Discourse June 2015

This edition of Discourse has a focus on student wellbeing and we would like to hear from you, about your favourite de-stress activity ...

Please email disability@unisa.edu.au (in 50 words or less) how you like to de-stress when studying. We will publish some of these quotes or poems (anonymously) in the next edition of this newsletter.


Student Wellbeing Website

UniSA aspires to be a place where students feel a strong sense of belonging to the community. A community which cares about the wellbeing of its members. A University community in which students and staff look after themselves and each other. The Student Wellbeing website has links to resources, workshops and information focusing on student well-being.

UniSA students also have free access to The Desk. This is a resource specifically for university students, developed by Beyond Blue. The Desk has resources and modules for coping with the stress of University study.

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New Ability Equipment Grants Available

UniSA has secured additional funding for the Ability Equipment Grant scheme.  The scheme provides grants of up to $1,000 to UniSA students with disabilities to purchase equipment and/or software.  The scheme will be open for application throughout 2015 so if you need some equipment or software to help with your study, put in an application.  To be eligible you need to write a brief statement outlining the positive impact the equipment will have on your study and provide some evidence regarding your disability. 

Application is online via MyScholarships in the student portal.  Grants are awarded monthy.

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Library Help to find ebooks and e-journals

Needing help to find ebooks and ejournals? The library’s friendly staff are happy to assist you. The library has Online training resources to develop your skills finding references and using library resources.

How to Guides for how to search for journal articles.
Ask the Library via email, phone, chat, or in person.

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L3 Workshops

The L3 team provides students with guidance and resources on all aspects of their learning. This includes strategies for adapting to university, managing new expectations and workloads, developing academic literacies required in particular courses and discipline areas, and general English language development. Students access L3 support both face-to-face (via workshops and 1:1 teaching with L3 Advisers), and electronically (via a range of online resources).

For more information, have a look at the L3 Website and follow the links to workshops, forums and learning resources.

2015 workshops cover topics including

  • Using Reading to Write Well: Learn to summarise, paraphrase and integrate evidence into your writing
  • Editing your writing
  • Understanding Assignment tasks
  • Referencing
  • Preparing for Exams

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Student Voice: Interview with Lindsley

I recently had a chance to catch up with Lins and ask him about his experience at UniSA as a PhD student with an Access Plan.  Lins is completing his PhD in the School of Communication, International Studies and Languages, (CIL) which is situated at the UniSA Magill campus.
 

Lins, could you explain to the readers about your area of research for your PhD and what it entails?

Basically, I’m looking at how smartphones and computer tablets help persons with disabilities learn – in my mind, these aren’t only communication devices but can also be used for education as there’s a social component to learning.  Education can be made more inclusive. This can open doors for those that can’t or have trouble physically going to class.  Empowerment is a major theme in my research.

It’s not always convenient or desirable to be in an on-campus classroom.  Learning is no longer tethered to the physical classroom.  Students have the facility to access content and perform coursework wherever and whenever it’s more convenient for them. 

Education for everyone needs to be personalised that goes beyond the customisation of preferences.  Sure systems like LearnOnline can help, but can primarily be built for the benefit of the individual’s needs and not the institution.  For lifelong learning to be at all possible, it must be able to follow the individual in formal, as well as, informal learning situations.  The affordability and ubiquity of mobile devices highlights this fact.  That said, there’s always the danger that these ‘newer’ technologies are adopted simply because they are much cheaper than traditional interfaces – merely throwing money at the problem is not a viable and sustainable solution.

I intend to develop an open-source (read as: free) software prototype that can be used on mobile devices with a standard Internet browser.  I’m doing data collection at the University of South Australia and De La Salle University in the Philippines.  The design will be shaped by the online, confidential surveys and focus groups.  The prototype will be further refined by those that downloaded and tested it through the project website, focus groups and more formal user testing. 

How has studying your PhD been different than your undergraduate study?

Well, I don’t physically go to class.  How’s this different from students who listen to podcasts instead of going to lectures?  I suspect students will go to classes less and less unless there’s a clear incentive and a real value-add to actually attending – it’s not always practical to come so all requirements need an electronic alternative.

You’ve got to be more disciplined (I don’t care who you are but this is not always easy) and set aside dedicated time each day.  Aside from your supervisors, there’s no one to push you.  You don’t really have a definitive schedule and deadlines as goal posts. 

That’s not to say, one wouldn’t benefit from effectively managing your time even at an undergraduate level.  How you allocate your time has a more obvious impact when you’re a HDR student.  For all intents and purposes, you are solely responsible for your time and can determine how to spend it.

To what do you attribute your success in gaining entry into a PhD program?  Did you ever see your medical condition as “getting in the way” your educational or career goals?

To be honest, I’m not really sure how I got accepted – I just gave applying a go.  Thankfully, I got in.  I guess it was my topic and identification of a potential supervisor that helped. My prior work experience and my education didn’t hurt my chances. 

I believe in meritocracy and education as a means of social mobility and just not diversity for its own sake.  I think not just does the individual need to adjust but society at large.  A few years ago I may have not gotten in.  Change doesn’t come easy.  It’s the timeframe that people tend to disagree on but I feel the ends are the same.

I don’t think my medical condition (sure, it seemed more challenging at the time) really dissuaded me from applying.  Strangely enough, it gave me more time – whereas previously I held two to three jobs.  I was more focused on other things.

The real test is if I find employment afterwards.  I deliberately don’t use the adjective ‘gainful’ as I never used to see volunteering as a real career path.  The majority of work out there is physical – what about those who can and want to make an intellectual contribution instead?

It’s real handy that I can now do most things online as it’s not always practical for me to be on campus.  Occasionally, it’s beneficial to meet with my supervisors face-to-face or to attend seminars or talks (not just for the information, but also for a chance to interact with other students). 

Do you have any tips for students aspiring to study at a postgraduate level with a disability/medical condition or mental health condition?

A support network is key regardless of a student’s abilities – this is essential for all HDR students.  My wife especially understands as she completed a doctorate herself – a partner with a shared experience is ideal, but not always realistic.

It helps to have competent and caring supervisors.  You can finish a degree with one ‘good’ supervisor, but I feel I benefit more with having multiple.  Not only are more heads better than one and having multiple perspectives brings robustness and other viewpoints you may not have even considered.

Having an Access Plan helps me get the most of my studies – books being posted out to me is very convenient since it’s not always easy for me to get to the library. It has to be tailored specifically to the individual and suitable to their requirements.

Don’t just read every day but try to write.  This will not only develop the skills needed and help refine your thoughts but eventually aid in documenting the chapters.

That said, it’s easy to offer generic advice, but circumstances affect how we tackle things in life, education notwithstanding.  We all rely on our own tools – what works for me may not work for you.  There’s an assumption that solutions must be “high-tech” – but simple things can be just as valuable.  As long as something facilitates a necessary function, it’s vital to that individual.

Further Information about Lins' research

If there are students who would like to receive the information sheet, participate in Lins’ research (online surveys (https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/MLearnDS or https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/FollowUpDS ), focus groups, or a usability test) or would like to talk with him regarding another matter, please contact him at: abalb001@mymail.unisa.edu.au

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Areas of study and research

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