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Investigating staff perceptions of e-learning development and support for students with disabilities in higher education

Author - Roisin Donnelly


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Abstract

This paper reports on a study concerned with exploring staff perceptions on improving the design and delivery of e-learning provision for students and staff with disabilities in a higher education institution in the Republic of Ireland. The study aims to clarify understanding on how aspects of e-learning affect some of the key stakeholders in an institution of higher education – a disability liaison team, a learning technology team and an academic development centre. Essentially this paper is an example of research for learners with disabilities by people without disabilities. The language used in this paper is consistent with the social model of disability.

The objective of the research is to improve the design and delivery of the e-learning curriculum with a view to enabling the potential of e-learning work towards inclusivity for the institution’s students and staff with physical and learning disabilities. The specific context in which this takes place is in the area of academic development, which is charged with assisting in the provision of e-learning support to academic staff who in turn facilitate the learning of students with disabilities.

The research consisted of a qualitative study conducted with the collaboration of academic colleagues in the institution. The data were collected from an audio-taped focus group interview. The main findings show that initial collaborations need to be consolidated between the key stakeholders of Disability Services, Learning Technology Team and Academic Development to ensure that further training and piloting of online learning materials take place in order to support staff and students with disabilities in participating in e-learning courses and initiatives across the institution.

The study concludes with a series of recommendations including a possible framework devised by participants in order that the e-learning approach be adopted into the training and development initiatives taking place each academic year in the institution. An evaluation strategy is also proposed to measure any impact of the changes to practice.

Keywords

Dyslexia, e-learning, information technology, learning disabilities, virtual learning environment, visually impairment, World Wide Web


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