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Openness and Inclusion

The evaluation of the use of pedagogies for openness and inclusion though the lab’s projects (SWING and Films to Make you Feel Good) promoting students’ participation and equal access opportunities revealed the following key points through the evaluation process: 

 

Sustainable ways to increase higher education students’ equal access to learning environments

 

Delivery of teaching and learning activity
  • Best practices were identified to support students with disabilities in accessing university education and future career opportunities by using accessible, assistive technology (AT)
  • The project aims were achieved through the use of EU e-accessibility best practices to promote greater levels of web accessibility across institutions, the design of a model for accessibility centres in partner countries, staff training in student accessibility and the adaptation of specialised “design-for-all” policies by the universities through the development of sustainable accessibility centres
  • Examples of AT include Braille, CD-ROM, audio and screen enlargements
Review and improvement of programmes and practice
  • Benefits for HE have been addressed through challenging taken-for-granted practice and cultural expectations through the development of cross-cultural awareness and increasing the integration of students with disabilities in EU countries
  • Aspects of good practice include the use of a variety of AT (open-source solutions due to lack of availability and expense of AT), peer-mentoring schemes, volunteer schemes, disabled student networks, staff training, transport services and employment advisory services
  • There is a need for policy which supports a philosophy of an accessible learning environment for all students, coordination to implement the policy with practical guidelines to departments, on-going monitoring and evaluation procedures involving disabled students, staff training and awareness and student advocacy
  • There is a need for the implementation of policies on the use of AT and for policy change top down to ensure sustainability and better integration of disabled students into HE
  • Wider implications for professional development/employability are important to promote through training modules (please see Advisor’s Training Handbook for the training modules) and clarity about project intentions (online networks in partner institutions have extended to allow students to communicate across institutions). On-going attention to employability, strategies to foster closer working between employers and academic staff and the promotion of work-based learning requires greater focus
Student support and guidance
  • Students with disabilities must be able to access course material and the information presented in the class at the same time as other students
  • Academic staff play a vital role in ensuring that educational resources are available in an alternative format and a timely manner.
  • Staff should be prepared/attentive/flexible to help students by maximising access to AT
  • Training should be available for staff and students to help them find appropriate solutions to support learning through use of AT
  • The conversion of module content and printed material into alternative formats/languages (Braille, CD-ROM, audio, enlargements) can be complex and takes time and needs to be taken into account
  • The development of careers/employability advice on campus would be of benefit for all students, on the basis that an integrated system is promoted
  • Students with disabilities need equal access to securing employment and there is concern about needing to find ways to demonstrate to employers their skills and how they can make a valuable contribution, with reasonable adjustments, including optimising access to AT
  • Changes in behaviour, practice and in influencing HE managers, academic and administration staff, employers and non-disabled students need to be nurtured and supported until they become embedded and part of normal practice in mainstream institutional processes
Effective use of resources
  • ICT included those tools/services that are used by students with disabilities to perform learning activities and participate in university life and that are used by academic staff for their teaching
  • ICT also included technology used by administrative staff to provide university facilities that can be useful for students with disabilities
  • The use of IT and AT had not been optimised in Coventry University before this project. The project resulted in increase in the availability of IT and provision of up-to-date IT equipment on campus, including open source software providing equal access opportunities
  • The importance of providing opportunities for students’ interaction/collaboration between cultural communities through both physical and online networks was seen to be useful for building relationships
  • AT is a broad range of tools and services, that should not be seen as the end itself but as a mediator (between the person and the context)
  • AT should be customisable, adaptable and where possible open tools that might be disability-specific or not specific tools. This includes software and hardware, everyday aids and objects, training in the use of AT etc
  • Students’ mutual support mechanisms were strong and their lives were enabled through physical and online networks, enhancing students’ sense of autonomy. Many students were already IT literate using IT to support their learning
  • More advanced AT will help and students will be instrumental at teaching staff how to use it
  • Inability to access technology caused frustration to students and staff due to its cost and constraints such as satellite navigation and geographical tracking devices not being available in several languages
Already developed frameworks
  • Accessibility model: a conceptual framework capturing best practices of partner institutions was developed to produce a blue print for enhancing opportunities for students with disabilities to gain access to and succeed in HE.
  • The model aims to analyse and describe how provision of services to students with disabilities (guidance, training and access to AT) can be organised effectively and have a real impact on students’ daily lives.
  • The model places the student as the central focus by thinking about the four major accessibility themes regarding the student journey: access to higher education, academic study, integration and social life, and employability
  • An Advisor’s training handbook was designed: this resource can be used in any country to set up accessibility centres. The handbook gives guidance about setting up an accessibility centre for students with disabilities, including supporting disclosure of disabilities, assessing students’ needs, choosing appropriate assistive technology and preparing training
  • 10 training modules have been developed through this project to educate staff and students about a range of issues (for example practical employment skills, global awareness and post-graduate education opportunities) in order to better support disabled students

 

Enabling students’ participation in community arts/health projects

 

Delivery of teaching and learning activity
  • Students applied for and were recruited to the project offering them experience in having to complete applications for project work and in interviewing skills
  • There is an opportunity for universities to be involved in community projects, both as subjects of research and as providers of experience for students to take part in live community projects
  • Developing relationships with universities effectively contributed to community partnerships and has enabled students to gain invaluable situated learning experiences
  • Undergraduate students involved in working with community participants benefited from gaining first-hand knowledge, understanding and experience of how arts/health projects impact people and communities
  • Students’ perspectives about how experience of volunteering on live arts/health projects were used in the pedagogy to enhance students’ learning
  • Students appreciated the scope and depth of learning they had experienced from the project. They also appreciated the commitment and effort involved in ensuring the project and research tasks were managed effectively.
  • Students added an intergenerational feel to the project and their presence was appreciated with the venue volunteers and audience members (the community project predominantly included adults aged 60+)
  • Students recognised the importance of team work and having effective communication/interaction skills with community participants. They also recognised the importance of delegating out tasks amongst one another. Overall, students had a better understanding of the opportunities and challenges of conducting high quality community (arts) projects
Student support and guidance
  • Students require ongoing support once recruited, to enable them to gain the best learning experiences from live project work. Effective communication, planning, preparation and monitoring, amongst project staff, university staff and students is required to enable students to be able to fulfil their roles while maintaining effective delivery of the programme
  • Clear networks of communication and monitoring and support are required, not only on campus, but in negotiation with the external partners to manage expectations and ensure smooth running of programme delivery
  • Importance of student project work linking to module work and assessment to help raise student ambition and provide credit for their placement learning experiences
  • Infrastructure required to help lecturers / researchers connect students to live project work experience related to their discipline for students on their course programmes
Effective use of resources
  • Community research practice is labour intensive for the staff involved to adequately support students learning, and campus based infrastructures to include mentoring schemes, links with the student union, and other campus-based student placement / volunteer work experience centres, need to be coordinated to ensure available student resources are utilized to their maximum effect
Already developed frameworks
  • The learning gained from supporting and recruiting media students to engage in volunteer work experience placements on community arts and health projects has informed the development of frameworks of good practice for experience-based learning

 

link-icon-pdf-smallEvaluation Report: Films to Make you Feel Good
Katherine Wimpenny (Lead Researcher, DMLL) Sallie Varnam (Project Manager, Phoenix)

Associated Project: Films to Make you Feel Good

link-icon-pdf-smallSWING: Accessibility Centre Model Report
Professor Lynn Clouder, Coventry University

Report Prepared for: Teachers, students, trainees, administrative and professional services staff

link-icon-pdf-smallSWING: Advisors’ Training Handbook
 Coventry University

Associated Project: Disrupting the Thesis

link-icon-pdf-smallSWING: Summary Project Report
Jacqueline Cawston MBA, Coventry University

Associated Project: Disrupting the Thesis

 

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