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The project will explore the e-learning experiences of disabled learners within one institution; The University of Southampton. The overarching aim is to increase our understanding of the many complex issues and interactions introduced by disabled learners’ requirements for accessible e-learning, compatible assistive technologies and effective learning support.

Disabled learners’ experiences of e-learning (LExDis)

The project will explore the e-learning experiences of disabled learners within one institution; The University of Southampton. The overarching aim is to increase our understanding of the many complex issues and interactions introduced by disabled learners’ requirements for accessible e-learning, compatible assistive technologies and effective learning support. The need for such a project has been highlighted by previous JISC studies of learners’ experiences, which identified the value of learning from the particular issues that applied to disabled students, noted the near impossibility of ascertaining a disabled learner’s experience solely from observable behaviour and recommended further studies. Based on our extensive knowledge and experience of working with disabled students, it is our view that there are many very special issues that will not be fully understood or illuminated by a general study of a cohort that includes only one or two disabled students. Recognising that disabled students are not a homogenous group, students with a wide range of disabilities and experiences of using e-learning and assistive technologies at Southampton, will be included in the study. The LExDis project will contribute to the field of knowledge by developing user-centred participatory methods that produce rich in-depth descriptions of the e-learning experiences of disabled students and help practitioners, support staff, managers, learners and developers address with some confidence the issues faced by disabled students in higher education. This project will have an important impact on wider participation and ease transition issues for those requiring equal access to on-line teaching and learning.

Aims and objectives

The overarching aim of the LExDis project is to:

  • Explore the e-learning experiences of disabled learners within one institution (The University of Southampton) in order to increase understanding of the many complex issues and interactions introduced by disabled learners’ requirements for accessible e-learning, compatible assistive technologies and effective learning support.
  • Recognising that disabled students are not a homogenous group, students with a wide range of disabilities and experiences of using e-learning and assistive technologies at Southampton, will be included in the study in order to:
  • Explore and describe how disabled learners experience and participate in learning in technology-rich environments
  • Investigate the strategies, beliefs and intentions of disabled learners who are effective in learning in technology-rich environments and identity factors that enable or inhibit effective e-learning
  • Develop user-centred methodologies for eliciting the e-learning experiences of disabled students and disseminate these widely in order to promote a participatory approach to designing and evaluating e-learning
  • Make recommendations for those involved in designing learning systems and developing support services for disabled students based on our understanding of their diverse needs, experiences and preferences.

Project methodology

The LExDis project will use a "participatory" research methodology, with a focus on the learner voice’ where disabled students are involved as consultants and partners not just as research subjects and help to identify and (re)frame the research questions; work with the researchers to achieve a collective analysis of the research issues and bring the results to the attention of each of the constituencies that they represent (disabled students, HE staff). Following consultation with the project participants (disabled learners), it is anticipated that a variety of approaches to eliciting the learner experience will be used that build on techniques used in previous JISC projects:

  • Defining what ‘effective’ means relative to learners’ own goals and self-perceptions, and the difference technology has made to their experience of learning
  • Combining phenomenographic (IPA) and ethnographic approaches
  • Eliciting learner narratives through audio recorded semi-structured interviews and identifying uses of technology through written and audio logs
  • Using artefacts (e.g. blogs, e-portfolios, wikis) actually produced by learners as a means of helping the learner to reflect in depth on the technologies used, their learning strategies and social and learningimpact;
  • Using social software and concept mapping software to support analysis

Anticipated impact

LExDis will not only provide a robust methodology for the research and innovative accessible methods of dissemination, but will also provide clear guidelines as to the enhancement of effective e-learning for teaching and support staff, developers and policy makers.  This project will have an important impact on wider participation and ease transition issues for those requiring equal access to on-line teaching and learning. The institutional contribution reflects the fact that the results of the project’s research will help The University of Southampton to achieve the objectives of its learning and teaching and e-learning enhancement strategies which state that 'over the next four years, the University of Southampton student learning experience will be enhanced by a focus on: … inclusivity …' and one of the six core values is  'The appreciation of diversity and equality of opportunity' and one of the five e-learning objectives is that 'e-learning will help remove barriers to learning, by allowing access to learning resources and activities, regardless of  time of study, place of study, learning style preferences, cultural background or disability.'

The deliverables of the project will include:

  • 30 case studies describing disabled learners’ different experiences of learning and the role e-learning and other technologies plays in those experiences
  • Summary report detailing how the research questions have been addressed and drawing out lessons learned from the particular institutional context
  • Brief methodological report outlining the tools and techniques used, together with any tools developed and any transcripts produced
  • Critique of the chosen methodology
  • Recommendations and guidance for practitioners, support staff, institutional managers, learners, content providers, instructional designers, technical and program developers
Lead institution
Project plan

Project plan (Word)

Project Staff

Project manager
Project team

Documents & Multimedia

Summary
Start date
1 March 2007
End date
28 February 2008
Funding programme
e-Learning Pedagogy programme
Project website
Topic