What this session is about:
This session calls attention to some of the ways in which digital technologies may act to exclude students from non-traditional backgrounds, and encourages colleagues to consider how these barriers might be overcome.
It draws on my own recent experiences of procuring and customising a learning management system (LMS) for a higher-education institution with a large number of non-traditional students, my prior research on those students’ needs and expectations, and sociomaterial theory (see Fenwick 2011).
My definition of ‘non-traditional’ relates specifically to students who: can’t access a semester- or cohort-based educational model (e.g. due to career or family commitments); are not located near a university campus; or (for financial or geographical reasons) lack consistent internet access and/or don’t have access to a computer.
How it addresses theme 4 (Learning technology for wider impact):
I will argue that institutions selecting a technological environment for digital education are usually forced into compromises in at least one of three main areas: mobile optimisation, siloing of content by mode, and offline access. I will outline the ways in which these compromises result in the marginalisation and exclusion of non-traditional students.
Specifically, I will argue that technological constraints act to: reinforce inequity of access to digital education between more and less economically advantaged groups; marginalise those who cannot attend (face-to-face or online) synchronous classes; exclude those without consistent internet access; and force non-traditional students towards more traditional forms of education.
Reflection and evaluation:
I will reflect on these challenges and evaluate an alternative approach (as proposed by Brown et al. 2015) that may help to transcend some of the identified constraints, and as a result support the democratisation of access to digital education.
I will conclude by reflecting on several pragmatic challenges that those seeking to implement such an approach might also wish to consider. These include commercial, pricing and procurement models, investment in software-development capabilities within institutions, and strong leadership and collaboration across the sector.
Brown M., Dehoney J. and Millichap N. (2015) The Next Generation Digital Learning Environment: A Report on Research [online]. Available at: https://library.educause.edu/~/media/files/library/2015/4/eli3035-pdf.pdf. [Accessed 10 March 2019.]
Fenwick T. (2011) Emerging Approaches to Educational Research: Tracing the Sociomaterial. London: Routledge.