Distance Learning Consultations in AccessAbility

One of the constant challenges we face across all Student Support and Development Services is attempting to provide a service to Distance Learning students that is equivalent to that we provide to our campus based students. One of the hardest methods of support to replicate is a face-to-face consultation with a Study Adviser.

Our AccessAbility Centre provide support to students with Specific Learning Difficulties like Dyslexia. They provide support like essay analysis, during which they discuss students written work. To be able to do this with a distance learning student the adviser and student need to be able to converse verbally and be able to see and edit the essay.

The solution we have come up with for this is to use Adobe Connect. Part of this decision was because this is the Web Conferencing system chosen and supported by the University of Leicester. Nevertheless it seems to solve the problem adequately.

Today we ran a successful test with the AccessAbility Centre study advisers. This was quite a break-through because (and I hope they are not offended by this) the Centre staff are by no means technophobes, as they are willing to embrace initiatives like this, but it would be fair to say they lack techno-confidence.

The methodology we are using is to use USB Headsets through Adobe Connect to converse and to use the Application sharing feature to share Word documents. The ‘Request Control’ feature of Application sharing enables a user to control a document remotely i.e. the host of the Adobe Connect session can have the document on their computer and it can be edited at a distance by other attendees in the session.

To assist the Study Advisers to be able do this (without me being present every time they want to run a session like this) I have produced this short guide to setting up a session.

Adobe Connect AccessAbility Consultation Guide

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The session was successful because all the adviser picked up the practicality of conversing, sharing documents and collaborating on a white board quite easily. Even completing a role-play of one of a student coming into the session for the first time and having to be directed through the setup.
The issues occurred during the initial setup when they first entered the session with the setup and synchronization of the microphones with the phrase “can you hear me” being bounced backward and forward quite a lot. This is by no means a new problem with this technology as audio issues are something I’ve had to firefight regularly in the past during these sessions. My primary concern is would the study adviser be confident enough to solve these problems in a session with a student at distance. I think this will only come with familiarity and practice in the sessions.

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