Due to the unprecedented dependency of refugees on ICT, the authors investigate how e-learning can be used to support refugees in the integration process and contributes to their social inclusion into the host country.
They use qualitative research methods to gather deep insights into this issue. 28 face-face interviews were conducted with refugees in Germany, in the area of Berlin and Brandenburg. In this paper, they report on their findings, including; legal regulations, e-learning channels, learning formats, creativity using e-learning, challenges and obstacles.
The paper is structured as follows:
In this paper, the authors tackle the use of e-learning by Syrian refugees in Germany to achieve social inclusion. Education, together with learning local languages, is one of the top three dimensions of social inclusion alongside social networking and employment.
Researchers have shown that education and language enable social inclusion. In the case of refugees, a good command of the local language is essential to a successful social inclusion process, which encourages enabling the refugees to attend language courses upon their arrival. Refugees have to start a new journey in the host country by visiting several governmental offices to submit their asylum applications and clarify other formalities, including getting a residence permit, health insurance, accommodation, etc. This requires the refugees to communicate with different groups including local authorities, governmental offices, locals, and volunteers. Nevertheless, asylum seekers are typically not qualified to participate in education programs (including learning the language) until their lengthy asylum application processes have been completed.
Moreover, official statistics have shown that more than 83% of asylum seekers in Europe in 2015 were younger than 35 years old. This clearly indicates the importance of education for this young population group. This includes the need to learn the local language, participate in educational programs, and take part in professional training). Here, ICT emerges as a means to alleviate this challenge, with Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) as a key tool. MOOCs have been growing in popularity and are attracting the attention of millions of online learners worldwide by providing easy and ready access to education.
Despite this, researchers in the IS community have observed that existing research offers limited insights into the process by which ICT may contribute to a greater use of e-learning opportunities in the context of refugees. To fill this gap and understand how ICT can promote the social inclusion of refugees in host countries, the authors use qualitative research by conducting face-to-face interviews with refugees in Berlin-Germany to investigate their use of ICT for e-learning purposes.
This research shows a clear potential for e-learning as a means of social inclusion for Syrian refugees in Germany. Many refugees already use e-learning offers to learn the German language through YouTube, Facebook, WhatsApp, and specialized mobile apps. These offers give them advantages, such as more flexibility and freedom during the learning process, over traditional learning offers.
Yet, several refugees emphasize the role of traditional classrooms and call for a mixed approach of both digital and physical classrooms.
Furthermore, the research shows that e-learning can be further adopted by more refugees if adequate technical infrastructure, e.g., robust Internet connections, are provided to refugees. Also, quiet environments that are suitable for studying are required to encourage refugees to utilize e-learning offers. Additionally, sufficient advertising is needed in order to inform refugees about available e-learning offers.
It is also worth mentioning that e-learning materials should be designed in an intuitive and simple way so that they can be consumed by a large group of refugees. Special materials should be also designed to target children, old people, and women with children.