Posted by: MandyS | December 7, 2011

Activity 27.1 – student support service perspective

  • How helpful do you think it is to have ‘specialised’ rooms or areas in an educational institution, which only disabled learners can use to access technology/online learning material?

As Seale identifies (p. 101), there are essentially two sides to this argument. Having somewhere that students can go knowing that the assistive technology they require is there and advice is on hand if they get stuck in how to use it, has to be a plus. However, it is the whole concept of ‘being made to feel different,’ which itself could be a barrier to its success. I suppose this is where distance learning has its advantages for disabled learners, in that everything they require to study effectively is available from the comfort of their own home, without anyone ever knowing that they use assistive technology. To that end, the idea of the wireless LAN (p. 103) would appear to be a comfortable solution.

  • How are student support services organised or structured in your institution? In what ways do you think this organisation influences the way in which disabled learners are supported to use or access technology?

Within the OU student support is via specialist departments, e.g. disabled student services, study support, library services etc. but very much integrated. At every stage, disabled students are encouraged to disclose disabilities so that appropriate provision can be made and can readily access details of what is/may be available. From the tutor’s point of view, those students with additional requirements are highlighted and there are numerous avenues of advice available, should they be required.

  • What would you change about the way in which students are supported in your institution and why? (You might find your notes from Topics 8 and 9 relevant to this question.)

The whole ethos of the OU is supporting the diversity of its students. From my own perspective, the point where this may not be as effective as it might be, is the support offered by the tutors. Not that tutors do not support their students but they may not do so as effectively as they might through lack of knowledge of disability issues. I say this simply because prior to this course, I judged student services as the body best qualified in this area and, as such, perhaps placed too much reliance on their being able to solve issues. I know now that there is in actual fact more I can do to ensure students have fewer issues which need to be resolved. Diversity training is a start, but perhaps more comprehensive training about specific disability issues would be more appropriate.

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