The theme of inclusion runs across teaching, learning and research at the OU, particularly within openTEL, where these three elements are so closely interconnected. Inclusion in this context refers to a broad range of socio-technical approaches that enable the autonomy and participation of all learners, while lowering and removing barriers that impede specific groups. The theme values and promotes diversity and equality of opportunity, particularly with regard to disability, gender, age and ethnicity. This work builds on a history of internationally recognised OU research into accessibility and enabling technologies enacting the University’s mission to be open to be people, places, methods and ideas.
The theme encompasses subject-specific pedagogies as well as more generic study skills and includes practitioners from across the OU’s four faculties, and Institute of Educational Technology as well as our digital innovation and student support centres.
Embedding and sustaining inclusive STEM practices
The proportion of students with disabilities registered on undergraduate Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) programmes has increased significantly over the past decade, with the largest proportional increases recognised among students with mental health issues, social/communication impairments, and specific learning difficulties (CaSE, 2014; ECU, 2015). This Higher Education Funding Council for England Catalyst funded project addresses how inclusive processes and academic practices become embedded within institutions, to enable equality of opportunity for students with disabilities studying STEM disciplines.
In collaboration with the University of Leeds and Plymouth University, the project is engaging with learners, educators and practitioners at other higher education institutions, professional associations and accreditation bodies, in order to develop and share case studies that address real needs and develop more inclusive practice.
By engaging with successful and complementary institutional developments in fieldwork, labwork and online learning, the project is developing case studies on STEM-specific pedagogies and institutional processes evidencing their impact on the success of students with disabilities.
The key OU academics involved in this project are Trevor Collin, and Rick Holliman.
Barriers to learning
The Ed-ICT International Network project funded by the Leverhulme Foundation is co-led by Professor Jane Seale. The project is aiming to remove the barriers faced by learners with disabilities in post compulsory education. It is exploring the role that evidence-based stakeholder-focussed practices can play in successfully removing barriers and fostering inclusion through the use of computer technology such as computers, assistive technology, online learning and social networking sites
The international network is led by Jane Seale (Open University, UK), Tali Heiman (Open University, Israel), Sheryl Burgstahler (University of Washington, USA), Catherine Fichten (Dawson College, Canada) and Bjorn Fisseler (FernUniversität, Germany).