In terms of online education, it is very important to make everything accessible (using Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, criteria AA) and check it in advance. It is also important to have an ongoing system for feedback. We are still working on these topics to find the best solutions for our institution. JYUOpen with very heterogenous student groups offers alternative study modes for all students. Flexibility and offering alternatives seem to be a very effective way to tackle challenges caused by huge diversity of students. However, sometimes some individual arrangements are needed. Informing students already in the beginning of their studies about the possibility to have some individual arrangements and to have a document about the recommendations for individual arrangements. Individual arrangements are always individual, decided in the meetings with the student, teacher/teachers and specialists.
The most common individual arrangements are:
• Extra time for the exam and/or return of written tasks.
• Separate exam mode with e.g. the ability to respond on the computer.
• Alternative study materials.
• Alternative study modes.
• Getting lecture materials/slides in advance.
• Possibility to record lectures if recordings are not otherwise available.
• Impunity for spelling or grammatical errors.
• Extended loan period for course book loans.
• Allow access to various personal aids or (computer) programs.
• Support of personal assistant.
During the studies some of the students find out that they have some challenges with reading and writing and that they might have dyslexia. At the Open University we offer for them an opportunity to participate in online screening test (developed by Niilo Mäki Institute) that shows if further, more formal, testing is recommended. Our specialists give them a feedback about their results. In Finland we have a national Library “Celia” that offers e.g. audiobooks for students. Celia produces and distributes literature in accessible formats, such as talking books and braille books, together with public libraries and publishers. In addition to fiction and non-fiction, Celia also produces and distributes textbooks in accessible formats for all educational levels. Celia’s books are available online as well as on CDs and a variety of physical media. Higher Education Institutions can register their students with specific learning disabilities, visual impairments etc. for that service. To support students’ participation in an online course at the JYUOpen we have produced following instructions for students:
• As a student, you are responsible for your own studies.
• Before the start of the course, read the practical instructions and schedules.
• Get the necessary literature and learning materials on time.
• Find out what's unclear.
• Start making weekly tasks and participating in online discussions in time, in the beginning of the week.
• Show your own expertise. There's not just one kind of expertise. When you share your own expertise, you can also get it back from others.
• Boldly bring out your own reasoned thoughts.
• Inform the teacher (and other students) of any obstacles to participation in teaching.
• Give feedback on the teaching. As a student, you are also responsible for learning other people
• Support and promote with your activities the learning of others: stick to the schedule, take care of your part in teamwork or group work and online discussion.
• Be sure to appreciate and respect other students and teachers, be open and friendly and justify your own views.
• Strive for constructive cooperation and feedback.
• Take feedback as a gift: constructive feedback enables learning.
• Write in the discussion area in a way that takes account of readership and readability: prefer short, clearly expressed, and consistent messages; use exact headers.
• Appreciate diversity and differences: we can experience, feel, and express things differently.
• Keep in mind that discussions during the course include confidentiality and anonymity: please do not pass on any personal matters, names, or other identification information when processing persons, situations, or events outside the course.