Victoria Boyd

  • Influencing Inclusive Practice: The role of VLEs

    Victoria Boyd, Barbara Newland, Juliette Pavey

    Research seminar

    Themes: learning environments, supporting learners, iinstitutional strategies, departmental strategies, staff development strategies

    ALERT (Accessibility in Learning Environments and Related Technologies) is a HEFCE funded project being run between the University of Durham and Bournemouth University examining use of virtual learning environments (VLEs) by disabled students. The project aims to identify ways of supporting students with a wide range of disabilities and in turn influence both institutional and departmental strategies.

    The project is running over a two year period with most data collection taking place over this academic year. Rather than focus on the technological implications of the VLE usage by disabled students, ALERT aims to identify methods of support for the attainment of pedagogical objectives. In order to do this, the study evaluates the use of various ‘e-tivities’ (Salmon, 2002), for example, online discussion, virtual chat or role play, as an integral component of an online module.

    About 12 case studies are being conducted across various departments and throughout all year groups where the impact of the VLE on individual and collaborative learning will be assessed through a series of interviews. The study will facilitate a clearer understanding of the issues faced by students with disabilities and online learning. In addition, the participation of members of academic staff in providing information based on their own experience will investigate how institution-wide support and staff development can be improved.

    The outcomes will give examples and provide guidelines and points for reflection and discussion, and will be designed for use by academics and academic support staff such as learning technologists, staff developers and disability support staff. A database driven web-site, a paper booklet and a CDROM will all be produced from the outcomes.

    However, in order for the output of the research to achieve its goal of directly affecting academic practice and provisions for disabled students, a number of factors must be addressed. It is hoped that the research will benefit from small group discussions on the following factors:

    • How to make the output of the research relevant to academic and support staff?
    • How to make the materials practical and usable?
    • How to integrate the results within the context of existing practice?
    • How to monitor any effects the resources have on teaching practice and learner experience?

    This session will initially focus on presenting interim results from the case studies and highlighting identified themes across the student sample. Group discussion topics with then be distributed amongst delegates, who will be asked to consider the aforementioned issues, before feeding back to the floor in a closing summary. Group discussion contributions from delegates will identify themes and issues which will inform the future development of the research and ensure the continuation of promoting adaptive and inclusive practice.


    Salmon, G., E-tivities : the key to active online learning, 2002, Kogan Page