Barriers to Getting Educators Online, by Denise Ethier and Jennifer Gold
Access to hardware and software
First and foremost, potential members must have the technical ability to log on. Margaret Riel, an educational researcher, who has written many articles on CMC in education, has found that one of the factors that contributes to a network's success is easy and equal access to the technology for all participants (Riel & Levin, 1990). Unfortunately, access is a fundamental barrier that educators must overcome.
In a study conducted by the U.S. Department of Education on the use of telecommunications in the nation's schools, funding for telecommunications is the most often cited barrier (69%) to the use of telecommunications in the public schools. The next most cited barriers were lack of equipment or poor equipment (50%) and too few access points in the school building (47%) (National Center for Education Statistics, 1995).
This same study found that while 35% of schools have some form of Internet access, only three percent provide access in classrooms and other instructional areas. And within this small subset of schools, only two percent of teachers use wide area networks to a large extent. Furthermore, the existence of outmoded hardware is another problem. Quality Education Data (QED) has found that nearly 46% percent of the computers in schools are Apple IIe vintage. (U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Technology, 1995).
NCIP found that these barriers keep many potential users off NCIPnet. In telephone interviews conducted as part of the project's evaluation, access to computer hardware in the schools was cited as a primary barrier.