Disabled Students 'Avoid Stigmatisation' Online

Times Higher Education, November 5, 2015 | Go to article overview

Disabled Students 'Avoid Stigmatisation' Online


Many students with disabilities are attracted to online learning because they feel less stigmatised than they do in the classroom, a study suggests.

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.

Many of the interviewees, who were enrolled with higher education institutions across the US, highlighted how digital learning made their disabilities "invisible" and "offered the freedom to be viewed as a student without limitations".

In contrast, they reported that their brick and mortar classroom experiences had been "draining", "awkward" or "self-conscious", and that they had found fellow students were "passive-aggressive", held "false assumptions" or were "reluctant to understand".

Writing in the Journal of Diversity in Higher Education, Susana Verdinelli of Walden University and Debbi Kutner of the University of Phoenix say that the findings expose "ableism assumptions" in traditional higher education.

"Pursuing education online appeared to integrate a more positive sense of self," the paper says. …

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