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Accessible online learning: supporting disabled students

This online module is concerned with improving access to learning for disabled students. There are increasing expectations in many countries that disabled students should be able to participate fully in post-16 education. This means that people responsible for provision in academic and support roles need to be aware of the impact of this on how courses are designed and delivered online. The module looks at the experiences of disabled students, the technical aspects of accessibility, and current debates and discussions about disability and accessibility in educational contexts. This module benefited from JISC TechDis expertise and materials in its production.

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06 Sep 2014 Jan 2015 -

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This module is expected to start for the last time in September 2016.

What you will study

If you are a practitioner working within higher education, further education and adult or vocational learning and providing teaching or support for online learning, this module will be of interest to you. It is appropriate as a stand-alone professional development module, or it can contribute to the MA in Online and Distance Education.

All the materials are delivered online, which means that there are no printed materials. Your interactions with your tutor and other students take place through online forums. This makes the module available for you to study anywhere in the world and provides the added bonus of being part of a lively international community of students able to learn from one another’s experiences in different cultural contexts.

The first part of the module is concerned with the learning experiences of students with disabilities. It looks at the technology that students use to adapt computers to suit their needs. It introduces the responsibilities of institutions for the provision of an accessible curriculum and appropriate support systems.

The second part of the module is concerned with the more technical aspects of accessibility. Different media raise different issues of accessibility for different groups of students with disabilities. Nowadays attempts are made to address these issues through the development of guidelines and standards, with varying degrees of success. In practice it is always necessary to evaluate the accessibility of learning outcomes and the accessibility and usability of particular forms of educational technology. The widespread introduction of virtual learning environments presents particular challenges. Activities will be designed so that students with different levels of technical skill will be able to contribute from their own perspective.

The final part of the module is concerned with current debates and discussions about disability and accessibility in educational contexts. Do institutions have the necessary information to ensure that their courses are accessible? Can senior managers do more to promote awareness and accessibility? Can the lessons learned in one educational or cultural context be applied to others? What is the likely impact of future technological developments on the experience and attainment of students with disabilities?

You will learn

The learning outcomes for this module are available here.

Vocational relevance

In many countries, the expectation that disabled people will have equitable access to post-compulsory education has resulted in a wealth of information about good practice, legislation, web accessibility standards and guidelines. This module provides an opportunity for a systematic exploration of the field and will be a valuable addition to the portfolio of any online education professional, whether your role is primarily in teaching, support, learning design, technical delivery or management. It will also be of value to demonstrate your positive commitment to inclusive education, and will provide a good foundation if you are responsible for improving inclusion in your own educational context.

Entry

To take this module you must have a degree or equivalent qualification. You'll also need to be currently employed in a broadly ‘educational’ context of some kind – a school, college or university – though not necessarily working as a teacher or lecturer (you could be working in learner support, learning design, technical delivery, management or other role). Your proficiency in the English language should be adequate for postgraduate study. We strongly recommend that you can achieve an International English Language Testing System (IELTS) score of at least seven. To assess your English language skills in relation to your proposed studies, you can visit the IELTS website. You must also have continual access to the internet and be confident in online communication. In addition you should have some experience of reading and understanding academic literature. Success in a previous postgraduate course in education will be deemed as evidence that this requirement has been met. If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please contact our Student Registration & Enquiry Service.

Qualifications

H810 is an optional module in our:

Some postgraduate qualifications allow study to be chosen from other subject areas. We advise you to refer to the relevant qualification descriptions for information on the circumstances in which this module can count towards these qualifications because from time to time the structure and requirements may change.

Regulations

As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the Module Regulations and the Student Regulations which are available on our Essential documents website.

If you have a disability

In this module you are expected to use a wide range of resources and to study emerging online technology. Most of these will be delivered as web pages, PDF files and web-based tools. Consequently, time spent online and using a computer will be extensive; if you use specialist software or hardware to access the internet and have any concerns about accessing the types of study materials outlined you are advised to talk to our Student Registration & Enquiry Service about support which can be given to meet your needs.

Written transcripts of any audio components and accessible Adobe Portable Format (PDF), MS Word or Rich Text Format (RTF) versions of essential external resources are available. Some students will find the amount of reading from technically different sources challenging. In many cases there will be sufficient alternative activities and material to complete assignments successfully. Where this is not the case, you will be given individual support by your tutor, in collaboration with other OU staff. Support for access to Library resources is available from the Library Helpdesk.

If you have particular study requirements please tell us as soon as possible, as some of our support services may take several weeks to arrange. Find out more about our services for disabled students.

Study materials

What's included

Internet resources, learning activities, online forums, dedicated website. The module includes a book, E-Learning and Disability in Higher Education: Accessibility Research and Practice by Jane K Seale (London: Routledge, 2006). This will be provided online as part of the study materials. You will be expected to read most of the book so you may prefer to buy your own print copy.

As an OU student, you can use The Open University Library website. This provides access via the internet to a wide range of online resources such as databases, full-text journals, reference sources, ebooks, newspapers, images and more to support your studies. You can use these to do a literature search, keep up-to-date with your subject or read around a topic. Support for developing and improving your information searching skills is available on the Library website and the Library Learners Helpdesk is there seven days a week to provide held and advice on finding and using information.

You may also need access to a research library, either a university or large public or private library. There may be charges for borrowing rights, inter-library loans and photocopying. Details of free access schemes for borrowing and reference in academic libraries can be found on the Library website.

You will need

Some activities are based on common Microsoft and Windows software. If you use alternatives, you may have to adapt the activities yourself.

The module includes optional use of an online tutorial tool. If you wish to take part in the audio discussion, you will need a computer with audio and a headset with a built-in microphone.

Computing requirements

You will need a computer with internet access to study this module as it includes online activities, which you can access using a web browser.

  • If you have purchased a new desktop or laptop computer since 2008 you should have no problems completing the online activities.
  • If you’ve got a netbook, tablet or other mobile device check our Technical requirements section.
  • If you use an Apple Mac you will need OS X 10.7 or later.

You can also visit the Technical requirements section for further computing information (including details of the support we provide).

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will have a tutor who will guide you on many aspects of the module and mark and comment on your written work, and whom you can ask for advice and guidance. You will be taught and assessed through a combination of media, including email, online forums and the internet. Contact our Student Registration and Enquiry Service if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.

Assessment

The assessment details can be found in the facts box above.

You will be expected to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs) online through the eTMA system unless there are some difficulties which prevent you from doing so. In these circumstances, you must negotiate with your tutor to get their agreement to submit your assignment on paper.

Future availability

The details given here are for the module that starts in September 2014. We expect it to be available once each year.

How to register

To register a place on this course return to the top of the page and use the Click to register button.

Distance learning

The Open University is the world's leading provider of flexible, high quality distance learning. Unlike other universities we are not campus based. You will study in a flexible way that works for you whether you're at home, at work or on the move. As an OU student you'll be supported throughout your studies - your tutor or study adviser will guide and advise you, offer detailed feedback on your assignments, and help with any study issues. Tuition might be in face-to-face groups, via online tutorials, or by phone.

For more information about distance learning at the OU read Study explained.

Course facts
About this course:
Course code H810
Credits 30
OU Level Postgraduate
SCQF level 11
FHEQ level 7
Course work includes:
2 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
End-of-module assessment
No residential school

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