We wanted to give you an update from the DRC, and some information about the experience of students and how we are managing some of the changes. Firstly we would like to say how much we have appreciated the terrific support and understanding that unit chairs have been able to offer to students during this time.
What has been the experience of students?
We have certainly heard from some students that the move to online is suiting them! One student with a fluctuating medical condition is able to access their materials when it suits, listen to recordings and manage breaks during the day as needed.
As expected though, we have needed to address some practical barriers for students, and many are experiencing higher than usual levels of stress, anxiety and uncertainty. This is there for all of us of course, but for some students with disability, health and mental health conditions it can be exacerbated. We thought we would share a few examples.
Students who have chosen to study on campus for very specific reasons related to their situations.
Students with ADHD, or on the autism spectrum may have planned their routines and expectations carefully, and are finding the change and uncertainty very challenging. Some with mental health conditions have chosen to be on campus to address isolation and are at risk in the current situation.
Changes to platforms and modes of delivery causing access issues for student who use assistive technology or other means of communication.
Students who need captioning and transcription, or use Auslan interpreters in class need to have new systems set up for them to access their materials. Some of you will have heard from Tracy and Annette in our Accessible materials team as they set captioning and transcription, and live captioning (where the seminar or session is captioned in live time). People who use screen readers may also experience some difficulty with online modes.
Increased anxiety and other emotional impacts
Many students with Access Plans have hidden conditions, often emotional in nature. Online learning can be disorienting and lonely for students who are used to face-to-face interactions. This can amplify pre-existing mental health challenges, or may result in new mental health challenges for some students. Being mindful of social isolation and asking students how they are managing can help. Anxiety can impact broad aspects of attention and functioning, so clarity in messaging and additional time will be useful to many students.
What is happening with Access Plans and adjustments?
Are Access Plans changing?
- There are some adjustments outlined in Access Plans that will not apply in the online environment. We are not updating them to delete the adjustments not applicable.
- If you have received an Access Plan for a student, this means that they have consented to you having that information. It also means that it is OK for you to contact them to ask if there is anything you can assist with that may not be stated on the plan.
- There may be some new access challenges that occur and will need consideration. DLO’s are available to staff and students to assist with finding solutions.
- There will be new students who register with the DRC for support over the coming weeks and months. Access Plans will be sent to Unit Chairs in the usual way as they are developed.
What about notetaking?
- All note takers have been granted access to the Cloud Deakin sites and will do notetaking remotely
- They are liaising with students as to what is needed (classes, seminars etc)
- We have experienced some difficulties with qualities of recordings but individual situations are being followed up with unit chairs
- Options for Deaf students include remote video Interpreting (where an Auslan interpreter joins a session remotely) or remote Live Captioning (see below)
- We are working with each student to consider the best option depending on the course/unit and platforms and modes of delivery
Captioning and transcription
- Captioning and transcription services continue. There may be some delays for students with the change of platforms.
- Live Captioning (where a captioner joins a session remotely and does live captioning as the session progresses) is available as an alternative for some students.
- Zoom and BBCollaborate work well for Live Captioning and remote interpreting, but Microsoft Teams causes difficulties for access for external providers. We are working with individual unit chairs who are using Teams
- We are working with each student and each unit to determine which will be the best option.
Assessment and exams
- Assessment and exams are the areas where the most common adjustments are in place for students. Last year in T1 for example DSA managed over 2000 exam instances for 1060 students.
- The team in DRC are working with DSA and faculties to consider the best ways to translate and implement traditional exam arrangements with other on line assessment options. In some cases this may mean that adjustments are not needed. In others we will consider the best way to ensure that students are able to demonstrate their learning without disadvantage.
We are also making sure students are aware of and making use of the Study Support team and resources, and referring to Counselling and Psychological Support if they are experiencing increased anxiety or mental health issues. These are great resources for you to refer students too as well.
Finally, please know that the DRC team are here if you have any queries relating students with Access plans in your units. You can find the name of the relevant DLO on the Access Plan. If you have any general queries or advice, please feel free to contact Merrin McCracken or the DRCentre