EMA and inclusivity

EMA offers enormous benefits for students, staff and situations alike but we need to ensure that issues of accessibility and inclusivity are adequately addressed. In an earlier blog post we looked at the debate around whether anonymous marking really helps to ensure fairness and there is also a need to consider whether any bias in results is actually a feature of assessment design. There are some excellent good practice approaches in terms of inclusive curriculum design e.g.

– the examples outlined in this special edition of Manchester Metropolitan University’s learning and teaching journal on Equality and Diversity in Learning and Teaching (Vol 9 Issue 1, Autumn 2012).

– What’s it Worth? Developing Equivalency Guidelines for the Assessment of Multi-Format Coursework. Roehampton University 2009.

– see also Wray, M. 2003. How to assess disabled students without breaking the law. Learning and Teaching in Action 2(1).

It is clear that having information in digital format offers many possibilities for learners to manipulate it to meet their own particular needs but there are a raft of issues around digital literacies and access to technologies that give cause for concern to those thinking about EMA. In the responses to our online questions 52% thought that accessibility and inclusion issues were slightly problematic (24% thought this was not a problem; 6% thought it was very problematic; 7% did not know). Issues include:

– student Internet access to permit online submission.

– staff access to mark online – many staff do this kind of work outside their normal hours and may not have access to the traditional systems.

– not all disabled learners declare their disability and systems lacking obvious accessibility features (or guidance on them) will disadvantage these learners.

– external examiners often lack awareness of accessibility barriers or workarounds.

– students with disabilities are rarely identified as distinct stakeholders in assessment projects.

– feedback needs to be available in a range of formats or compatible with assistive technologies like Text to Speech.

– some staff fail to take account of learner access needs or are resistant to adapting their practices.

– assessment and feedback tools need to integrate with assistive technologies where appropriate.

Worcester College has been helping us with research into this area and Lynne Taylerson discussed some of the issues with us. Since September 2013 Worcester College has run a mandatory scheme called SOLA (Scheduled Online Learning and Assessment) requiring all learners to do a certain amount of online learning and assessment per week (L2 = 2 hours; L3 = 3 hours). Lynne works with four subject sector areas to research what works and what doesn’t. They find that lots of online learning is done very well and there are lots of good OERs but formative and summative assessment is a sticking point: the problem is how to tailor formative assessment to ensure that learning is being checked during these online learning periods. When SOLA was first introduced there was an issue that some staff stopped some of their creative assessment types and went back to conventional essays etc that could be uploaded as word documents. Gradually however people came to realise that they could still use a wider and more inclusive range of assessment methods and are now using things like Padlet, videos, poetry, rap, mood boards etc.

The College is also finding that, although some lecturers might find typing feedback more laborious than handwriting, e-feedback is far more accessible than handwriting and in general better feedback is being given online with the inclusion of more web links etc.

Lynne has been undertaking some research to support the implementation of the FELTAG recommendations in FE (50% of publicly funded FE should be online by 2017). She found that, despite the good practice already going on, staff believe accessibility and inclusion issues to be as great a barrier to online learning teaching and assessment as the time to develop new types of provision.

What are your experiences of the accessibility and inclusivity issues around EMA? Let us know by adding your comments.

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