The reasonable adjustment/request of dialing in to education: Being an anti-ableist educator in face-to-face classrooms
Author: Sam Pywell – Digital Development Coach, Lecturer in Occupational Therapy, and Principal Lecturer: Social Prescribing Unit Coordinator at the University of Central Lancashire
Adult learners are experts in understanding how their life situation, challenges and disabilities impact their learning. So, when an adult learner requests to ‘dial in’ to a F2F classroom (e.g. on Microsoft Teams) – this is possible, as we are demonstrating with hybrid classrooms. But what is our response? The concept of hybrid classrooms is not new and has been done before across the sector. Having an educator set up the F2F classroom and dial in to a platform (e.g. Microsoft Teams) to use the video calling function, connects the F2F classroom with students at home and beyond.
On a practical level, management of a hybrid classroom requires the educator to digitally upskill, learn hybrid pedagogy, and adapt. This is causing challenges with overworked staff having just gone through the major shift to online learning in lockdowns, to now being back to F2F on campus. An educator may not teach each session in the same room, therefore facing different challenges per classroom. Having some students at home and some F2F, impacts activities such as groupwork, which require flexibility on the part of the educator to navigate the situation in front of them. External guest speakers are also able to dial in to a F2F classroom – taking less time out of clinical practice and making it possible for students to interact with experts from around the world.
The request to dial in to a F2F classroom may come under a longer term ‘reasonable adjustment’ under the Equality Act (2010). The need to dial in could be occasional (and unpredictable), or regular and on specific modules or courses. However, the option to dial in all of the time, could make learning more accessible. This does not mean the course is online. This is a reasonable adjustment, where the relationship between giving students more choice, increased satisfaction, and the potential for increased retention, couldn’t be clearer. Approving ‘dialing in’ does not mean losing campus-based education. It shows that we have learned something from the pandemic. The education sector combined their ability to flex the classroom, to meet more learners needs. On reflection – if a student requests to dial in to a F2F classroom to meet their needs at that point in time, is our response grounded in their needs, or empty ableist rhetoric?