Don’t exclude disadvantaged users in rush to online learning
Educational institutions must think carefully when going digital, says Tharindu Liyanagunawardena.
Social distancing implemented by countries across the world has posed a great challenge to educational institutions worldwide, causing them to cancel lectures and graduation ceremonies.
In adapting to the situation, most institutions have adopted online learning. For many traditional institutions this is the first time that they are trying to use technology on such a large scale.
In their hurry to adopt technology, there is always the danger of institutions rushing into using it without proper appraisal – accessibility, security and privacy concerns, for example – or adequate user training.
There is also the possibility of excluding groups of users who are not able to engage with the technologies because they lack the digital literacy required, because of disabilities, or because they lack broadband connectivity.
I hope these points are considered by leaders at institutions currently going digital.
In my role as a learning technology researcher and chair of the Online Learning Research Centre at University College of Estate Management (UCEM), I scan the horizon, assess educational technology and consider how we can use it to enhance our students’ experience. We are always thinking about the practical aspects and accessibility of the technology we appraise.
As the leading provider of supported online education for the built environment, UCEM is better placed than most to face this difficult situation. As a result, UCEM is advising other institutions in order that the sector can keep educating students to the highest possible standards.
Tharindu Liyanagunawardena is a learning technology researcher and chair of the Online Learning Research Centre at UCEM