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What has changed in learning each time a transformative tool or technology has come along from a) written language b) papyrus c) codex d) printing and e) the Internet? A neuroscientist will say that the human brain hasn’t changed one jot – its innate capacity to learn and to do so at certain developmental stages remains the same. Struggling to see what is new, believing that our latent motivations, drives and inclinations to learn as individuals are as unique to each of us as it has always been I see one change only – the numbers, whether as a percentage in a population or as a gross figure – literacy could only expand as the printed word got into the hands of more people. The Internet will in due course help put primary, secondary and tertiary education into the hands of the disenfranchised.
What has been the frequency of genius revealing itself over the last thousand years?
Even accounting for the billions to chose from in the 21st century compared to the 15th, or 1st, won’t exposure too and access to ‘an education’ by billions give genius a chance to develop and show itself like never before?
When I think if learning, I think of the minuscule intricacies of the component parts of the brain and at the same time the immense vastness of the known universe.
As humans we are eager to understand everything.
It seems appropriate to marry neuroscience with astrophysics, like brackets that enclose everything. From a learning point of view then ask as you look at a person or group of people, ‘what is going on?’ specifically, ‘what is going on in there? (the brains) and between them to foster insight, understanding, innovation and advancement.
The best interface for this, a confluence for it all, is the Internet and the connectedness of it all.
What has the impact of the Internet been and based on everything we currently know, where do we presume it is going?
Fig. 1. Father and daughter
From four or five months after conception with the formation of the brain, to the moment of brain death we have the capacity to learn, subconsciously as well as consciously.
Whether through interlopers before birth, in infancy and early childhood, or through family and carers in our last moment, days, weeks, months or years. At both ends of life the Web through a myriad of ways can advise, suggest and inform, and so educate, like never before. While for all the time in between as sponges, participants and students we can access, interact, interpose and interject in an environment where everything that is known and has been understood is presented to us. The interface between person and this Web of knowledge is a fascinating one that deserves close study for its potentially profound impact on what we as humans can do as people and collectively: Individually through, by, with and surfing the established and privileged formal and formal conveyor belt of education through nursery, primary, secondary and tertiary centres of learning. Individually, also through expanding opportunities globally to learn unfettered by such formal education where such established opportunities don’t exist unless hindered through poverty and politics or a lack of communications infrastructure (a robust broadband connection to the Web). And individually and collectively alongside or beyond whatever formal education is provided or exploited by finger tapping into close and expanded networks of people, materials, ideas and activities
Open learning comes of age.
By seeking to peg answers to the role the Web is starting to play, at one end to the very first opportunity, at the micro-biological level to form a thought and at the other end to those micro-seconds at the end of life once the brain ceases to function – and everything else in between, requires an understandings neuroscience and an answer to the question ‘what is going on in there?’ How do we learn?
From an anthropological perspective why and how do we learn?
Where can we identify the origins of knowledge sharing and its role in the survival and domination of homo sapiens? And from our migration from the savannas of Eastern Africa to every nook and cranny of Earth, on land and sea, what recognised societal behaviours are playing out online? And are these behaviours mimicked or to a lesser extent transmogrified, warped or elevated by the scope, scale and speed of being connected to so much in such variety?
A history of learning is required.
From our innate conscious and subconscious capacity to learn from our immediate family and community how has formal education formed right the way through adding reading, writing and numeracy as a foundation to subject choices and specialisms, so momentarily expanded in secondary education into the single subjects studied at undergraduate level and the niche within a niche at Masters and doctoral levels. And what role has and will formal and informal learning continue to have, at work and play if increasing numbers of people globally have a school or university in their pockets, courtesy of a smartphone or tablet and a connection to the Web?
The global village Marshall McLuhan described is now, for the person connected to the Web, the global digital fireplace.
It has that ability to gather people around. Where though are its limits? With how many people can we develop and maintain a relationship? Once again, how can an understanding of social networks on the ground inform us about those that form on the Web? Multiplicity reins for some, flitting between a variety of groups while others have their niche interests indulged, celebrated and reinforced. Is there an identifiable geography of such hubs small and large and if visualised what does this tell us? Are the ways we can now learn new or old?
In relation to one aspect of education – medicine – how are we informed and how do we respond as patients and clinicians?
The journey starts at conception with the mixing of DNA and ends once the last electrochemical spark has fired. How, in relation to medicine does the quality (or lack of), scale and variety of information available on the Web inform and impact upon our ideas and actions the length of this lifetime’s journey At one end, parents making decisions regarding having children, then knowledge of pregnancy and foetal development. While at the other end, a child takes part in the decision-making process with clinicians and potentially the patient – to ‘call it a day’. Both the patient or person, as participant and the clinicians as interlocutors have, potentially, the same level of information at their fingertips courtesy of the Web.
How is this relationship and the outcomes altered where the patient will know more about their own health and a good deal about a clinician’s specialism?
The relationship between the doctor and patient, like others, courtesy of the connectivity and capacity of the Web, has changed – transmogrified, melted and flipped all at the same time. It is no longer them and us, though it can be – rather, as in education and other fields, it can be highly personalized and close.
Can clinicians be many things to many people?
Can any or only some of us cope with such multiplicity? A psychologist may say some will and some won’t, some have the nature for it, others not. Ditto in education. Trained to lead a classroom in a domain of their own, can a teacher take on multiple roles aimed at responding to the unique as well as the common traits of each of their students? While in tertiary education should and can academics continue to be, or expected to be undertake research as well as teach? Where teaching might be more akin to broadcasting, and the classroom or tutorial takes place asynchronously and online as well as live and face-to-face.
Disaggregation equals change.
In relation to one aspect of education in medicine and one kind of problem, what role might the Web play to support patients so that they can make an informed decision regarding the taking of potentially life saving, if not simply life improving, medications? Having understood the complexity of reasons why having been prescribed a preventer medication, for example, to reduce or even eliminate the risk of a serious asthma attack, what is going on where a patient elects, sometimes belligerently, not to take the medication. Others are forgetful, some misinformed, for others it is the cost, or the palaver of ordering, collecting and paying for repeat prescriptions. Information alone isn’t enough, but given the capacity of the web to brief a person on an individual basis, where they are online, what can be done to improve adherence, save lives and enhance the quality of life?
My hypothesis is that a patient can be assisted by an artificial companion of some kind, that is responsive to the person’s vicissitudes while metaphorically sitting on that person’s shoulder i.e. in the ‘Cloud’ and on their smartphone, tablet, headset, laptop or whatever other assistive interface will exist between us and the Web.
Fig. 2. Where it ends … more or less
At a parent’s side when they die is a profound experience. The breathing stopped and a trillion memories drained away. To what degree will this no longer be the case when a life logged digitally becomes a life in part preserved?
A SenseCam browser (Microsoft). A wearable device that takes a picture every 22 seconds. Hodges et al (2006)
- Tools for lifelogging
- Hundreds of thousands of images grabbed and presented to aid memory … and memory rehabilitation.
- Automatic content analysis techniques
(There is a reason why we forget. The quote from James on the need to spend as much time recalling the record if everything is remembered is like that of Lewis Carroll and a map the size of the real world – neither had the advantage of limitless digital storage capacity and the ability to zoom in and out or back and forth – to expand time, not simply record it.).
- A visual record of your day. Berry et al (2007)
- 2000 to 5000 images a day
- Only activate the device for significant events
Methods of review
- Clustered time view
- Geographical map (required GPS)
- Interactive story authoring
- Motion sensors identify events – typically 20-30 in a day.
- Cognitive overload
- Keyframe image selection a human endeavour
- An entusiastic lifelogger might expect to gather 100,000 images a month.
- Key frame selection only of note if it picked a poor image.
Berry, E., Kapur, N., Williams, L., Hodges, S., Watson, P., Smyth, G., et al. (2007). The use of a wearable camera, SenseCam, as a pictorial diary to improve autobiographical memory in a patient with limbic encephalitis. Neuropsychological Rehabilitation, 17(4), 582601.
Hodges, S., Williams, L., Berry, E., Izadi, S., Srinivasan, J., Butler, A. et al. (2006). SenseCam: A retrospective memory aid. In UbiComp: 8th International Conference on Ubiquitous Computing, Vol. 4602 LNCS (pp. 177193). New York, NY: Springer.
- Adafruit Gemma stuffs a wearable Arduino platform into a one-inch disc (engadget.com)
- The human face of big data – mindblowing images from the planet’s “digital nervous system” (venturevillage.eu)
- Devising Solutions for Traumatic Brain Injury: Interview with Dr. Michael Whalen, MD PhD (medgadget.com)
Fig.1. Ideafisher – a CD-Rom I used extensively in the 1990s. Indeed, it probably contributed to the writing of this article
(I posted this on 1 December 1999, without the image. Not quite my first blog post, that was two months earlier on 27 September. Verbatim. I’ll reflect elsewhere on how things have changed in 13 years. Do please offer comments and thoughts. No longer the ‘Net’ and we don’t call ourselves ‘infomediaries’ but search tools rule and bandwidth means that we have video on demand)
There’s a saying, “freedom is lack of choice,” the problem is, these days, when it comes to business-to-business communications the choice is bewildering, especially as New Media has blurred the edges between traditional media, such as print and video, and computers have blurred the edges between communications and businesses processes. That said, the use of traditional means of business-to-business communication, print and video, far from falling under the shadow of the Net is if anything more robust. The same technology that created the Net has speeded up the print and video production processes and made them more flexible. The reasons for producing, for example, a regular staff magazine or staff newspaper in print, for producing regular business television programmes, motivational and promotional videos remain valid.
Before we get hooked on the technology though, remember that craft skills, such as writing, designing and direction are just as important as programming.
The technology that has made these “New” forms of communication possible has at the same time invigorated print and video communications. Thanks to desk top publishing and non-linear editing, as well as the greatly reduced costs of the hardware and software involved, there has been no reduction in the number and variety of printed internal business communications and in the use of video not just as the video version of the corporate, but for everyday matters such as induction, health & safety and sales training, as well as business to business communications such as investor reports and video news releases. Indeed, if anything the accessibility of video as a business tool has allowed companies to seek bespoke answers to communications issues, instead of relying on generic productions.
In this way everything can be tailored to specific problems.
They say, “old news keeps like fish.”
This is as true in the business world as it is elsewhere. Today, because costs have come down and the digital video medium is so flexible, companies no longer need to be satisfied with “old news.” Not only can video updates be released on a regular basis, but the libraries of shots, interviews and graphics become a valuable source of material for future productions and for use on websites, CD-ROMs and in print.
Digitisation fuelled the latest innovation in business communications.
It wasn’t long ago that we marvelled at the desktop publishing that has permitted a flourishing growth in magazine titles, and supported the use of print in all kinds of ways for business communication. In the video productions business too, digital editing led to reduced cost and increased diversity. By breaking every message and every component of that message (be it the written or spoken word, photographs, animated graphs or moving images) into zeros and ones, a myriad of uses becomes possible. For a period this innovation has been exploited within separate industries, it was the gradual emergence of computer based systems, for storage, retrieval and manipulation of words and images with discs, then particularly the CD-ROM that has allowed hybrid production processes to develop. Already the CD-ROM replacement, DVD-ROM, is bringing greater speeds and huge capacities that are making the marriage between the printed word, video and computers even stronger.
Digitisation has resulted in an explosion of choice in all media.
The increased diversity of magazine titles, radio shows and TV channels available to the consumer, is mirrored by the diversity of trade magazine titles and subscription offerings. What is more, the same technology, has at the same time fuelled the broadening diversity of internal communications solutions for large businesses and organisations, and made such solutions financially feasible for medium sized and even small businesses too. Digitisation has made the tools of communication far cheaper; all a business must do therefore is identify and understand each communications problem as it arises, and then choose the most appropriate tool.
No problem, no solution!
Whether it is new media or old media, from a business point of view, they only become valid tools when there is a problem to fix. For example, if lack of awareness amongst staff is leading to poor motivation and preventing healthy cross-fertilisation of ideas, a regular business programme on video could be the solution. If, taking another example, it is found the personnel department is constantly fielding health and safety issues they may find a webzine, or Human Resources Intranet site, for employees could deal with all these matters.
By taking this approach, putting the problem before the solution, we’ll be better able to take in the bewildering choice of communications solutions now available. Solutions which on the one hand may be print, or video, a CD-ROM or a Website, but could include a mix of these media: for example, a video supported in print, a CD-ROM supported in print, or a website backed up with a video and print or live events transmitted by satellite to 10,000 desktops. In addition to mixing the media like this, constant advances and innovations mean there are new hybrids, such as DVD-ROM, which could be a platform for full-screen video-quality programmes, as well as training interactivity and an encyclopaedic depth of information. A DVD-ROM which contains the entire inventory of a business in a digital catalogue could also hold a video-like trainee induction programme, product demonstrations of varying levels of sophistication, and interactive course-books that monitor a users knowledge and feed this, with links to line managers and personnel staff. The Internet might be ubiquitous, and make an unprecedented breadth and depth of information available, it might offer immediacy in a world that wants to get things done NOW, and work as an interactive tool too, but having everything just a mouse click away is a short coming too. And speeds are yet to get close to providing the kind of fluid TV experience we are used to with terrestrial TV, video, cable or satellite.
There is no panacea.
If anything the choices are becoming wider. Whilst the business communication specialists can now use a variety of precision tools we still make excellent use of the stalwarts of our trade. As tools go, print publishing and video production are indefatigable with new solutions simply variations on this theme.
Understanding how and why print and video, staples of the business work, sheds light on the kinds of problems they were designed to fix and indicates where and how organisations should be considering the use of “New Media.”
For example, annual reports and printed statements of financial performance, have become vehicles to promote the business to shareholders, customers and suppliers. These printed reports, still produced by statutory requirement, and still showing off the latest in print design styles, have for some time been expressed in video form too. Video is considered a more user-friendly medium and can switch the attention away from sets of figures and put the attention on the leading individuals who run the business. Over the last few years some printed annual reports have been supported by a CD-ROM and of course those companies that have websites publish their results here too.
Taking another print example, staff newsletters have for decades been recognised as a useful way to keep staff up to date with HR and personal issues. In some instances these regular newsletters or magazines were supported at first by AV presentations, but then by video. Indeed, the regular staff video is considered a vital means of communicating with large numbers of staff where a business is widely dispersed, for example in all kinds of high street retailing activities, from banking, to selling cars, groceries of clothes. Considered to be more than just news, such videos are seen as an important part of regular staff training, advising them of health and safety issues, demonstrating new products and explaining special offers, as well as giving staff incentives to perform well. Viewing these tapes is often mandatory, and is likely to involve an introduction from a line manager, as well as group discussion afterwards. In a learning environment course books are common.
New media has not replaced this versatile, memorable tool, indeed in many ways new media simply offers a diversity of platforms for material that is linear in nature. The benefit of putting a business programmes onto desk top screens in a financial institution is conformity of message and minimal disruption, the advantage of a modular approach lets people view the clips which are most pertinent to them and in small time slots.
Despite the growth of the Internet as a business communications tool the corporate video still makes up over 25% of the business communications production spend in the UK. Whilst this percentage has diminished, the overall size of the business communications pie has grown significantly. We all want to know more investigate more and share more, as quickly as we think it.
In the business environment Bill Gates calls this “Business @ the speed of thought.”
They say we are entering the “Information Age.”
As tools are developed to feed us information, our hunger to know more is increased. The current context is important to consider too. As employees we are told to be prepared for a “Lifetime of Learning,” as well as constant charge. Such attitudes simply feed our growing passion to inform and be informed.
Training videos, both generic and bespoke training packages, have long been the stalwarts of business communicators.
John Cleese was one of the first in the UK to use humour to present business problems and solutions using broadcast TV production standards supported in print; others followed with generic productions of equal quality, though not necessarily playing the humour card. As video production costs dropped, especially as we moved from film to tape production, so opportunities arose for the largest organisations to commission bespoke training packages to deal with issues unique to their business. Here a number of examples can be given, for example training in the nuclear power generation and nuclear reprocessing industries where it is vital that all staff conform to the same high standards; or in customer best practice in the retail sector (whether the product is a financial service, a car or food); sales training has been the subject of many generic and bespoke productions too. The latest production innovation, an easy to use low cost digital camera, will simply increase the likelihood of companies commissioning short videos on all manner of issues, only using higher production values for productions that may have a customer facing aspect to them or will have a diversity of uses and a long shelf life. The analogy is an artist’s study – we can now paint not only with oils or water-colours, but everything in between.
Here, line managers, to justify their investment, need to be able to measure the effectiveness of their chosen information tool. There are many ways to do this, but a simple measure of performance, before then after, is often the best.
CD-ROMs are used in a diversity of ways.
For a simple way to mass distribute a short video presentation a CD-ROM is cheaper than videocassette. CD-ROMs make versatile training tools, but because they can hold such huge amounts of data, have also become invaluable supplements to the product catalogue. CD-ROMs account for 15% of visual communications projects commissioned.
The Internet is not replacement technology; it offers something new which overlaps the corporate brochure and the trade advertisement, while acting as a live means to communicate with users.
Intranets might overlap with staff magazines, but it is the functionality of computer based communications which allows them to serve a different role, for example, increasingly Human Resources Departments are using Intranets not simply to inform employees, but to make everyday records transparent so freeing up HR staff. The Internet, at first nothing more than a hybrid communications link between computers to allow sharing of information has gradually evolved, improved upon and been exploited. Whilst it has invaded all other media, it non the less draws on the familiar, it is a conduit for all that has been done before, as well as producing it’s own language.
It’s still possible to distinguish between a TV programme, a film, a radio show, a newspaper, a video game, a magazine, a telephone call, a face to face meeting and a conference – the edges are becoming blurred as the digital ocean washes across everything.
Though the Internet is just one platform which allows us to send and be sent packets of digitised information. It is fast developing in a way that is neither magazine or video, not the telephone or a fax, to a library, a gallery, or a filling cabinet … but all of these and more.
With over 60 million hosted websites and 176 million Internet users, whether in business or at home, increasingly we are falling back on technical or human information intermediaries when using the Net. We need browsers and search engines to find our way to sites of value. That said, precision searching has far to go, which is where a new breed of intermediary has emerged: “infomediaries,” teams of Net-savvy people who take your search request, just as a telephone call may be taken over the phone by your bank.
Websites, at first little more than corporate vanity sites, have developed to satisfy the differing needs of a business.
As a PR and recruitment tool they are invaluable. E.commerce is a huge growth area too, with the likes of Amazon.com blazing the way to show how books and CDs can be sold and marketed over the Net. Less ambitious though equally important for the businesses concerned, entire product catalogues are made available to buy over the Net via limited access extranets. Other business examples find supply chains monitored and updated on extranets to streamline supply. Here, the diversity of uses of the Net is most clear, it isn’t simply a platform for below the line or above the line advertising, or for in-house communications, but as a medium it can form an important part of the production process.
Together, Internet and Intranet creation now account for 35% of the UK visual communications business.
Whilst not denying its value as a conduit of information, it is just a resource or tool like any other devised and utilised by human kind, from the train to the telephone, the internal combustion engine to the Dictaphone.
Exposure to the same tools and information will result in similar solutions being offered.
Perhaps until recently it was easy to see that a brochure, a conference, a video would provide the solution – today with such a wide number of options it becomes all the more important to consider each communication problem in isolation.
Care needs to be taken to identify the nature of the problem; write precise briefs and so put forward a variety of appropriate solutions. As such solutions are tried and prove effective then the expectations of those commissioning work, as well as the audience change – they may call for the same response to a similar response, or in a climate of change expect further innovations.
In the broadcast arena commission editors want the same programmes for less, because they know hardware costs keep dropping and production innovations have speeded up so reducing the labour costs – I wish the same could be said for having the car serviced.
For cost –effective and fast solutions to broadcasting information (video, audio and data) around the globe the World Wide Web is too slow – it cannot deliver the quality of TV transmission we expect. Instead we can call on the immediacy of transmission by satellite, which these days includes the multicasting of all data, as a TV show or with the interactivity of a CD-ROM. CD-ROMs provide a high level of interactivity, which makes them ideal for training purposes, and they’re good for cheap distribution for large mail-outs too.
Live Events are part of the communications mix we haven’t mentioned yet, but account for 20% of the business. Here, as with the printed word and video production, whilst the tools to create, produce and manage such events have changed, their purpose is just as valid. No technology has replaced the importance and value of bringing people together to take part in an event, have questions answered, and to network. We value the proximity of live events and face to face meetings, we are reassured by seeing someone in the flesh and making value judgements about their aptitudes, experience, manner and approach.
Left to a computer no business relationship would create a long lasting bond – we need exposure to different people, in fact a balance between the familiar and the new, between different mind sets is how to create synergy.
All forms of visual communication must be seen in context, we are social beings who love to interact, love to be informed and entertained, tested and intrigued; there are many different ways of doing this and each tool has its strength.
New ways of working are being developed.
Because computers enable us to share so much suppliers and clients could make everything they do for each other transparent. This is already the case in many sections of the automotive trade where an entire supply chain is revealed to all those who impact upon it in order to make constant improvements which impact on the customer.
In the past the role of the producer in corporate communications was a bit like that of a doctor; the client came to them with a problem which the doctor would diagnose and then propose a treatment. Increasingly patients are being encouraged to understand their condition, the symptoms and the prescribed course of action so that their knowledge can work with that of the doctor. The relationship becomes symbiotic. If clients and producers are to benefit fully from the bewildering choice of solutions and take full advantage of any innovations they need to get under each other’s skin.
I liken e.mail to electronic Ping-Pong, it enables people who are working together – be it across a desk or across the world, to share in the thought process, the strategic thinking process, the creative thinking and the production process as it happens.
Fears over undue client interference have been unfounded as everyone recognises the need to work towards set stages within the production process. The advantage in the creative world is to ensure that all those working on a project share the same vision. The process and convenience in the past has meant that, like locks across a river, client and producer or account handler would fix a date for a presentation then get together to consider the brief, then the proposal, then a treatment, then scripts based on this treatment would be presented, whilst in the meantime budgets and schedules are confirmed. Further meetings are then held to sign off draft and final versions of the creative execution, whether it’s a poster campaign, double-page spread or TV commercial. Today, in many instances the gates that form these locks can be removed to allow the process to flow uninterrupted. In this way the main client can sit like a passenger as the producer drives the project forward, but also a host of support staff can also tap into the information. The result is that the client is able to contribute throughout the process and it is far easier to make slight adjustments to the itinerary without having undue impact on costs or schedule, indeed, there is a far greater chance that the chosen destination will be reached.
Whilst the convergence of print, video and computers may be creating a bewildering choice of hybrids, it is reassuring to see that we are entering traditional territory as the kind of mixed media solutions we have used for many years serve the same purpose.
For example, business programmes distributed by cassette are often supported with printed support materials and questionnaires to generate feedback. Over the last 10 years those companies using satellite distribution for live regular staff programmes have used the telephone to feed questions to a board director or panel of experts. Digital transmission by satellite offers both programme output, if necessary to desktop screen, as well as interactivity of data.
The advantages to distributing such programmes on video cassette, where it is appropriate, for example in the car trade where offers, models and revisions are made frequently up to the minute LIVE satellite transmissions have become a regular feature. Here an interactive element is easy to introduce, originally by taking phone calls and faxes, but increasingly by fielding questions using the spare capacity within the digital transmission. Indeed, in some instances, important business decisions are taken by inviting the audience, whether staff or customers, to vote on various matters which will impact on their business. Here, if the interface looks like something off the Net, it is because the TV graphics skills are similar whether the images end up on a computer screen or on TV.
Reassuringly the process of thinking through a communications problem, preparing a brief and putting forward a solution, remains much the same whether it is a video, a publication, Website or live event, the difference today is that tools we have in our tool box are being improved constantly and new tools are added all the time.
Returning to the analogy of an ocean formed by universal digitisation creating distinct, valuable and durable pockets of expression will remain – our senses, our interest in story telling and our social experience will make TV, radio, the printed word and live performance as valid in the next century as it has in this. At the same time new platforms are coming to life.
If the ocean represents digitisation then different layers within this ocean represent public access Internet sites restricted access (by subscription) extranets and closed access Intranet sites.
If someone can dream it up and there’s a market for it, it will sell. Computers have simplified tasks, so has the Internet. We can learn more, faster and our knowledge can be put to the test. Just as in the past innovations like paper clips or “post it” notes came along to solve problems in the office, so today innovations which make information more effective because it gets wider distribution, more memorable because the audience are tested on what they have learnt will be exploited.
There’s too much on the Net, so search engines improve and we let newswires, personalised pages, and intermediaries do the searching for us.
Vernon.J (1999) What’s new about new media? Not much. http://www.jonathan.diaryland.com/newmedia1.html (accessed 29 November 2012)
H810 Activity 4.1
Define problems by:
Compulsory Education (College, old and new universities, postgraduate and even training)
Context – nature of campus, policy, history if and funding of accessibility, maturity and life-experience of the student (born with the impairment or not, residential experience or not). Gender, age, socio-economic group and sexual orientation. Before or after the London 2012 Paralympics and the call by Sebastian Coe to ‘lift the cloud on limitations’.
Access related to mobility: parking, maps, ramps, signage, estates response to lifts that may not be working, policy and funding in relation to accessibility legislation. Geographical location of the campus – in town, or out of town, residential or collegiate, degree of provision of accommodation and other services.
Provision in lecture halls or tutorials of support for mobility, sight or hearing impaired and getting this balance right so that you promote/advertise services, but don’t end up, in a wheelchair user’s terms with the ‘cripple corner’ where wheelchair users are literally pushed.
Course choices, flexibility if online provision as alternatives to some activities, registration procedures and how these are handled, such as per–start induction for disabled students and a buddy system.
Desk space and layout in rooms and libraries.
Access to social spaces, not just dining areas, but JCR, library, bar, lavatories, postroom, laundry services, theatres etc.
Online learning issues:
Quality of thinking behind the e–learning and how often updated and ameliorated to ease and improve access for everyone.
Training as well as provision of assistive technologies.
Tick the boxes at the design and build stage for: cognitive, visual, hearing and mobility issues. i.e. keep it simple and apply web usability criteria relating to fonts, sizes, choices, colours, contrasts and layout i.e. good design is clearer for everyone.
Issues by subject/context:
The choice is with the student if they have the grades to join the course, but do you question someone with a sight impairment signing up to an art history course, someone with a hearing impairment studying music or potentially someone with mobility impairment signing up to a module in physical education, geology, civil engineering or mining – for example. On the other hand, though this is based purely on personal experience, I feel sure that an above average percentage of people with dyslexia are artists or actors, or coach/teach sport i.e. they shy away from highly text based academic courses and careers. Part of higher education is a chance for a person to discover where their strengths and weaknesses lie.
Common to all:
Extra time to complete tasks, even flexibility in the term or year for longer treatment breaks.
Personality, life–experience and participation in social life, how post compulsory education in various forms can be a ‘big step in forming an independent personal and social identity’.
Access to the Internet gives the learner in 2012 to the opportunity to realise an interest, to develop an argument, check definitions and add citations in hours rather than days and weeks. This is the ‘Now’ Revolution, the ability to act immediately to give birth to an idea only recently conceived; gestation of the academic paper can take two or three years, this should be brought down to two or three weeks. The ‘idea’ can be posted in two or three hours.