Social media – Accessibility and inclusion, benefit or barrier?

Alistair McNaught @alistairm – Jisc

Social media – websites and applications that enable users to create and share content or to participate in social networking – have many benefits for inclusion but they also come with challenges. Researchers at two US universities interviewed students with a range of disabilities taking online or blended programmes and found that more than half said that “avoiding stigmatisation” was a key reason for signing up. Social media and collaborative tools can play a major role in

  • making disabilities invisible
  • allowing people with disabilities to play to their abilities within a collaborative activity rather than being constrained by their disabilities in an individualistic task
  • creating incidental and accidental support networks where support can be both given and received
  • building the digital literacy that creates more independent, empowered learners

This workshop will explore some of the issues of both social media per se and the collaborative learning which social media so often facilitates. Using sample personas participants will explore the potential pros and cons of social media and collaborative learning for a range of disabilities. In the process we will create some “ground rules” that can make a difference to effective participation.

We will look at the value of instant online conferencing tools and consider the tutor preparation that might be required to maximise accessibility of – for example – MOOCs.

We will explore how inbuilt accessibility features in smartphones and tablets could tip the balance for accessible social media as well as looking at some simple tests you can do to establish the native accessibility of social media tools before you decide which to use.

Finally we will use social media to capture “ideas to explore” – for example how could we use social media to improve lectures/lecture capture? Transform tutorials? Enhance fieldwork? Develop employability?