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Higher Education is being challenged to change and grow like never before in response to a new cohort of connected, self-motivated, well-informed and savvy generation of students. The drive to develop new and innovative methods for teaching online and distance education students is accompanied by a roller coaster ride through uncharted loops and tunnels. This poster presents a graphical account of the frustrations, challenges and small successes experienced at various points in the road during the development and implementation of an innovative solution for enhancing the educational experiences of incarcerated students.
Incarcerated 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. In July 2011 the authors formally embarked on a project to develop a solution for some of the barriers to participation in HE experienced by incarcerated students. The project involved collaboration between a number of departments within the university and with external stakeholders including Queensland Correctional Services.
The original aim of the project was to develop a version of Moodle, called Stand-Alone Moodle or SAM that would function on a network of computers used from education inside the prison that were independent of the internet and separated from the main prison computer network. The version of Moodle would provide the students with the same learning experience and study desk functionality that was available to other students. The use of SAM in would also be supported by the use of eBook readers. The inclusion of eBook readers was aimed at enable students to access more course and reference materials than presently available to them as well as alleviate the need to print learning materials in future.
The project was to be deployed in project will be deployed in Semester 1 2012 with a maximum cohort of fifteen incarcerated students enrolled in course TPP7120 Studying to Succeed as part of the Tertiary Preparation Program at the Southern Queensland Correctional Centre near Gatton.
It was early on in the project approval application procedure that the authors began to worry that they had bitten off more than they could chew. The first requirement faced was that the e-Readers to be used for the project were not allowed to have any internet access such as Wi-Fi or 3G capability, no SD card slot and no external battery. We eventually found 17 models of the very unpopular discontinued Sony SD-350. One reviewer on the website commented, who would ever want an e-reader without internet access or SD card slots. Well, we do!
The poster offers a glimpse at these retrospectively amusing project bumps and discuss ways in which future innovation pioneers may be able to overcome some of the quick sand pits along the way.