2.9 Students with additional needs
In section 2.2, we briefly mentioned the variety of teaching materials that tutors use in order to cater for the variety of students that come to study at the OU. Tutors also need to be capable of identifying the needs of students, which means that support needs to be provided to academically vulnerable students. Tutors also contribute to the evaluation of the needs of academically vulnerable students and refer them on to the Student Support Team (SST) as appropriate.
Some examples of this are as follows:
- Following up borderline or just failed students, by phone or electronically, in order to establish or maintain a dialogue
- Recognising indicators of students' needs, whenever the tutor is in contact with them
- Assessing whether it is possible and appropriate to provide the help required and referring students to their SST where necessary
- Providing additional academic and learning support, where appropriate and separately funded
- Providing different activities for students with particular needs
- Taking advice about any previously undisclosed disability without breaching data protection and confidentiality.
A good starting point for this is to examine the profile for a tutor group. You find that some students have a descriptive marker, which appears against their name under the Special Circumstances column. This helps you identify students who might need more support than others might. The diagram below lists the keys for these markers.
The OU provides detailed advice as well as guidelines on specific disabilities and the further resources that are available. Specific disabilities that can affect students that come to the OU are among the following: physical disabilities such as hearing, visual and mobility impairments, as well as mental health difficulties, autism, and specific learning disabilities such as dyslexia.
Accessibility also plays a critical role in how students with additional needs are supported, as there are occasions when there is a need to cater for students that require course materials in alternative formats.
For example, a student may have difficulty reading from a screen and requires a printed format with a large font size, or else may require the use of a screen reader. Therefore, the OU ensures that all online materials are capable of being interpreted (or accessible) by screen reader software.
Take a moment to browse through some accessibility guidelines on the computing help centre: