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Expanding Education Opportunities through e-Learning for High School Students in Southern Border Provinces

In the southern border provinces of Thailand, political problems based on religious differences have been accumulating for more than 40 years. Since late 2003, the conflicts between groups of an Islamic movement and the Thai government have increased and the issue of terrorism has arisen. As a result of the disturbances, economic and social problems inevitably follow. Despite the unstable conditions, people in this area manage to live with it and expect the problems to be solved peacefully.

The situation became quite serious: teachers and students had to be protected by the military and police on the way to school and back to their residences; outside school activities were cancelled; and school schedules were frequently interrupted.

The Nation Telecommunication Commission (NTC), under the Commission of Higher Education and PSU, is aware of the situation in southern Thailand, particularly the issue of high school students who were at risk when they lacked proper schooling. Therefore, the NTC provides the budget for the project. The main focus of the project is to prepare students for the knowledge necessary to study at university level, and to assist high school students in this area in their preparation for the national entrance examination. The short-term solution is to provide these students effective tutorials by effective teaching with effective technology. With the existing teleconference network used by the university, PSU extended the network to cover major academic institutions in five border provinces.

Broadcasting from PSU High School and PSU Wittayanusorn, qualified teachers and university lecturers volunteered to teach students from the affected areas. From December 2007 until September 2010, the project created more than 200 online media courses for students to use. Each weekend during this period, 6-10 hours of teleconference classroom teaching were conducted, and a total of more than 1,000 students participated.

The tutorials covered a revision of content students had studied already, samples of exams, and on-demand lessons that students could access anytime via the PSU web site.
Teachers and students in these five border provinces responded positively to the project. Our evaluation reported an increased level of academic performance along with motivation and encouragement. However, the project has to be improved technically and methodologically, a process which would be carried out in the new phase of the year 2010 to 2012.

The success of the project reminds us that technology can be utilized in various ways; specifically, for education. Better modules and ideas have to be initiated and improved continuously. It is undeniable that information technology helps us to extend a helping hand wherever help is needed. And this helping hand will grow stronger and reach farther when other hands are joined together.


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