay (MCM) for the partial or total hearing impaired children in Malaysia and evaluate its efficacy using the black box and white box testing. Research QuestionAs discussed above, it is now evident that irrespective of the discovery of sign languages in different native languages and its use to educate hearing impaired children, this population still faces difficulty in communicating with the normal community. Some of the factors affecting the proper use of sign languages are:

  1. unawareness among parents
  2. children are presented with mixture of signs
  3. lacks proper tools and
  4. inefficient or less skilled educators.

These issues have been reported in the past to cause social isolation of the deaf population in the country. Therefore, in such a *scenario it becomes essential for the development of an e- learning tool with features that are not only presented in a familiar language to children but are also attractive and fun for children (Antzakas & Woll, 2011). *It is expected that the e- learning Malay- to- MSL/ MCM conversion tool developed by integrating Malaysian Sign Language (MSL) and Manually Coded Malay (MCM) along with animation and avatar technologies by utilizing the electronic linguistic sources will allow the educators to maintain and store educational material in MSL and MCM. *It is also expected that this tool will aid in improving the learning outcomes among this population, aid educators to deliver the right content in the right way and further engage them in the learning process.

This assumption is made based on the basic research on MSL and MCM analysis and also on the outcomes of the studies investigating the efficacy of the existing e- learning tools (Efthimiou, et al., 2014). Research PlanResearch PlanThe application of n elearning tool will be qualitatively studied, through a combination of approaches. Primarily, interviews will be conducted with the designers of the tool, parents of children who use the tool, and older children using the tool, in order to determine how effective, they believe the tool is. Further, it will seek to determine whether or not the students are leaerning from the program according to the designed model. Questions will be based on the tools features. Once the tool is built, it will transform all inputs written in Malay into MSL, which will then be presented on the screen for the children to visualize and learn (Bouzid, et al., 2016). The interviews, therefore, will seek to determine how effective the program is at accomplishing this goal.

Additionally, questions will be asked to ensure that the tools is minimizing the barriers to learning sign including: 1) unawareness among parents 2) children are presented with mixture of signs 3) lacks proper tools and 4) inefficient or less skilled educators (Antzakas & Woll, 2011). Interviewees will be asked open ended questions that address each of these barriers, in order to determine how much, and in what way, they are removed or reduced through use of the tool.

All interviews will be recorded for accuracy, and complete transcription. This increases the validity of the study, and protects it from researcher bias, while maximizing the amount of data that can be gained from the interviewees’ responses.

Further, the researcher will use double blind observation of the students using the program to record operation, and evidence of learning. Using a double-blind approach will prevent researcher bias, while also allowing the researcher to collected observational data of students actively using the tool.

Anticipated Difficulties and PitfallsThe only anticipated difficulties while developing this tool will be expanding the storage of this tool since a limited amount of data can be stored. Additionally, as seen in previous studies related to e- learning tools, the educational resources are extremely limited. This is partially due to the limitation that exists on the technical aspects where the linguistic content is to be represented in a dynamic fashion. Moreover, the e- learning online platform needs to be continuously updated with the advancement of the technology and due to lack of knowledge among most educators; the updating process might need external help from the tech- savvys. Furthermore, educating educators and exposing them to new platforms is another challenge as most educators in the past has been found to be uncomfortable when learning new techniques or when their pedagogy needs to be changed (Brown & Mirri, 2013).

Moreover, to encourage children to use this technology, even the parent’s needs to be educated, which is another major challenge.ConclusionEven though the information technology has been used for educational purposes since late 90’s in accordance to the guidelines for accessibility to information by different countries for special children, yet there is still a lack of effective e- learning tool. This Malay to MSL/ MCM conversion tool is expected to come out as an effective tool to attract and educate the special population at an early stage. This is because it is easy to implement in traditional classrooms and the e- content is also easily accessible (Khwaldeh, et al., 2007). However, this tools needs to be properly introduced to both the educators and parents as without imparting complete knowledge to them, special children would not receive the right amount of information in the right way. It is an innovative approach to impart education to the special children in an organization, where children learns in a close- to- usual signing condition, without the drawbacks affecting while using the e- learning tools and its features, while educators can easily organize their topics and retrieve testing / presentation material dynamically. This linguistic tool is expected to benefit both (educators and children) that motivates interface with an educational dais.

27 July, 2023

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