Case Study – Geography and Visual Difficulties
Case Study One
Source: Newland, B., Pavey, J. and Boyd, V. (2005), Accessibility in Learning Environments and Related Technologies (ALERT), HEFCE Project, University of Durham, University of Bournemouth, (information extracted and accessed September 2006)
Student 13 is a full-time Geology student who is a confident computer user who rates her competence in using the VLE as good. She accesses the VLE daily and feels that it makes face-to-face delivery of her classes more effective. Student 13 does not believe that the amount of notes she takes in lectures has decreased because of the VLE.
Student 13 feels supported by having access to lecture notes and appreciates the use of diagrams and images online by way of illustration, as despite her disability she considers herself to be a visual learner.
“What I have found rewarding is that when I pick up a broadsheet paper I can look at any article, well…most articles and I know what they’re talking about. Like last year I did European and Constitutional Law so you could pick up on politics of European Law, which is obviously quite a major topic in newspapers, and I find it quite rewarding. “
On the VLE
“Overheads which are used in lectures, some of them are very long, and obviously you can’t get it down in time in the lecture…with the VLE you can just print it off and put it in your notes afterwards. And also I’ve found that through the VLE you can go to links…it just saves you going round the library looking for it, or even if it’s just been published recently it won’t be out on paper, so you can just go automatically on the net.”
“If people are stuck they can say ‘I don’t really know where I’m going with this essay question’ and then the lecturer can put input and point you in the right direction. Even though there’s only 7 messages (on the discussion board) that doesn’t mean to say that people haven’t been using it…just people haven’t been putting input into it. I think a lot of people do look at it…I don’t know why they don’t go that step further and contribute themselves.”
“Certainly in terms of mobility (the VLE) helps…obviously, you can access the discussion boards at home, rather than walking… and, you know, it saves the walk. You can go and see the tutor personally, or if you contact them before and say ‘can I talk to you on the discussion board at so and so a time, can you just be there’, it just saves you walking.”
Case Study Two
Source: The Geography Disciplines Network (GDN) Inclusive Curriculum Project (ICP) Case Studies, HEFCE Project, University of Gloucestershire , (information extracted and accessed September 2006)
The following case study is written by a member of the teaching staff in a GEES department
We have only limited experience in working with students with disabilities. Our department simply does not get applications, let alone admissions, from many such students.About 5-10% of our students have dyslexia, ranging from the quite minor (most cases) to more severe, where students have voice recognition software supplied to them from the University’s Access funds. We have the now fairly usual system of student referral for dyslexia assessment and counselling at university level. The University also has a SENDA officer who runs workshops on awareness and coping/adaptation strategies.
We follow university policy in giving students with dyslexia an extra 10 minutes per hour in examinations prior to the usual starting time. We are not allowed to check that students with dyslexia have read the questions properly (which I find bizarre) on the grounds that other students often misread questions, so checking that those with dyslexia have read questions correctly is discriminating in their favour! I would like to think that we could be more imaginative about assessing students with dyslexia, and have some form of oral assessment for them. I have been told by our QA people that this is discriminatory (I think they imply again that it favours students with dyslexia, but I have also been told that I would have to give an oral exam to all students in the presence of two other examiners, one to give a second opinion and the other to check that the first two of us did not collude!
I am currently teaching a large first year class including a student who is visually disabled. I think I was supposed to be alerted to this fact prior to the commencement of the course. As our university systems cannot give me a clss list much earlier than week 6 of the semester, my failure to be told in advance is hardly surprising! I do not use WebCT or PowerPoint, but ad lib around old-fashioned OHP slides. I have always given students paper copies of my slides. For my visually disabled student, I make up a special handout with the OHP slides one to a page and my bibliography (usually in Comic Sans 12 point) in Comic Sans 18 point for her. She says this is fine and likes my use of Comic Sans, which she agrees is easier for her to read than the default of Times New Roman.
Another institution has an Educational Support Officer in the department. His role is to look after all the SENDA issues in the department and to evaluate and adapt all courses and materials for disabled students. He told me that he does not have many students to deal with, but in one sense he is their point of contact rather than the various course unit leaders. He gets the handouts etc into big print (or whatever is needed) and seems to provide a one-stop shop service for staff and students alike.