Modern life and the need for accessible online education |: Wellington Times:

Welcome to modern life. We work online, chat online, shop online and now thanks to the pandemic, we learn online. But it seems that online education is not yet accessible to all, despite the fact that it is now a norm for students to work remotely.

For those with visual or hearing impairments, it can be extremely difficult to stay up to date with the work they’ve been assigned. So what can we do to make online education more accessible?

Adopt A More Flexible Learning Approach:

Thankfully in today world, there is an abundance of online courses in Australia. This makes it so much easier for people to begin, or extend their education journey at any age. However, whilst online learning may be the new norm, this does not mean that it should be approached the same way that in-person learning is.

Whilst long lectures are appropriate for students on campus, it can be far more difficult to pay attention and stay engaged when staring at a laptop screen. Changes need to be made in order for students to be able to achieve the same results.

In the context of a lecture, this can be done by having more breaks throughout. Give students time to get up, look away from a screen and have a break. This may seem like it will disrupt the learning process however, in the long run, it will help the cohort to remain involved and present.

Alternatively, change the structure of the lecture from that of an in-person one. Create smaller groups where students can interact more and discuss with their peers so that they are able to stay on task but also understand the content thoroughly.

As well as providing adequate break times, ensuring all lectures are recorded is more imperative than ever.

Prior to the pandemic, it was standard practice for many lectures or seminars to be recorded if they were taking place in person in order to facilitate the students who were not able to attend, however, in order to mandate attendance, lecturers often opted out of recordings.

Now that learning online is so normalized, once again lectures are not recorded due to the idea that it is easier to attend now that a commute to a secondary location is no longer necessary.

Tailor Learning To Specific People:

Unfortunately, lectures are not the only aspect of online education that needs to be reassessed.

As the move to remote learning becomes more normalized, individual student needs can become displaced. It can be easier to reach out for help in a face to face environment, and in turn, it can be easier to notice a need for help.

However, complete online learning means that it is easy to just shut down the computer and ignore the problem.

Creating student groups on Facebook is a great way for people to seek help amongst their peers, by reaching out to others who are likely grappling with the same problems. This is a great start for ensuring everyone feels included and understood, but when teaching in an online environment the whole approach needs to be changed.

Making sure there are plenty of visual aids for those who are hearing impaired makes certain that they do not unfairly struggle or fall behind, also ensuring the software used to learn has closed captions will even the playing field for all.

The same goes for those who are visually impaired, guaranteeing that audio captions are added to necessary videos is critical. These captions should explain such things as context, and facial expressions to help make sense of the topic being discussed. A simple way of understanding whether these captions are needed or not is by asking, does this video make sense without the addition of visuals?

Reassess Fees And Provide Financial Assistance:

Fees for learning are a required part of education. They help to pay for such things as on-campus resources, helping students to have a better learning experience. However, what happens when those students are no longer on-campus? Whilst those fees will likely be moved to fund other resources, they generally no longer need to be the same amount. There are many who would struggle to pay these fees, and the pandemic that forced us back into our homes and into remote learning situations also cut or reduced hours for many people’s jobs. With that in mind, facilitating financial aid and support for those struggling is an essential way to make online learning a feasible option for all. Because, whilst learning may now be online, for so many, textbooks and other resources are still mandatory and these costs can begin to add up. In the interest of allowing students to continue their education rather than having to sacrifice it due to varying costs, providing assistance to individuals is necessary.

Today’s world is vastly different from the world ten years ago, even the world two years ago. The pandemic has forced us to reassess how we live our lives, in all areas, and that includes our education. So to go about learning in a one size fits all approach is not feasible anymore. In order to adapt changes need to be made to look at students as specific people rather than as one overarching group.

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