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DEMOS Project

Online Materials for Staff Disability Awareness
[Project] : Reports

Current Developments in Disability Training and the use of Communication and Information Technology in Higher Education with relevance to the DEMOS Project

June 2000

Mike Wray
Project Coordinator
DEMOS Project
HEFCE Disability Initiative 2000-2002


  1. Introduction
  2. The Use of C & IT in Education
  3. Teaching and Learning Technology Projects (TLTP)
  4. HEFCE Disability Initiatives
  5. Disability Related Staff Development Research
  6. Courses available in Disability Studies etc.
  7. Other organisations
  8. References
  9. Links

[This report is available for download in Rich Text Format (.rtf) (74Kb) or as MS Word 2000 document (.doc) (72Kb)]

1 Introduction

There are several areas of development within higher education that have significance for the DEMOS project. We need to place our aims and objectives within the context of all these developments in order to ensure that our findings are current and relevant to the sector. The materials development of the project should make use of the findings of previous projects and be responsive to the initiatives that are currently being undertaken.

This paper will provide a brief overview of current initiatives that are related to the use of technology in learning and teaching, online learning, disability training and previous HEFCE disability projects.


2 The Use of C & IT in Education

"...one of the best ways to overcome some of the barriers to learning will be to use new broadcasting and other technologies. We expect their role in learning more generally to increase significantly".
'The Learning Age ', DfEE 1998 [1]

2.1 General Context

The use of Computers & Information Technology (C & IT) is being increasing encouraged in all areas of education. Initiatives such as the formation of the Institute for Learning and Teaching, which amongst other objectives will tackle the use of IT in teaching, and the e-University, that will develop online courses for a global market, are examples of the government's response to developing UK education in the information age.

There is also a move towards resource-based learning and lifelong learning within HE. Lee et al (1999) [2] point to the increasing role of learning technologies in the implementation of these approaches.

2.2 HEFCE-Commissioned Report into C & IT Materials

In 1999 the HEFCE published its report into the use of C & IT in HE and FE colleges (HEFCE 1999) [3]. A database of materials containing 308 items has been produced and will appear on the ILT website in the near future.

The report states that many of the materials have been produced with a single institution in mind and are generally quite experimental. None of the materials were designed to assist students with learning difficulties and/or disabilities although some projects now have this in mind (see below). However, in the HEIs and departments that are using C & IT there are a number of drivers including widening participation and support of disabled students.

Further findings suggest that the use of C & IT in teaching does not yet occupy a central role within HE and FE and the use of C & IT courseware still has to penetrate widely to the level of individual staff. These conclusions are supported by the fact that only a small number of institutions have identified the enhancement of C & IT as a major part of their Teaching & Learning strategies.

The report also found that the claim that C & IT leads to reductions of cost or increases in efficiency has not been borne out yet.


3 Teaching and Learning Technology Projects (TLTP)

3.1 Background

These projects were begun in 1992 by the Universities Funding Council and carried on thereafter by the four UK higher education funding bodies - the HEFCE, SHEFC, HEFCW and DENI.

Project phases 1 and 2 took place during 1992-1996. They produced mainly subject specific interactive software and supporting documentation. Phase 3 projects began in 1998 and their aim was '...implementation, embedding the use of new technologies more firmly into HE and evaluating its effectiveness' (National Coordination Team 1998) [4]

The projects were supported by the National Coordination Team, which also overlooked the Fund for the Development of Teaching and Learning (FDTL).

3.2 Examples of TLT Projects

Herriot Watt's IMPACT team developed materials and workshops for training academic staff in the use of Computer Aided Learning and some of these were subsequently disseminated.

FOCUS (Framework for Optimising C& IT Uptake and Support) is a phase three project based at Loughborough University. They are promoting widespread use of online learning technology in HE and have developed a relational database that can be accessed via the www and contains information on the 'available software dedicated to teaching and learning over the web'.

3.3 Projects funded to develop accessibility

HEFCE granted continuation funds to phases one and two FDTL projects and phase 3 TLT projects. One of the categories for continuation was accessibility. Two examples are discussed here.

The Sociology in Placements (SIPS) project based at the University of Northumbria and the Educational Quality Placements in Engineering (EQUIP) project based at Loughborough University were successful in gaining money to improve placement potential for disabled students. The project sought to review the support available for disabled students on placement and produce guidelines on how to maximize the benefits of a placement for disabled students.

Capabil-IT-y is a phase 3 TLT project based at the University of North London that is developing and assessing a key skills curriculum using electronic resources. Independent learning, group work, presentations and use of C&IT are areas that have been identified as causing the most barriers for disabled students. So far, work has centred on defining learning outcomes and future work will include the production of staff development materials and skills-based workshops for disabled students. The project has embedded to a certain extent consideration of disabled users into the development of the resources and accessible web-based learning materials may be produced for disabled students.
The University is building a 'Technology Tower' and is examining issues related to access to the building, equipment, software and learning packages. An electronic communications system to facilitate communications with and between disabled students is also being investigated.

3.4 Projects in Scotland

Since the break up of the HE funding councils the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council has also funded a number of projects whose focus is similar to the TLT projects in England.

The Teaching and Learning in Scottish Metropolitan Area Networks (TALiSMAN) project researched the use of communications and learning technology in the Scottish academic community. A number of reports were produced and have particular relevance to the DEMOS project. An analysis of need was undertaken and reports were produced on the use of virtual learning environments (VLEs) in the delivery of staff development.

The SHEFC's latest round of projects began in 1999 and were based around 4 strands of enquiry - development and dissemination of web-based materials and tools, enhancements of the MANs infrastructure, pilot intranet projects and staff development.
Individual projects include the development of a VLE for the delivery of staff development and a national library database of staff development materials.
Findings and developments of these projects could have a significant impact on the end product of the DEMOS Project.


4 HEFCE Disability Initiatives

There have been three previous HEFCE-funded special initiatives. I investigated findings from the last special initiative which covered the period 1996-1999. Many of the projects aimed to implement staff development programmes. Findings from some these projects are reported elsewhere [5] . None of the projects utilised an online approach to disability training although some have developed websites and multimedia products such as videos.


5 Disability Related Staff Development Research

Swindells and Betts (1999) [6] carried out a needs analysis of staff drawn from the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education (NATFHE) membership, specifically those staff who had identified themselves has being involved with students with learning difficulties and/or disabilities. The report is mainly focused on staff in further education colleges and the average time spent working with disabled students was 80%.

In 1996 Ruth Haigh summarised her work as Disabilities Training Officer at Lancaster University, [7] which was funded under the HEFCE disability initiatives. She surveyed the views of disabled students and examined the results of a questionnaire circulated by the disability office relating to disability support.

There has been very little research into the development of disability training courses in higher education. There is some information available from previous HEFCE projects, however, there has not been a systematic approach to the analysis of need for disability training of academic staff in HE.


6 Courses available in Disability Studies etc.

There are a number of courses and resources that are publicly available to staff in higher education and the project should be aware of their pedagogical approach and content. Listed below are a selection of those available :

The Oxford Centre for Staff Development and Learning Development at Oxford Brookes University have run a series of workshops facilitated by Alan Hurst.

A University Certificate in Professional Development (Disability) is available at UCLAN

Various HEIs offer a Diploma/MA in Disability Studies including the University of Leeds

Equip produced a directory of resources (disability related) in 1999 with a section on 'Disability Awareness and Staff Development'. Resources ranged from organisations offering disability related training such as AbilityNet to booklets and videos.


7 Other organisations

7.1 University and College Information Systems Association (UCISA)

UCISA promotes excellence in the use of information systems and services in teaching and learning, research and administration in Higher Education. The UCISA Teaching and Learning section have two awards each year that are given to sites demonstrating innovative and exemplary use of the web. £1000 is given in each category.

Examples of sites that have won awards are at the University of Plymouth which won the 1998 teaching and learning award and the site that won the 1997 Information and dissemination award.

7.2 Association for Learning and Teaching (ALT)

The Association for Learning and Teaching is a charitable organisation which is currently administered at Oxford Brookes University. It promotes good practice and communication between all those involved in the use of learning technology in HE and FE. The association has an archived journal at its website and organises national conferences and workshops such as ALT-2000 which is to be held at UMIST.

7.3 The Institute for Learning and Teaching (ILT)

The ILT is a professional body with membership available to staff involved in learning and teaching and support of students in higher education in the UK. Its activities include the management of the Learning and Teaching Support Network (LTSN) and the Generic Learning and Teaching Centre (GLTC).

7.4 LTSN and the GLTC

The LTSN is a network of 24 subject centres that will act as main focal points for innovation in teaching and learning in subject disciplines. The use of C & IT is seen as central to these innovations.

The GLTC will disseminate and promote generic issues relating to good practice in teaching and learning throughout the HE sector.

7.5 Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) Initiatives

The Technology Integration Centre (TIC) will be based alongside the GLTC in York. Amongst other objectives it will monitor developments in IT that have importance for learning and teaching and will advise the GLTC on how to implement the technological advances within HEIs.

DISinHE was formed as one of four clearing houses by the JISC as part of the J-TAP initiative. It provides advice on the accessibility of IT for disabled students and has produced reports on subjects such as accessible courseware and designing accessible websites.


8 References

[1] Department for Education and Employment (1998) The Learning Age http://www.lifelonglearning.co.uk/greenpaper/index.htm   [Back to text]

[2] Lee, S., Groves, P., Stephens, C. & Armitage, S. (1999) On-line Teaching: Tools and Projects. JTAP report 28. http://www.jtap.ac.uk/reports/index.htm   [Back to text]

[3] The Higher Education Funding Council (1999) Communications and information technology materials for learning and teaching in UK higher and further education, pub99_60, HEFCE, Bristol http://www.hefce.ac.uk/Pubs/   [Back to text]

[4] National Coordination Team for TLT Projects and FDTL Projects http://www.ncteam.ac.uk/   [Back to text]

[5] Wray, M. (2000) Report on the Feedback Obtained from the Higher Education Funding Council for England Disability Initiative Projects 1996-99. DEMOS Project (available December 2000)   [Back to text]

[6] Swindells, B. & Betts, D. (1999) Research into staff development needs - working with students who have learning difficulties and/or disabilities. Skill Journal, Research Supplement, 64, 1-7   [Back to text]

[7] Haigh, R. (1996) Staff training on disability issues. The Skill Journal,54, 41-45   [Back to text]


9 Links

Association for Learning and Teaching http://www.alt.ac.uk/

Capabil-IT-y Project http://www.unl.ac.uk/capability/

FOCUS Project http://www.focus.ac.uk/

HEFCE (Higher Education Funding Council for England) special initiatives http://www.hefce.ac.uk/initiat/sldd/siall.htm

IMPACT Project http://www.icbl.ac.uk/impact/

Institute for Learning and Teaching http://www.ilt.ac.uk/

Joint Information Systems Committee(JISC) http://www.jisc.ac.uk/index.html

Learning and Teaching Support Network (LTSN) and the Generic Learning and Teaching Centre (GLTC) http://www.ltsn.ac.uk/

National Clearing House for Disability and Information Systems in Higher Education, DISinHE http://www.disinhe.ac.uk/

National Coordination Team for TLT Projects and FDTL Projects http://www.ncteam.ac.uk/

SHEFC Communications and Information Technology (C&IT) Programme http://www.scotcit.ac.uk/

Sociology in Placements Project http://www.unn.ac.uk/academic/ss/SIP/

Talisman Project http://www.talisman.hw.ac.uk/

University and College Information Systems Association http://www.ucisa.ac.uk/