MON: Inclusion, exclusion and inequality of access to OERs: Mapping the borders of the digital divide (Helen Johnson)
Cloud created by:
Dr Simon Ball
3 February 2014
Every educational format raises different issues in terms of accessibility and inclusivity. If a course is offered at a bricks and mortar facility, participation is limited to those who can physically attend. If we opt instead to publish written materials, we exclude those who cannot read and further limit our audience by excluding readers of other languages. If we charge for access to a resource we exclude those who cannot afford it. Concessions are usually made in order to reduce the number of people who are excluded. This might include adaptions to buildings to provide easier access to those with disabilities. Books may be published in multiple languages or with a text-to-speech option for those who cannot read. Resources may be offered at a reduced price on a means-tested basis.
The Open Scholarship movement attempts to remove further barriers by making educational materials widely and freely available online. There is still some debate as to what characterises an open educational resource (OER), and there is not yet a clear, accepted definition of what it means for a resource to be ‘open’ (Veletsianos and Kimmons, 2012; McAndrew 2010). However, Veletsianos and Kimmons (2012) refer to open materials having to be ‘widely accessible’ and they emphasise the importance of information being digitised and networked, with the aim of democratising the creation of and access to knowledge.
However, this approach has its own issues. If we choose to propagate educational resources online we exclude those who have no access to the internet. In addition, if our resource is content rich and has substantial multimedia content, it may be inaccessible to those who only have low quality internet access. In order for open scholarship to be considered an inclusive educational movement, we must first recognise those who remain excluded from participation, and actively work towards reducing their number. The impact of a lack of access to educational materials caused by a lack of internet access has been well documented, and is even considered to be a human rights issue (The International Telecommunication Union (ITU), 2003). It is therefore necessary to ask the following; how accessible is digitally published material? Who is excluded from accessing such resources? What barriers do they face? And what can educators do to reduce those barriers?
This presentation will consider several aspects of the issue. First, it will look at who is excluded from accessing online materials due to a lack of internet access. This will include both global and local disparities. Next, it will consider how poor or low quality internet connections impacts access to educational materials as this is a major issue in the developing world. Finally, it will offer a practical demonstration as to how the loband website simplifier (loband, 2013) can be used to help educators meet the otherwise impractical Web Design Guidelines (Aptivate, 2012).
By making our resources loband friendly we can all help to reduce the barriers to access faced by those with the most basic forms of internet access.