Is it conceivable to offer e-learning as an “alternative format” for disabled learners?

When we talk of traditional course materials and disabled students, we come across the need to translate paper materials into other formats – electronic, braille, audio tape, and so on. This is time consuming but necessary, for otherwise the learner cannot engage with the course.

There are other adjustments required for different disabilities; sign language interpreters for lectures, putting handouts on the web, and so on. Eventually though, you will end up with a student for whom reasonable adjustments aren’t enough to make the course come to life, perhaps due to mobility difficulties and the hassle involved in attending classes/lectures.

So is e-learning the answer? For some people, certainly. A wheelchair user may well be more comfortable in their own home, able to use different hours of the day and apply themselves to the course as and when they feel possible. For an autistic/aspergers student, and for disorganised dyslexic students, it may be a perfect solution to the complex discussions and extremely fast responses that go on in lectures, allowing consumption of material at leisure.

But for many disabled students it will be a separation too far; another barrier, perhaps technical, perhaps social, to be placed in front of them by an institution too eager to keep up with the world. Hate to say it (!) but maybe Hamish is right; this isn’t a revolution, and maybe not even an evolution – it’s just a different way of teaching, to be presented alongside the others. What’s important, is that the student gets to choose.

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