Updated Session Description
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Original Session Description
This presentation will describe the ADMINS project (Assistants to the Disclosure and Management of Information about Needs and Support) and explore the potential to employ the outcomes of the project in open education contexts. In ADMINS we are using participatory design and artificial intelligence services to develop an alternative means for students to communicate their disabilities. This will provide a way for them to build a profile and to enable effective guidance and support for their study. In the first instance, the assistant is being designed and developed for trial within the Open University (OU). At the same time, we recognise the wider potential for this, and are developing the design so that the assistant be adapted for use in other institutions, platforms, and audiences. A major avenue for this work is to better support accessibility in open education contexts, where resources for disability support are often very constrained.
The number of students that use assistive technologies or require adaptations to be able to access higher education resources is increasing every year (Moriña, 2017). There is an increase of students who disclose disabilities in the education system, across all types of institutions. The flexibility offered by open, online and distance forms of education is attractive to many of these students because of the higher flexibility that can be offered. For example to take more time over their studies, or to study from home. Law, Perryman, & Law (2013) suggest disabled learners are using the OU’s Open Educational Resources (OERs): OpenLearn (19%); iTunes U (13%) and YouTube EDU (17%). While Iniesto et al. (2017) report that 12.2% of learners on free OU courses delivered on FutureLearn declare disabilities. However, the support available to learners who take part in OER or MOOCs is comparatively limited (Coughlan et al., 2016). Open education platforms are unlikely to have the resources for individual disability support, detailed advice on assistive technology, or facilities to report accessibility barriers.
ADMINS is supported by Microsoft through their AI for Accessibility initiative. It builds on our recent research which identified how administrative processes for declaring disabilities and accessing support create negative impacts on students, including reducing the quality of their assignments, and having a detrimental effect on their wellbeing (Coughlan & Lister, 2018). The assistant is being initially developed for formal learning contexts in which it will be used in addition to support from expert disability advisors.
Students in most formal contexts have the opportunity to access support provided by the institution or through government funding, which is less often the case in study of OER. However, there are a range of free or low cost assistive technologies, and adaptations that the learner can make themselves. Awareness of these opportunities could reduce barriers for disabled learners in open educational contexts. Open education platforms need to take greater responsibility to understand the accessibility needs of their learners in order to widen participation and reduce inequality. We will explore how systems like ADMINS could be part of a vision for this to occur.
Coughlan, T., & Lister, K. (2018). The accessibility of administrative processes: Assessing the impacts on students in higher education. In Proceedings of the Web for All conference on the Internet of Accessible Things. ACM. Available at: http://oro.open.ac.uk/54760/ [Accessed 31/01/20]
Coughlan, T., Rodriguez-Ascaso, A., Iniesto, F., & Jelfs, A. (2016). OLA! A scenario-based approach to enhance open learning through accessibility. International Conference on Computers Helping People with Special Needs, 445–452. Springer. Available at: http://oro.open.ac.uk/46036/ [Accessed 31/01/20]
Iniesto, F., McAndrew, P., Minocha, S., & Coughlan, T. (2017). What are the expectations of disabled learners when participating in a MOOC?. In Proceedings of the Fourth ACM Conference on [email protected] Scale. pp. 225-228. Available at: http://oro.open.ac.uk/48666/ [Accessed 31/01/20]
Law, P., Perryman, L. A., & Law, A. (2013). Open educational resources for all? Comparing user motivations and characteristics across The Open University’s iTunes U channel and OpenLearn platform. In: Open and Flexible Higher Education Conference 2013, 23-25 Oct 2013, Paris, France, European Association of Distance Teaching Universities (EADTU), pp. 204–219. Available at: https://oro.open.ac.uk/39102/ [Accessed 31/01/20]
Moriña, A. (2017). ‘We aren’t heroes, we’re survivors’: Higher education as an opportunity for students with disabilities to reinvent an identity. Journal of Further and Higher Education, 41(2), 215–226.