As an e-learning organisation, InterActive has a mission to connect students with high-quality online academic and professional education materials and programmes.
Our programmes are structured with a modern, international perspective in mind. And, as all quality educational institutions should, we aim to meet the evolving needs of each and every student.
We truly believe any organisation must consider and effectively respond to students with disabilities. It is no secret that traditional, face-to-face classroom settings and teaching methods can present difficulties for these students.
This is the result of undefined common practice and the unique nature of each learner’s case, rather than a reflection of the learners themselves. Still, protocol and policy - though sometimes limiting - at least provide a guide to ensure quality instruction for all.
Online learning is all about giving everybody a chance to study, regardless of their conditions. To be able to reach out to learners, we first looked at educational policy. Some of the more pertinent legislation we reviewed was:
The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), which was adopted in December of 2006 by the United Nations (UN, 2016). The CRPD solidified our globalist thinking on prejudice and discrimination in the modern day: we all recognize the troubling issues facing disabled students and believe that a more inclusive environment is beneficial to all.
The Equality Act of 2010, also adopted by the UN, was written to protect marginalised groups from discrimination. Under the umbrella of this new act fell previous legislation regarding disability discrimination, sexual discrimination, and race discrimination, all of which were decades old (Equality and Human Rights Commission, 2013).
The United States’ Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) offered a bit more detail regarding the treatment and rights of disabled schoolchildren, especially in providing these students with what the act refers to as the Least Restrictive Environment, or LRE. (Ideas that Work, 2000).
In attempting to understand how we might address the concerns outlined in global policy, we identified communication and quality as the crucial components of a successful strategy.
Though our faculty and staff already interact with students regularly and focus on quality, we know that learners with disabilities need more. To be able to meet the needs of all of our students, the key is to individuate and eliminate the problems before they occur.
At the beginning of 2017, we launched our 95% Campaign. The campaign focuses on improving quality across programmes and services, in addition to elevating our approval ratings from students. This strategy was adopted because, despite innovation and efforts to improve the quality of the online classroom experience, there is still much room for improvement to make education truly accessible for everyone.
Addressing the needs of students with disabilities in the e-learning environment is a long term commitment, and a positive lesson for the education sector itself. We believe that there is no substitute for quality and consistency in this regard.
About the authors
Jeremy C Bradley is Executive Director of Academic and Student Affairs at InterActive. He oversees InterActive’s portfolio of undergraduate, postgraduate, and executive education programmes. He also supervises several of InterActive’s departments, including Research & Development, Student Support, and Exams and Assessments. Jeremy has a key responsibility in the creative direction of InterActive's suite of products.
Jeremy Shulman is Learning Resources Manager at InterActive, assisting students and faculty in procuring essential resources, and developing and managing vital student programmes like the student career centre and IA’s Community Hub. He holds a master’s degree in education from New York City's Lehman College. He has 10 years of experience as a former high school teacher in the United States, teaching writing, grammar, and literature at a top secondary institution in the country.
Equality and Human Rights Commission (2013). Equality Act 2010: guidance.
gov.uk. 16 June 2015. Web. 2 Feb. 2017. https://www.gov.uk/guidance/equality-act-2010-guidance
Ideas that Work (2000). History: Twenty-Five Years of Progress in Educating
Children with Disabilities Through IDEA. US Office of Special Education Programs. Web. 2 Feb. 2017. https://www2.ed.gov/policy/speced/leg/idea/history.pdf
UN (2016). Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). The
United Nations. Web. 7 Feb. 2017. https://www.un.org/development/desa/disabilities/convention-on-the-rights-of-persons-with-disabilities.html