In 2017, I was involved in a Curtin University research project titled Internet Of Things (IoT) Education Implications for Students with Disabilities. Thanks to the support of academics across four universities, the report has now been published on the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education (NCSEHE) website.
The six-month research project was undertaken at Curtin University to determine the significance of the Internet of Things (IoT) in a tertiary education context. The research consisted of both an analysis of the current literature — focussing on consumer-based IoT, the IoT and disability, and the IoT and education — and interviews conducted to determine the perspectives of IoT of five students with disabilities.
The report findings indicated that:
“While the deployment of this technology in higher education, particularly in relation to students with disabilities, is still in its infancy, recent developments — such as the ubiquitous availability of smartphones, improvements in consumer-based IoT engagement such as standalone digital assistants, greater affordability, as well as the ease of collecting real-time data — provide significant opportunity for IoT innovations and solutions. The potential to seamlessly link students to their learning environment — in traditional classrooms or remotely — has great promise. In addition, students access the IoT via their own devices, thereby enabling their preferred assistive technologies (AT) and their individualised settings. Nevertheless, it is also critical that issues relating to privacy, security and interoperability are also addressed within the IoT context.
While IoT in higher education is still an emerging technology, particularly in relation to access for people with disabilities, universities need to seize the opportunities presented and develop plans to both engage with, and develop, these technologies in a learning and teaching environment. They also need to ensure that these technologies are interoperable with student’s own technology, particularly AT and to address the challenges to the privacy and security for both students and staff presented by IoT technologies.”
Specific recommendations from the report are as follows:
- “The implementation of IoT solutions should focus on the use of personal smartphones as the primary IoT interface device for students with disabilities.
- The IoT equipment associated with learning such as a digital whiteboard should have the ability to provide its output to students via an LMS or app. This would ensure that students with disabilities can process the data with their preferred AT.
- The use of IoT to observe students and the lecturer to enhance the effectiveness of learning materials and facilitate the implementation of improvements.
- All IoT-related implementations will need to consider privacy, security and interoperability as highlighted by the ongoing World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Web of Things (WoT) research.
- Any IoT solution must be accompanied by training to ensure that all staff and students are able to use it effectively.
- Trial of standalone digital assistants such as Google Home and related devices such as Google Chromecast should be provided to students with disabilities to assess their long-term effectiveness in improving educational outcomes.
- The applicability of using a digital assistant as a real-time captioning device warrants further research.
- IoT solutions for classroom environmental controls should be explored for automatic optimisation for student learning — this could be available to students via an aggregated voting system, possibly via a smartphone app.”
This report was initially released in October 2017 to support the Web of Things work at the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) as a result, several requests were received for the report to be added to the NCSEHE whose purpose is to inform public policy design and implementation, and institutional practice, in order to improve higher education participation and success for marginalised and disadvantaged people. The report was added to the NCSEHE in August 2018.
Special thanks to Shadi Abou-Zahra, Professor Gerard Goggin, Professor Vanessa Chang and a number of other academics whose support led to the NCSEHE submission process. Many thanks also to my co-authors for their involvement in the report. If you would like to read the report, the full text can be downloaded from the NCSEHE website or from the W3C Web Of Things publications page.