Using portable moodle and ereaders to enhance learning at a distance for incarcerated offenders


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ncarcerated offenders face a number of additional challenges to those faced by most other students studying at a distance. Lack of internet access is especially problematic for those studying in a sector that is increasingly characterised by online course offerings.

This paper will outline a proposed trial project at South Queensland Correctional Centre (operated by Serco Australia Pty Ltd and currently at Borallon Correctional Centre) as a first step in addressing this challenge. The focus will be on those incarcerated offenders studying course TPP7120 Studying to Succeed within the Tertiary Preparation Program at the University of Southern Queensland. Though the course is offered online, blocks of printed material and CD ROMs are distributed to the incarcerated students. Even so, their experiences are not comparable to those accessing the course online through USQ’s instance of Moodle. Consequently, students who are incarcerated offenders are not achieving all of the information literacy and other e-learning skills available for other TPP7120 students or the graduate attributes set out in the course profile.

In order to redress these issues, it is proposed that a portable version of the course Moodle site be loaded directly onto a local server within the correctional centre. Students will access this rather than the version located on the university servers located in Toowoomba. This will be supplemented by eReaders – without internet connectivity - which will hold relevant library resources, removing the need for Education and Learning Support Officers to download resources and enabling students to extend their study time beyond the correctional centre’s education computer lab time.

It is expected this will result in numerous benefits, among them: students will be participating in learning experiences more closely related to those experienced by students outside of the prison system; they will be learning relevant IT skills; USQ will be fulfilling its obligation in relation to equity of access; and will be addressing the Federal Government’s agenda of increasing participation by socially and economically disadvantaged groups in higher education.

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Using portable moodle and ereaders to enhance learning at a distance for incarcerated offenders

  1. 1. Dr Helen Farley Dr Tas Bedford Ms Liesl Turley Using Portable Moodle and eReaders to Enhance Learning at a Distance for Incarcerated Offenders
  2. 2. 1.Background – why we are doing this 2.TPP at USQ and in correctional centres 3.Portable Moodle 4.eBook readers 5.ePub format 6.Evaluation Overview
  3. 3. Why we are doing this? • Reduced recidivism • Increased employment opportunities • Enhanced success in future studies • Increased participation by low SES in HE • Experience comparable to that of other students Background
  4. 4. Offenders may be considered the most educationally disadvantaged population. Education can assist: • Break the cycle of poverty, abuse, crime, poor health, poor education • Rehabilitation • Encourage reparation activities • Successfully reintegrate prisoners Education of Incarcerated Offenders
  5. 5. Role ofTertiary Education Whilst ‘inside • Enhance self-esteem • Keep brain active & challenged • Gain qualifications • Natural progression as skills develop L &N Year 10 TPP Uni • New area of expertise for existing highly qualified offenders Reduction in recidivism ( up to 28% due to Education) Callan & Gardner, 2005 Reduced cost to the community Enhance employment opportunities upon release
  6. 6. 300 bed, male, high security Restrictions of studying ‘inside’: • Increasing on-line delivery – improving access & equity; BUT hard copies for incarcerated students – sustainability (printing reams of materials) • Reliance on ‘goodwill’ of Education Officers: • Research and print materials (over 50 distance ed students) can be hit & miss • Log on to the study desk – create student profile, assessment covers, passwords • Email lecturers • Send, receive all assignments & track these • Document results in IOMS • Time consuming for Education staff to research and print - • Skills of University Graduates – research and analysis • Use of digital media • Lack of direct interaction between students and lecturers • Forums/discussion boards – students assisting each other • Practical components of higher degrees e.g. residential schools; PhD research South Queensland Correctional Centre
  7. 7. Tertiary Student Support Existing systems to assist success: •Access to Learning Support Officers (internal customer service ethos) •Distance Education Library •In-cell laptops - limited number •USQ – delivery of hard copy materials •Alternatives forms of materials / assessments (on-line assessments) •Peer tutors Portable Moodle & eReaders: •Build on existing systems •Enhance outcomes - encourage independence in students; develop research skills, experience with digital media •Decrease reliance on Learning Support Staff
  8. 8. • For prospective students of the University of Southern Queensland who are over 18 and can’t gain entry via traditional pathways • Typically between 8 and 15 students at Borallon Correctional Centre (soon to be relocated to South Queensland Correctional Centre) • Receive readings as a paper ‘block’ • Education officers assist by downloading materials for assignments • Tertiary Preparation Program (TPP)
  9. 9. • As part of the Moodle 2.1 upgrade • Runs without internet connection • Installed on local server and accessed in computer labs • Comparable experience to other TPP students • Discussion board (only within CC instance of TPP7120) • Submit assessment via Study Desk Portable Moodle
  10. 10. eBook Readers • No internet, wireless, 3G connectivity • No removable batteries • Ability to take notes • Highlight text • Submitted on certain days for charging (so never in possession of cord) • Contain course readings • Reference materials – open source
  11. 11. • Course materials will be converted by Calibre • Can embed multimedia files • Self-marking quizzes ePub format
  12. 12. Quantitative • Surveys • Results Qualitative • Interviews • Focus groups • Staff and students Evaluation
  13. 13. Dr Helen Farley Ph: (07) 4631 1738 Email: DrTas Bedford Ph: (07) 4631 1815 Email: Ms LieslTurley Email: Contact us …