Friday, 12 October 2018

Supporting Student Success Event at Centre for Distance Education University of London

Have you ever been to an event and thought what am I doing here? Conversely, have you also been to an event and thought why did I not know about this series of events before? Well I have.

Yesterday, Fiona and I went to Supporting Student Success Event organised by the Centre for Distance Education, University of London which was really useful. The event had two parallel sessions and we attended different ones hoping to make the most of it.

In this blog post I am going to share my learning from Dr. Ormond Simpson's work.
Dr. Ormond Simpson presented a report about feedback from students with disabilities. I have not been able to locate the document online yet, but once I find it, I will link to the report in the blog post. The report was titled Disability the student voices: feedback from disabled students. The data for the report had been collected by sending an anonymous survey link to current students who have declared a disability. Though this does not reflect on views of students with disabilities who have dropped-out, it gives us a view to the struggles these students have to face in accessing learning.

The range of disabilities reported in this survey showed the varied individual needs and the need to support students for their specific needs. It was also the first-time I heard from a student with light-sensitivity as a disability.

Looking at some of the recommendations from the report, I can see that we, at UCEM, are already practicing some of these while there are other recommendations that we need to embed into our practice.

An important issue raised in the discussion was the ability to share information. Especially with GDPR coming into force it was reported that the details of disability declared to the university by the student during the application process does not get conveyed to the tutor on the course or the course directors. This has resulted in students not being offered the support they should have and students thinking that the university nor the lecturers cared about them.

I find it difficult to understand why GDPR or other data protection laws should affect the lawful use of declared disability data to support a student in a course. Perhaps we should seek consent to share the data with the tutor who is supporting student in the course. In my view, if a student has disclosed a special need, they would expect the course team to support them.

Unless the tutor is made aware, how would they "know" that this student has special needs especially at a distance. For example, if the university has special software to support special needs students but the tutor does not know that the student should be given a copy of this software it would affect the student's experience of learning. Alternatively the software could be made available to everyone, but that could be very costly and in fact unnecessary information for a large group of students.

It is easy to say XYZ is inhibiting us supporting student success but I believe we can find effective ways to overcome such barriers and research events like these bring the issues to light so that they can be addressed.

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