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Online learning hard for students with disability >

Lockdown measures to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus included closure of both basic and higher education institutions.

Because of the pandemic, most educational institutions, including universities, abruptly went online. Online learning management systems and platforms were consequently adopted.

The preliminary findings of a project by University of South Africa point to an urgent need for collaboration among educators, government and the private sector particularly as we wrestle with COVID-19. To prevent further drop-outs, lecturers need to acquire more inclusive digital teaching so students with disabilities can also complete their qualifications and live sustainable lives.

Universities can, for example, partner with the corporate sector to subsidise inclusive teacher training and reskilling initiatives. Failure to transform teacher training strategies could lead to an even higher dropout rate for students with disabilities. It could also lead to the delayed realisation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. This right entails ensuring “the provision of an inclusive education system at all levels and lifelong learning”.

To ensure that students have positive learning experiences and complete their qualifications, higher education institutions need to respond to the learning needs of all students.

Teacher training curricula must change to prepare academics for current societal realities. Teaching and learning in the digital age requires all academics to constantly undergo training on learning design for online teaching and assessment. Training must consider the needs of diverse learners.

Flexibility is needed in procurement procedures and teaching strategies. And higher education institutions need to be more innovative to meet challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

Governments need to view education as a basic necessity and give teachers and academic staff the status of essential services.

Lastly, teachers need to familiarise themselves with the Universal Design for Learning principles. This is meant to open curriculum design and teaching platforms to accommodate diverse learning needs.

From The Conversation