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Improving accessibility, inclusion, and engagement in synchronous online learning events

The research intends to assess how a framework (MACE) can help tutors make online tutorials more accessible and inclusive. This framework, developed collaboratively with staff and students at the Open University through a series of studies, is designed to take a holistic approach to collaborative learning online identifying the factors needing to be in place for students to engage and contribute.  It complements existing guidance and training resources by providing practical information and interventions to reduce barriers to engagement and encourage participation. The strength of the framework is that is represents the voices of disabled students who were fundamental to its development, and that it takes a preventative rather than reactive approach.  As a team already actively involved in cross-faculty accessibility, inclusion, and learning design networks, resources, and training the positioning of this framework within the existing infrastructure is understood and perceived to be a complementary framework that both encompasses and extends existing provisioning.

This project proposes evaluating the framework in practice on a module (TM111). The framework has been visualised as an interactive website and is this this tool that will be utilised. Whilst initially developed focussing on sensory impairment it is believed that the framework is flexible and should improve accessibility and inclusion for all students and improve staff understanding of accessible inclusive practice. 

The research will take a Design-Based Research (DBR) approach to test and implement the interventions on a module (Bakker, 2013; Wang. 2005). As the framework takes a holistic approach to interventions, anticipating barriers rather than dealing with them as they arise, it is intended to support tutors proactively as well as involving representatives of the module team, students, SST and third-party assistants in the research.  Staff and student involvement will comprise attending an initial workshop to introduce the framework and how to use it, and then support in utilising the framework for the duration of the module. It is anticipated that the framework will require a reduced level of support in future implementations as a consequence of the study.

It is proposed to do this across one cluster group within TM111 so that it can be evaluated against other clusters for comparative purposes.

Core to this research is the active involvement of both students and staff in the evaluation and an application will be made to SRPP and HREC to identify suitable participants.

One or more representatives from each stakeholder group (students, ALs, SST, module team) will be asked to join a focus group to feedback into the DBR iterative evaluation and design process. Supporting this will be a dedicated Moodle site hosting resources, forums, accessibility guides, templates, and related research material. Interviews will be carried out with ALs before and after the research to assess the impact of the evaluation.

A pilot implementation of the framework was conducted.

Related Resources: 
File Jo-Buxton.pptx140.4 KB

Project poster.