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Overcoming stigma with online study

By Danny Harrington



One of the advantages of online study we have always highlighted is that is provides access for students with disabilities. But studies in the US have added to this by finding that students with disabilities are also turning to online learning to avoid stigmatisation they experience when they do attend bricks-and-mortar schools. In fact, for many this is the main reason for their choice of online.

The researchers – Susana Verdinelli of Walden University and Debbi Kutner of the University of Phoenix – writing in the Journal of Diversity in Higher Education in 2015 and widely reported, including by the Times Educational Supplement, say that their findings indicate “ableism assumptions” in traditional classroom-based higher education and institutions.
Respondents to the survey, from a wide range of higher education providers across the US, made it clear they had found physical lessons “draining” and “awkward” whereas their online lessons made them “invisible” and therefore “offered the freedom to be viewed as a student without limitations”. Read more: Students with disabilities enrol online ‘to avoid stigmatisation’

The main disadvantage the students reported was that of isolation from face-to-face interaction alongside slow response times from staff. These are exactly the problems we have been highlighting since we launched our online school in 2012. The key problem is that most online courses are still actually distance learning models delivered electronically, with some having a “blended” approach which means some form of direct teacher communication at intervals across the year.

At ITS, all our online courses have a very high percentage of live, real-time lessons in a virtual classroom. Students see and hear each other as well as the teacher. At a minimum, an ITS course would have one live lesson per week. Many courses have up to four ours of live lessons per week. Students can never feel isolated, left-behind or wonder whether their queries are being answered and can therefore get the best of both worlds.

If you are a student with a disability who is struggling at a traditional school, or you know someone who is, please contact us to find out how online education the ITS way could help you achieve your educational goals.


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