A Teaching Experience

To take a personal experience as a starting point to this chapter’s discussion, a student came up to Barb as she concluded the last lecture for a course, ironically, on diversity studies. The course was a first-year introduction to the issues and practices that sit around the inclusion of students who have specific learning needs in schools. The course was provided through blended learning and involved the lecturer in over 300 h of preparation to try to ensure that the needs of all students were met. The course was provided in audio and visual formats with some face-to-face lectures and some lectures provided online. The course had an instructional component based on UDL where the students could choose how they accessed material, what they accessed, and when and how they presented their knowledge through assessment. Feeling quite chuffed that all had gone relatively well in the first blended learning course that she had designed and taught, Barb’s excitement was soon dashed when a student thanked her for the course and in particular the face-to-face component, but then said that she had not listened to one audio-taped lecture! She then said she had a mild hearing impairment that she had not disclosed and so needed face-to-face lectures so that she could lip-read. Barb was devastated.

Here, we see several of the issues that surround the rush to online learning by universities and higher education facilities. Backward mapping from this comment, it is possible to see that for this person and in this one instance, the neoliberal dream of self-directed, autonomous learners who are job-focused and ready to perform in the global marketplace might not as yet be a reality (Edwards and Usher 2001). The neoliberal dream would hold this student to account for not being accountable for her own learning. The incident begs the question as to why this student did not come forward earlier and disclose to someone what her issues were. This chapter takes up what the student did not and asks:

• Who is the person who is imagined as the recipient of any push to personalise

learning and especially any push to use e-mediated instruction?

  • • Who is the person demanding e-mediated and personalised instruction?
  • • What is the person demanding of e-mediated and personalised instruction?

This chapter’s discussion will set out to answer each of these questions in turn. First, this chapter will backward map from the student’s comment above through an explication of the issues that sit around accessibility to online higher education course material and to issues of equity. This discussion will examine the needs of students with a disability. Second, accessibility issues will be examined through the fear and loathing that administrators feel when confronted with legislation and compliance standards that monitor the inclusion of students with a disability. We draw on the work of Seale (2003, 2014) to show that accessibility for all students in e-mediated environments is at a very early stage of implementation. Here, we will discuss the manner in which some students are made “risky” in terms of their desires and tastes for learning, which are not necessarily the desires and tastes of all students studying at university. In this, we question the technically savvy, the technically naive, and the technically distressed! Third, this chapter will examine the issue of taste in relation to new technology and concludes that not all tastes are created equally. We conclude that the push towards online learning is complex and contradictory and may well provide a more disabling environment than an enabling one. Even when coupled with legislation and compliance standards that support the inclusion of a range of individuals within the higher education sector, the promise of personalised learning and personalised learning through e-mediated instruction is yet to materialise.

The style of this chapter is that of a narrative where we draw on research undertaken in a course on diversity studies. The narrative peppers the argument with vignettes taken from one of our research diaries and from student interviews. We simply tell the narrative in this chapter such that it can be reworked and retold (Creswell 2013).

 
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