Feedback from disabled students on the University of London Worldwide Programmes
About the Project
This project aimed to explore three areas of the disabled student experience in the International Programmes:
- Students’ experience of International Programmes study and their consequent retention.
- The challenges, benefits and disadvantages of their studies compared with conventional students.
- What factors they take into account when choosing to study - are they different from conventional students?
- Disabled student experience in the International Programmes is reassuringly positive, although further research should be undertaken with dormant or dropped/withdrawn students. Further analysis should also be made of the retention of disabled students in the Programmes, especially as evidence from other institutions suggests their dropout rates may be markedly higher than for non-disabled students.
- The challenges of students’ studies are very varied and depend on the very different disabilities experienced by students. A number of students experience more than one disability which increases their challenge even more. The benefits of distance education are the flexibility and ability to study from home without needing to travel. The disadvantages are their isolation from other students and their teachers and the institution itself. It would be helpful if UoLIP could find ways of diminishing that isolation.
- Around 20% of disabled students state that their disability was the main factor in choosing the International Programmes. But even for them the brand of London University and the choice of appropriate courses were still very important.
1. Recognition of disability by students and staff
1.1 Proactive contact. It is important to ‘recognise’ disabled students and the problems they face more clearly, through more regular proactive contact.
1.2 Awareness raising for staff. There may be a need to raise the profile of disability in the University and help staff ‘buy into’ the needs of students, especially around the topic of exams.
2. Promotion and recruitment
There is very little reference to disability at the front end of the UoLIP website. There should be encouragement to increase the numbers of disabled students which appear to be considerably lower in the Programmes than at the UK Open University (UKOU) and in UK higher education nationally.
3. Ongoing support
3.1 Materials - there should be disability support materials on the UoLIP website for the most common disabilities, particularly dyslexia.
3.2 Teaching support - there should be more video and audio recordings of lectures with subtitles.
3.3 Support from other students - UoLIP should look at ways of delivering more personal support to disabled students via mentors.
3.4 Support from Teaching Institutions – Disabled students have concerns about lack of support from their institutions. There may be a case for investigating whether teaching institutions could give better support to disabled students.
3.5 Exam support – arrangements work reasonably well but there may be a case for making the criteria and procedures clearer.
3.6 Exam centres - work well on the whole but the links between UoLIP, teaching institutions and exam centres need speeding up in some cases.
3.7 The VLE - this appeared to be well-designed for most disabled students although there may be ways in which its use could be encouraged more.
3.8 Families and Friends - it might be useful to explore ways in which families and friends of students could be involved in the support of ‘their’ students.
3.9 Other forms of support - students suggested an out-of-hours phone line, lists of tutors available for private support and a specialised learning advisor for the most common learning disability, dyslexia.
This report was commissioned by the University of London Centre for Distance Education (CDE) on behalf the Inclusive Practice Panel of the University of London Worldwide.
Ormond Simpson - Former CDE Fellow. Author of 'Supporting Students for Success in Online and Distance Education’ (Routledge). www.ormondsimpson.com
January - March 2018
This project is now completed
Outputs and resources