Resourcing Equity for Online Learners: Supporting Students-with-Limitations

Resourcing Equity for Online Learners: Supporting Students-with-Limitations

Andreé Robinson-Neal (Azusa Pacific University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61692-906-0.ch052
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Abstract

As postsecondary online learning opportunities continue to expand and interest in such opportunities continues to increase, online course and program developers and instructors will more frequently be faced with students from culturally diverse backgrounds, students with educational and physical limitations, and students with socioeconomic barriers. This chapter will provide a review of existing research related to online education, including a discussion of the gaps in research as related to online postsecondary learning. An exploration of the issues related to providing online instruction to diverse populations of students who come to higher education with educational accommodation needs, as well as students whose many cultures have communication styles, expectations, and etiquette that may differ from person to person, is also included. The chapter concludes with suggestions for improvements as well as emerging trends in creating and maintaining equity in online course and program delivery.
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Introduction

In his forward to a text about online education, Parker states that there is a philosophy of learning “that is based on creating a safe place for learning focused on the needs of the learner” (Hanna, Glowacki-Dudka, & Conceição-Runlee, 2000). Such a philosophy takes on new significance when postsecondary online instructors, program and course design specialists and online education administrators consider the needs of students, particularly those who do not fit the traditional profile. The development of Internet-based higher education programs and courses has birthed the global classroom, where students with different styles of learning can come together in collaboration. This global classroom experience is further complicated by a lack of cultural neutrality (McLoughlin & Oliver, 1999), where the term ‘culture’ can be used as a catch-all to include differences in race and ethnicity, age, gender, physical ability, and learning style.

As online programs and courses provide college and university students with alternatives to lecture-style, face-to-face education, educators are called upon to develop content that not only meets accreditation standards but also delivers the promised learning objectives to all students. Postsecondary institutions have different challenges related to accessibility due to the fact that their incoming students are not automatically followed by the identified goals that were a part of a special education Individualized Education Program (IEP) from their primary (identified for the purposes of this chapter as grades kindergarten through 8) or secondary (identified as grades 9 through 12) education. College and university admissions documentation provide instruction for prospective students who wish their high school IEP to follow them into higher education but ultimately the decision rests with the student with regard to which classes and instructors are made aware of the need for accommodation. As a result, many faculty members are unaware of the education needs of all of the students in their classes. When students whose first language may not be the language in which the online class is provided are considered, the concepts of equity and accommodation become further complicated.

This chapter provides a review of existing research related to online education, including a discussion of the gaps in research as related to online postsecondary learning. There is an exploration of the issues related to providing online instruction to diverse populations of students, along with suggestions for design and implementation improvements. A discussion of emerging trends in creating and maintaining equity in online course and program delivery and assessment is included.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Asynchronous: Refers to self-directed learning opportunities that are not coordinated in time, where learners are not in the same geographical location as the instructor, such as in correspondence courses.

ADA-Compliant: Adhering to the regulations set forth by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Accessibility: The degree to which the information for a program or course can be used by students-with-limitations.

Synchronous: refers to learning opportunities where the learning occurs for all students at the same time and have the ability to communicate with each other, such as in a virtual classroom.

IEP: Individual education program.

Limitation: Barriers to student success, including but not limited to physical and emotional disability; language difference; personal background; learning disability; educational level; socioeconomic status.

NJCLD: National Joint Committee on Learning Disabilities.

Equity: In education, when access is not biased and all are treated fairly.

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