Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Week 10 -Issues with flexible learning - access and equity

  1. Listen to this recording of Pam McBride from Otago Polytechnic's Disabilities Unit discussing issues with access and equity in flexible learning
  2. Locate and read at least one article on access and equity issues and related to flexible learning.
  3. Write to your blog the following:
  • a summary of an article you have read.
  • your observations on how issues to do with access and equity can enhance and compliment your working context;
  • issues which may affect access and equity for your students/clients and some possible solutions.
  • You may wish to include some of these issues and solutions in your flexible learning plan.
Pams presentation around access and equity issues here at Otago Polytechnic was a reminder of the wider range of issues which need to be considered by all of us as educators when we are planning, implementing and evaluating our courses. The disabilities services and focus of her discussion prompted me to explore what is currently offered within my own school /programme in regards to access/limitations for potential students. Entry requirements specify a range of criteria relating to academic abilities and fluency with English language Selection criteria reflects the Nursing Council of New Zealand requirements into a Bachelor of Nursing programme. Applicants must declare any criminal conviction, physical limitations or health concerns that may impact on their ability to complete the Bachelor of Nursing and gain registration as a nurse in New Zealand. Course counselling is available to determine suitability. However, as Pam alluded to in her presentation there are a wider range of disablities within the student population many of which are 'invisible' and many of which we as educators may not be made aware of until their unit instruct us via exam instructions such as extra time/or reader writer status. With these two perspectives in mind i am mindful that the within our school access and equity issues relating to disablities is the domain of the specialised service. A further search of NZ resources which could also provide some more information for us as educators can be found "Code of Practice for an Inclusive Tertiary Education Environment for students with disablities"
this provides some clear guidelines to assist us with strategies and ways to increase access to this group of learners.
Wider thinking about this topic led me to the article by Zondiros in summary Zondiros is commenting on globalisation and its impact on developing countries accessing education. He adds that because of new information and communication technologies, online education there is more opportunity for people to access education by way of mediums appropriate to their circumstances. Factors which influence whether people are able to access these are:
limited digital literacy, low socioeconomic status, limited or not internet access. He notes taht thes issues have meant that access and inequity has inceased rathe than decrease the gaps in educational success. the further extends the social exclusion that these individuals may already face. He challenges those who are developing online IT technolgies and courses to consider how
they are going to improve educational access to these individuals.

My musings about Zondiros comments are that we have aspects of all of his critiques here in New Zealand and within our geographic context of Otago Polytechnics community of learners. Socio economic disadvantage has been identified by numerous Ministry of Education, Health and Social Development as being the key factor in influencing educational success at all levels. Socioeconomic status directly affect health status and so the cycle continues. "The evidence shows that ethnicity and culture, socioeconomic status and home language all impact on student achievement. Children with access to higher levels of human and material resources, such as high levels of parental education and computers, have higher achievement than children whose families do not have these resources, but the evidence identifies alternative means of providing some of these resources." New Zealand Education Gazette 2004

Some of the strategies that could be explored in regards to the programme in which i teach would be to provide targetted programmes which assist learners from lower socioeconomic groups to transition into nursing education more easily than is currently possible. However, the trade off is the cost effectiveness of this approach. Applicantions to enter our programmes far exceed places offered therefore selecting those most likely to succeed is a preferred option. However, is this socially just? are we continuing to aid the access /equity gaps? more disucssion to follow in my next posting............

1 comment:

Leigh Blackall said...

Great post! Personally, I am inspired by universal and inclusive design. The idea is that everything we do is somehow appropriate or beneficial to access and equity issues. FOr example: We use the Wikieducator to develop our courses. One of the things it does is assist us in ensuring that the information on there is deliverable on lowband internet. It stops us loading over sized images etc. Another thing it has is a nice print-to-pdf feature. This formats the information into a PDF with some nice design appropriate for print. This is complimentary to distance learning where we might simply post out the resources.

In saying that, its not all perfect and the effort to bring universal design into our courses is an ongoing effort. We should be making CD versions of the videos we use for example, and we need to test that our internet information is accessible to those who cannot see or read easily from a screen.

From digital divides home and abroad, and physical and socio economic divides. It is a nice design challenge to be thinking about. How can we develop educational experiences that are inviting and inclusive to everyone? Universal design is one way.