Here are some thoughts on another ocTEL activity, this one is focusing on how technology can be used to support learner diversity.
Try to find one example from your own practice, or an example or resource from elsewhere, that you think exemplifies good practice in taking a technology-enhanced approach to addressing a key aspect of learner diversity.
It could be an example of a freely available assistive technology, or a set of online guidelines for designing a culturally inclusive curricula. It might be an example of an initiative, such as the college2uni podcasts produced by Edinburgh Napier University, which provide ‘just in time’ guidance at key points in the academic year for Further Education students coming in to University in the second or third year.
Approaching this task I was reminded of how we integrated ebooks at Gloucestershire College.
When we undertook a library survey, it was apparent that there were some groups of learners for whom the library wasn’t their first choice as a place to learn. This was backed up by the data from the Library Management System. More challenging was linking that data with retention and achievement data.
Research from the University of Huddersfield and others indicates that those students who use more books and/or e-resources are the same students who complete and get higher achievement rates. This is a correlation, not necessarily a causal relationship. However it is useful to understand that the data backs up a personal hunch that using a breadth and depth of resources does improve achievement. Also, motivated students who visit the library are also those who complete their studies.
One such group were IT students, who when asked for further feedback talked about how the space wasn’t meeting their needs, they preferred to remain in their area, or studied at night (when the library wasn’t open).
So the question was, how could we encourage these learners to make effective use of the resources available, also, how could we increase their usage of resources? We knew that encouraging their use of the library space was a potential strategy, the fact that they weren’t using it, didn’t necessarily mean they would start using it in the future.
So rather than bring the learners to the library, the plan was to take the library to the learners, using technology to make this happen, through the use of ebooks and other digital collections.
The ebooks for FE collection was a useful resource, containing a range of books. There were many suitable titles for the IT students. The IT students were also making good use of the VLE, so the relevant titles were made available as links on the VLE. The academic staff encouraged the use of ebooks in the class, using appropriate pages in lessons and making reference to them when needed.
The physical books were still available in the library, so from a learner diversity perspective they had choice about which resources they could use. It wasn’t just about choice, it was also about context and location. A book can be read easily when travelling, whether physical or ebook. An ebook can be accessed when the library is closed. A physical book is useful to have open, when you are using your main device as a creation tool, or when making notes, rather than task switching on a single screen. The text size of ebooks can be increased on some readers, for those with visual impairment issues.
The ebooks were just one part of a wider range of resources made available to the students, alongside strategies to improve teaching and learning.
Using technology as a solution to the “problem” for me, exemplifies good practice in taking a technology-enhanced approach to addressing a key aspect of learner diversity. Not using technology for the sake of using technology, but using it to make a difference by solving an issue.