Sunday, June 1, 2008

Access and Equity DFLP Week 10

This weeks question was about access and equity in educaton? I read the article by Zondiros and Dimitris (2008).

"distance teaching" + "distance learning" = "distance education".

This article talked about globalisation and its impact on developing countries accessing education. Because of new information and communication technologies and the progression of online education,there is now more opportunity for people to access education because of the ability to network and create educational communities wherever they may be, through networks appropriate to their circumstances.

Although this technology is meant to improve access by bypassing some barriers to learning such as location it has also created an issue of inequality and exclusion. This is because not all people are aware of these developments, many people do not have the digital literacy needed and poorer socioeconomic status means many people do not have the computers, programs and internet access that is required. This has in fact widened the gap in education that IT technologies is hoping to close. Apparently 80% of the earth's population has never heard a dial tone....(Dimitris Zondiros, 2008).

This leads to social exclusion due to a lack of resources, rights and the inability to participate in education which is freely available to the majority of people in a western society... Broadband access is an example of this. In New Zealand, many lower socioeconomic groups do not have this access (also in some rural communities this is not available)

Another problem is people need to demonstrate a wide range of academic literacies and many don't have this..therefore online education tends to be restricted to learners that have certain characteristics... only a small amount of the population.
Changing socioeconomic conditions and technology has created a demand for education but online education may not provide for people who are socially and economically disadvantaged with educational opportunities....rather it tends to provide more for those who are well placed socially and economically with the educational opportunities to develop their professional, technical knowledge and skills.....Inequality...

The article concludes by suggesting some of these issues of inequality need to be addressed when developing online learning which is hoping to improve educational access to more people


Zondiros, Dimitris (2008). Online, distance education and globalisation: Its impact on educational access, inequality and exclusion. The European Journal of Open and Distance Learning (EURODL).

My Observations

I'm going to start first with some concerns...

In our course it sometimes appears we enrol anyone who applies to do nursing. This is very different from when I applied to be a nurse over 20 years ago. We had to have interviews, and a minimum qualification of University Entrance. (You could also apply with mature entry). I've wandered if open access is encouraged as it helps fill numbers to keep our courses economically viable. Nursing is still predominantly a female dominated profession. Once upon a time women didn't have very much career choice with the majority choosing nursing or teaching as a career. Because females have such a wider choice of careers available to them, not as many choose nursing. If they are very academically able, then they are more likely to choose a higher paid career such as medicine, law etc.

However to be a nurse their is certainly a reasonable high level of literacy required. Also you need to be physically able as it is a physically demanding profession as well. The interview process helped selection committees assess the applicants suitability for nursing. Unforunately we have seen students begin nursing who cannot cope with the academic rigour required or even the physical requirements. This means sometimes it has come at a great cost finacially before they realise they are not suited to a nursing career. In the 'old' days there was the option of a shorter course and students were encouraged to take this angle if they thought academically it would be difficult. Pam talked about this as a problem she is addressing in the learning centre. They do have poeple who come to the learning centre with very low literacy levels and this can be quite challenging. I have discovered it certainly can be challenging for teachers as well as it is more time consuming for these students. I totally agree with Pam that we should not discriminate as everyone is entitled to education and many people with disabilitites do succeed...but is it fair to students who come into a course and then find out at personal cost to themselves they aren't going to meet course outcomes?

I know we can sometimes discriminate when we look at photo's or parents professions, diability...we make culturally insensitve judgements about students which is so unfair...we do need to give everyone the opportunity fairly for education which is why I believe what the diability centre is doing is incredibly important, of great benefit and really needed to imporve access...but I also believe we need to be honest with potential students if we don't beleive they have what is required for a particular course...afterall what matters in nursing is that a nurse can provide safe competent care for patients. If a person has a physical or learning disability that impacts on this, or if they struggle to meet the academic requirements, then possibly they should be discouraged from entering nursing...

What is the solution? That I am not sure about..I do believe education should be available to everyone and we should give all students a fair go. Using the learning centre is encouraged by us as lecturers if students are found to be struggling. However I think the issue goes further back to earlier schooling. The government needs to address some of these inequality issues as a result of socioeconomic status so school students have more access and advantages and literacy levels are improved...they will then be able to consider tertiary education and meet with great success..


Sarah Stewart said...

One advantage of having some nursing papers open access is that potential students could 'try' out the papers before they enroll. If they see then that they are not suited to nursing, they would not have lost any money.

Raewyn said...

Good thought and a plus for OER!

Leigh Blackall said...

Great post Raewyn.

Regarding access to Internet, and the skills and literacies to use it: good summary and thought provoking ideas. In NZas of 2007, 33% had no Internet connection, 34% had dial up, and 33% had broadband. I don't rate dial up as having an Internet connection worth speaking of, so that means 67% of the population do not have access to the Internet (worse in regions outside centers of course). I hate to think what % of those who are connected actually know how to use the Internet for learning. We have a big problem on our hands in terms of NZers making the most of the Internet learning opportunities.

You raise some interesting issues for nursing. It seems to me, the issues you raise relate more to the appropriateness of people becoming qualified nurses rather than people learning about nursing. If we could work out a way to remove or reduce the fee in some way, then those who choose to learn about nursing only to later realise that nursing may not be for them at that particular time, will not be in such a position of financial loss. Perhaps as Sarah points out, it is through the try before you buy argument for OER. Perhaps its through a fee for assessment and qualification rather than fee to enroll. I wonder if maintaining open access to learning at free or greatly reduced fees, and then full fee upon completion and qualification would make a difference to your experience in teaching people about nursing, and training people to be nurses.

Alli B said...

I believe your concerns relating to the educational standards of recruits into nursing is mirrored in most public sector jobs.
Also when unemployent rates are low and there are opportunities in the private sector, individuals opt for that environment - better pay for a start!