Creating Opportunity through Distance Education at Dennis Gabor Applied University

Csilla Muhari, Edina Kriskó, Zoltán Varga, Dennis Gabor Applied University, Hungary

In this paper the authors primarily introduce the participants of opportunity creating education. Later they detail what kind of problems should teachers and students face due to the adaptation of the affected persons into the society of higher education. Analysis is based on the data of Hungarian Central Statistical Office and on the students database of Dennis Gabor Applied University (GDF). This paper points out that Dennis Gabor Applied University plays a significant role in the education of affected students.


It has been expressed on numerous forums of equal opportunity already, that education and access of information could be the aid of convergence in information and knowledge-based society. One possible way is distance education and especially electronically-supported education or blended education from another cross-sectional viewpoint of opportunities. This educational method can bring layers into higher education which were earlier excluded or unable to join. Here disabled and legally convicted people can be mentioned. Additionally child care fee (GYED) and child care allowance (GYES) recipients, three-shift workers, civilians of small settlements, people providing permanent medical care, people staying abroad for a shorter or longer time or Hungarians living abroad must be mentioned. For they the place independent learning, individually optimized learning schedule, the modular hierarchy of learning material, the competently established online mentoring[1] and tutoring[2] support, flexible testing practices can create the possibilities of receiving a marketable diploma.

While helping the convergence of disabled people is popular, integrating criminals into society is less popular. Institutions must serve the students with different preparedness and leeway according the spirit of equal opportunity and this duty requires to give individual answers to individual challenges. This study examines the organizational, management and implementational tasks which are doubtfully popular and growing in number from the aspects of Hungarian specialties. This is a confrontation having the message of there are things to learn and there are undiscovered and not undertaken areas. It introduces issues which are disputed at whole-social level. These are punishing, disciplining role of prison, inequality of opportunities, financing of institutions and their role in knowledge distribution, integrating and creating opportunity.

Firstly the equal-opportunity regulation of the institution will be overviewed from the viewpoint of distance education supported by electronic facilities. Next the legal status of the students participating higher education, punished offenders and disabled peoples will be discussed. Finally the barriers which block the access and gain of knowledge will be presented. This study discusses the daily practices of GDF, showing the barriers raised by the limited freedom of action of convicts, the challenges regarding testing disabled peoples and the general unpreparedness of educational institutions. The parts of this confrontation are presenting the personal, material, institutional and infrastructural background, the overview of approach and different standpoints.

Electronic distance education can be the solution for those social layers which are involved in the above stated problems. In that case the teacher and the student not ought to be at the same place, after providing the access to a prepared learning material the process of learning/teaching can be started. In the relation of distance education we shall not forget about still less outcropped mechanisms of virtual class lessons which are explored by educational technology for a long time. Teaching based on conventional, supervisory education greatly differs from the structure provided by e-learning. In the latter case the student can only be controlled and supervised between the borders of framework and that fundamentally depends on how was the learning material constructed. For the compensation GDF provides regular consultation and contact lessons where the students may receive answers for such questions which are not covered by the author of learning material. These contact opportunities guarantee the appointing of the right way of the learning process, enhancing the efficiency of that.

Need of contact lessons can be illustrated not through the process of learning but through real examples from everyday life. Such example is the automatic telephone exchange or digital helpdesk of numerous companies, which guides the client through the reachable menu items by human speech. The goal is the same here that is to make it possible to give answers for the client's problems without human intervention by the help of a pre-defined framework. However, the applied method gives results in many situations, there are numerous cases where the clients seek the possibility of contacting an operator. The reason of this is that in large number of cases the problems can not be obviously classified into any of the menu items, just as the questions which are emerged in the students regarding the learning material. The need of contact lessons can be represented through examples from the learning process. In case of written tests of classes with great number typical errors can be discovered in some cases. So we can conclude that the students had not understood something from the study material or consequently misinterpreted.

The undoubted advantage of distance learning against conventional postal tuition is that it minimizes the number of contact lessons, hereby significantly reduces the students' expenses. Further advantage is that the distance education can be applied also in special areas where the implementation of conventional educational structure is not possible. Such are the already mentioned people with limited freedom or disabled people who can not regularly visit the educational institution.

Prison inhabitants

The 37th paragraph of state penal code says that: „Punishment is penalty for committing crime determined by law. The intention of punishment is to prevent the perpetrator or else to commit crime for the good of protecting the society." [2] Imprisonment is the primary among punishments where the law enforcement professionals are representing the standpoint of the punishment is the custody itself, therefore the physical segregation shall not be in conjunction with the intellectual exclusion of the imprisoned from the society or causing other disadvantage. The captives have the same fundamental human and freedom rights, which are declared in Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, as well as in International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and in its Optional Protocols, furthermore different other rights which the UN declared in its conventions. The spirituality of European law enforcement pervaded by the feeling of responsibility for captives, the need of defending human dignity with respect to security, safety and discipline requirements, furthermore by the constructive intention of employment. [3]

The foundation of this anthropocentric conception is the recognition of the fact that the convict of today is the free citizen of tomorrow who might be and must be aided to social integration at various fronts. Institutional system of law enforcement should achieve that the differences of prison and free life are minimized by serving the principles of normalization, transparency, reaction, cooperation, responsibility, individuality and gradation. The time spent in custody must be consumed to establish the intention of integration, the will and capability. Therefore it should not lack the community and self-education programmes, the individual way of learning and the autonomous, liable decision-making.

Since occlusion, secession from familiar environment and forced cohabitation with others unavoidably cause certain (harmful) changes of personality, differentiated treatment of captives is important. Corrections and parole officers' mindful concern is the key factor of prison life, which can help to fight against conflicts and tensions originated of feeling of deprivation, also help to tolerate self-determination and lack of earlier habited human relations. From this viewpoint the ratio of 2:1 of captives[3] versus employees in law enforcement might seem fair, however in the duty assignment of everyday practice this ratio shows a movement to 80-90:1. In such a situation individual treatment is not possible. That is why is the case of imprisoned distance learners the mentors and tutors of higher educational institutions should take over certain motivating and normalizing functions from the correctional employees of law enforcement. So those teachers unavoidable must act as a psychologist to not let the internal conflicts and passions alter the attitude of his students. Because if a student violates the prison policy he can be punished by withdrawal of his important educational apparatus (for example the computer usage). In this case the mentor himself should aid the right attitude to prevent completing exams from technical barriers. The question is that the e-learning or distance education mentor is prepared enough? Is anyone else prepared for that except the employees of the prison? In Hungary not, since higher education in prisons has no past. We just face this challenge. We now face the questions that who shall undertake personal consultancy in this case, personal exam preparation or contact lessons? Which teacher's job description would contain the sentence which says hold on demand lessons in designated prisons? Of course, there is always a man, but shall we trust luck or we must reconsider the challenges at institutional level?

Other hand, if we are prepared at institutional and professional level have we thought about the impact of all of that? Is it good for us? Is it profitable? Does it generate additional costs? Does it increase or decrease the reputation of institution? Let say our student pays the school fees, he learns but does not have internet access or nearly not so unrestricted as his free fellows. In that case we shall stay inside the borders of conventional distance education and give an educational package of books, descriptions of courses, instructions and tutorial CDs to the student at registration. In exam period we send him several test sheets which he fills and post them back. This is somewhat time consuming just as in the history of distance learning. Learning material cannot be so up-to-date, student must miss the microclimate of learning groups. He learns alone, not with fellows but with "wardens". His training lacks the dynamic, sparkling spirit of seminars, the experience of dispute and common problem solving. This practice makes community integration harder. Internet supported distance education can or could integrate all those possibilities into resocialization of convicts. In domestic relation problems around the internet become really complicated with the supervisory questions. Since the goal is the student does not lag behind the changes of civil life, become familiar with latest technology, methods, software and hardware environment but he shall not be able to misuse those. We would like him to be aware of possibilities of the era of information, but he would not use those or use those selectively (in the accepted scale and way of the society).

On the other side of the coin are the students with clean records for whom "the school of imprisoned" certainly not so attractive. Where persons who can be ethical convicted or legally convicted can receive college or university degree, the received diploma does not depreciated in the eye of public opinion? Is the undertaking of education of imprisoned some kind of shameful or secretive matter? Human right watch would say no, as Europe does it (preamble of European Prison Rules). But still does it not make the majority of students to turn away from the institution? (We can only get answer when there will be institution which undertakes mass education of prison inhabitants.)

Disabled distance learners

Why is it important to integrate disabled people into qualification? For instance, on the ground of economy, to reduce the load on the society by supporting and aiding them. But there is other reason. The human factor: a more complete life, hope of making life complete by learning. People living with corporal, sensory, speech or other psychic disorder are given the social benefit of the feeling of "you are needed too". The achievements of this sense are made evident by numerous diploma-works of graduated disabled students of Dennis Gabor Applied University. To mention the most obvious examples our students created orthopedagogy tutorial softwares (for vocational schools), software for visual aid of computer usage for partially sighted persons, voice recognition softwares.

Integrating disabled students (primarily with sensory disorders) into education gains double benefits. Firstly they themselves leave the institution with a marketable diploma, secondly with their own diploma works they create applications which unburden the life of fellow sufferers and furthermore they offer elementary solutions which are not obvious to healthy people. Additionally they are committed and inventive in solving problems. With that they unburden the entrance of disabled people into the world of education and science.

Training disabled students raises the reputation of institution, through that appreciation can be achieved. On the expenditure side are such items which we do not utilize today. There is no special training for the tutors, mentors or subject teachers, there is no sign language or orthopedagogic preparation. From the side of institution possibility of requesting exemption from certain exams represents intention. The student receives the possibility to partially or fully miss certain exams (against expert's opinion) or complete those in another way or ask for help. However a deaf-mute student searches for sign language interpreter himself for his exam, who runs on wheel chair looks after escort himself. It would worth considering that what assistance can be expected from Ministry of Social and Health Affairs or from Ministry of Education? Do such programmes exist which are open to non-orthopediatric training (primarily higher forms) institutions? Herewith the expenditures do not but the number of integrated disabled people does increase. Otherwise preparation of teaching and mentoring staff for those special cases is unavoidable, since who already have met deaf-mute, blind, hard of hearing person maybe a person living with autism knows how confusing are the differences. This disturbance degrades the communication, the chance of comprehension because unusual human, corporal, contextual signs distract attention. Thus the unpreparedness of the interrogator teacher should not affect the student's test results.

It is a question that distance learning supported by electronic apparatus how can provide outbreak points, where can the individual disadvantages be translated into general advantages?

Statistics. Statistics?

The number of involved persons is negligible in view of total population, mainly because the annual number of those who want to learn in higher education is about 1-2 if we break down numbers to a county or institution. To prepare for people with that small number really impossible, but mainly not economic. However, higher education institutions shall face these problems. Of course, actually it is not an economical, but rather a social question. Merging the two could be a solution. Educational institutions are not able to handle properly one person, but if a higher education institution of certain profession gathers such people and undertakes their matter it can prepare either in knowledge or mental. Such methods can be worked out which can provide disabled students with the same learning material as their fellow learners, with modification which makes it easier for students to process the material.

Dennis Gabor Applied University is on the way to the good solution. Since the need exists not only among the involved people, but among the healthy, even tempered fellow learners living under good conditions. That can not be born without the support of college. For this consultants were needed who guided their qualified staff on the way of making diploma works, encouraging them all the time. The keyword in this case is distance education. Because such people can acquire course material timed to their own schedule who living at different places of the country and can not regularly appear in the mother institution because having problems with travelling, financial matters or reason of imprisonment. Course material, which was developed for special conditions.

Table 1: Percentage of students versus total population [4]

School year

Number of students (person)

Total population (person)

Percentage of students versus total population (calculated values)

Disabled population [5] (person)


327 289

10 200 298




349 301

10 174 853




381 560

10 142 362




409 075

10 116 742




421 520

10 097 549


600 000


424 161

10 076 581




416 348

10 066 158




Table 1 contains data of Central Statistical Office[4] showing annual number of students from school year 2000/2001 and the number of population, disabled people at the time of the last census. In the 4th column the percentage of students versus population is calculated. Following that calculation method it can be presumed that 4.17% of the population of 600.000 disabled people is potential students. This means approximately 20,000-25,000 people.

On the ground of the above mentioned number of disabled people particular attention should be paid for developing special learning materials for them. So making it possible to graduate as equal citizens. Distance education method of Dennis Gabor Applied University is able to create equal opportunities in education. [6]

Since the change of political system the programmes of the new governments aimed to reach higher percentage of people with higher education. Therefore they had changed laws of higher education, so more student had got into university training.

Figure 1. Number of students from 1990 till nowadays[5]

Figure shows that number of students continuously increases, while the total number of population decreases for years and the composition of the population shows and aging society. This fact could explain more less the high number of applicants to higher.

The course material

GDF is the member of Microsoft Corporation select partnership agreement, consequently all students and staff members are entitled to use the proposed MS Software. We consider finding the best way to get student accustomed to use only legal software. [7] The school always kept in front that graduates become such practical knowledge which helps them to stand still on labour market. With a competitive diploma received from the college they face new challenges. There are some for whom this means the opportunity to change workplace, and there are some who needs the instantly usable knowledge for starting work.

Software is a special learning material. It teaches and disciplines too. It teaches, because student acquires the usage of it deepening his knowledge through different examples, practices during school years. Later by having the knowledge himself creates bigger or lesser software, software parts, in this way he senses the taste of software development, which sometimes can be bitter. Disciplines, because the student provided with these experiences gets into the bloodstream of business life and gradually gets rid of the not typical Hungarian attitude of thinking that software is only digital data and he can draw profit from that property of software which means that by copying a software it will not be lesser. Software is a work of authors and the creation of it needs several times of 10 or rather several 100 restless nights of working people. These students can be software-assertive members of information society.


National Higher Education Information Centre published a study on its website, which analyzes the data of higher education applicants from the viewpoint of extra scores claimed during entrance process. It is interesting because disability itself entitles for extra scores during entrance process. The paper points out that the 1,4% of applicants in the year of 2007 marked disability as source of extra points. That percentage itself would seem to be negligible if we have not known that the total number of applicants had been 108,590 people. That is 1,4% translated into number, moreover into people it means 1541 people. [8]

Table 2 holds the number of disabled students of the recent 5 years studying at Dennis Gabor Applied University.

Table 2: Number of disabled students at GDF classified by student status in period 2002-2007 [9]


Graduated (person)

Absolved (person)

Not graduated (person)

Learning method














Blind or partially sighted








There is other two students in the database of GDF who have highly disadvantageous state, both of them are prison inhabitants and they study is currently in progress.

It can be clearly seen that we face a serious problem and we shall continue to search for solutions.


  1. Esélyegyenlőségi Konferencia, Hódmezővásárhely, 2007. december 7., Digitális Esélyegyenlőség (DE!) konferencia, Budapest, 2007. december 7.
  2. 1978.évi IV. törvény a Büntető Törvénykönyvről
  3. D. Csordás; S. Csordás (2006). Az emberközpontú és közössségi irányultságú börtönrendszerek főbb jellemzői, Szocializáció és reszocializáció a börtönben konferencia, Budapest (p. 28),
  4. Központi Statisztikai Hivatal (KSH) hivatalos honlapja (2008),
  5. A befogadó munkahelyekért: a fogyatékos emberekkel kapcsolatos munkáltatói szemlélet kedvező irányú megváltoztatásáért, Új kilátások (2005-2006),
  6. S. Zárda; G. Bognár (2005). Experiences with introduction and running of an E-learning system (pp. 564-569)
  7. Dennis Gabor Applied University, Hivatalos honlap,
  8. I. Fábri (2007), Előnyben részesítés: előnyben és hátrányban (p. 3),
  9. Dennis Gabor Applied University, LAS site,


Csilla Muhari
Dennis Gabor Applied University
H-1115, Budapest, Etele u. 68.

Edina Kriskó
Dennis Gabor Applied University
H-1115, Budapest, Etele u. 68.

Zoltán Varga
Dennis Gabor Applied University
H-1115, Budapest, Etele u. 68.

[1] a person who motivates the student by providing information for learning and by methods supporting interactive learning, doing it via the apparatus of telecommunication

[2] specialist subject teacher helping a student in learning

[3] 178 captives fall on 100.000 citizens, about 18.000 employees of prison service mean 161% overload of Hungarian prisons in year 2003.

[4] Central Statistical Office annually publishes official data about social, economical situation and changes in population

[5] Diagram was created by the authors by utilizing the data of Central Statistical Office