Computer conferencing is a relatively new technique which can be applied to improve both the efficiency of education, and communication services available to the homebound handicapped. A system is currently being implemented at the New Jersey Institute of Technology which allows such individuals to engage in a written form of conversation with other individuals or groups. Here the computer stores the discussion and keeps track of what everyone has or has not seen, so participants can communicate at a time and pace of their choosing. There is also provision for a range of ancillary facilities such as voting, word processing, speedwriting, anonymity and personal notebooks not attainable through other communications media.
One extremely important potential use of such a system is for those who are handicapped and/or mobility limited such as the aged. In this context, a host of new educational, rehabilitation and employment opportunities now become feasible. Among these are:
- More effective tutoring for homebound youngsters by establishment of class-like environments.
- More immediate and responsive training and rehabilitation programs for recently handicapped adults.
- A wider range of psychological and social services available per person without augmenting professional staff.
- The availability of new job opportunities for the homebound made possible by the growth of commercial computer systems.
- Utilization of the elderly as counsellors, confidants or pseudo-grandparents for homebound youngsters.
- Expanded wide area peer group communication channels to help break down the psychological effects of isolation.
- An improved state of dignity and self-development for the individual.
The system is composed of a central processing unit (the computer and its memory storage banks) and a variable number of home use terminals. These stations consist of an ordinary telephone, on interface device where necessary, and a microprocessor. The first two items are standardly available, while fabrication of the third has already begun. Costs of such a system, although initially high, are expected to decline significantly in the near future. Furthermore, it is anticipated that a net cost-benefit gain can be demonstrated after all aspects of service delivery comparison have been made between the new approach and current methodology.
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Computerized Conferencing & Communications Center; Turoff, Murray; and Gage, Howard, "Computerized Conferencing and the Homebound Handicapped" (1976). Computerized Conferencing and Communications Center Reports. 5.