Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Why the University of Kansas and Other Universities which try to GO PAPERLESS are making it hard for older and disabled students to study

There has been a lot of cheering on the road to paperless universities but too many ignore the fact that many public universities fail to own up to their role of training students in the newest technologies. This includes the process of enrolling online.



Even without swiping a credit card online, universities students charge them fees in their paperless world--much like Bank of America and Citibank did to their homebuyers over the past decade. They give them limitless papers and clauses and charge the students extra fees.



Here is my tale--I was swamped with bad and misleading online mountains of info to week through


Why the University of Kansas and Other Universities which try to GO PAPERLESS are making it hard for older and disabled students to study
By Kevin Stoda, stillunable to enroll at KU due to many problems with so-called paperless campuses

Dear Chronicle of Higher Education and those Concerned with Bad Trend,

I am listening to the following discussion online about the benefits and deficits of universities going paperless over the past decade.

http://podcasts.fredonia.edu/node/11

This is a discussion entitled, “’The Paperless University: Myth or Reality” -- panel discussion, 2-21-07”. [1] It was recorded at SUNY at Fredonia over 4 years ago and was done in podcast form initially. [2]

The object of my letter here is to focus on why the University of Kansas and Other Universities who attempt or try to GO PAPERLESS are, in many cases, making it very hard for older and disabled students to study. The main problem for us older and disabled students is caused by the fact that the university is trying to go paperless-to-the-extreme. In doing so, the best-rules and best-practices of multiple learning intelligences and styles are ignored in a variety of cases and the process does not allow for better over-all catering to individual students’ (personal) issues. For example, disabled and elderly students might have difficulty in sitting and learning the ins-and-outs of new technologies than other younger students. [3] (I won’t even mention in too much detail how much more often one has to print out material at home—i.e. so, that the paperless-university-on-campus becomes just as paper-heavy-as-ever—but at home because now the consumer, customer or student has to print out the data, forms, or readings in order to study the material for hours on end. )

OVERCOMING OBSTACLES

I am a returning (but aging) student to the University of Kansas who suffers from a variety of health issues, including (1) adult attention deficit, (2) chronic fatigue syndrome, (3) fibromyalgia, (4) sleep apnea, (5) TMJ arthritis, and (6) suffer already 20 years from bad back and neck pain. These and other ailments have been diagnosed by physicians, experts, and university psychometric diagnostics over the recent decades. It is quite difficult for me to sit and carefully go over details online. Thank goodness that books and articles can be printed out! Alas, often things, like Graduate Student Handbooks are too big to print out, but are often impossible to get hold of in a timely manner. (Similarly, other materials, like next semester’s course offerings at KU are not easy to obtain in soft paperback print either—unless one is in Lawrence already and can drive and pick up that material on ones own..)

Despite all the aforementioned distracting physical issues and pains in my life , I have continued to teach full-time most of the past 26 years—and have done so in some 10 different countries around the world. Moreover, I should note, during the last four years, I have twice enrolled in online courses to renew my Kansas State Department of Education (grades 7-12) certification.

Naturally, in order for me to take these online courses through KU’s distance learning department, I had to have access to a computer and had to be trained by distance learning staff and help desks as (a) how to enroll online, (b) how to pay for my courses on-line, and (c) how to access a variety of online locations, downloads, visuals, and assignments. Early on, I often had contact staff online or via email for help when I had trouble accessing material for my course and assignments.

The first time I took a KU online course, I was taking the online course in Kuwait, where I taught middle school students. That was in 2008. The next time, in spring of 2010, I took another distance course online from KU while teaching adults and vocational training students in Germany.

NOTE: By the way, the enrollment process for independent study or distance courses at KU is relatively straightforward (streamlined) as compared to the rest of the paperless enrollment process that nearly 30,000 KU students have to face when they enroll at KU. In contrast, I also recall that in the old days at KU, enrollment through one’s own department each semester was much more straightforward than it is in 2011. http://www.continuinged.ku.edu/is/deadlines.php

APPLYING & ENROLLING FOR DOCTORATE WORK AT KU

Finally, last autumn 2010, I determined to apply and enter a doctoral program at the University of Kansas. I was eventually accepted for entrance in Spring 2011. Interestingly, due to my handicaps, I chose to apply by snail mail rather than applying online. (I could not fathom spending so many hours on such a long application process. I was too afraid of recommendation letters, transcripts, etc. getting lost.)

In late 2010, I had applied to the Education School at KU. My primary focus to be in curriculum & teaching with secondary the foci in (1) multicultural education and in (2) educational change/administration. I also expect to gain some knowledge about modern technologies and modern university administration.

On the one hand, as a well-rounded individual, I believe I have a tremendous amount to offer--as I have been busy over the decades in the USA and abroad teaching at primary, secondary and tertiary levels of education (on three continents for a quarter of a century already and plan to do so for the next 3 decades). On the other hand, I believe that I still have so much to learn by going back to university. For example, I need to get up-to-date on the newest learning technologies, like how to use I-Pods. I certainly plan to train hard and study hard.

MY QUANDRY & KU HAS A BAD ONE-SIZE-FITS-ALL PROCESS

Alas, since January of 2011, I have been unable to take classes at KU online because, the University of Kansas has developed bad-practices in terms of building a paperless school and by its bad-practices in not treating students as individuals with their own learning strengths and deficiencies. For this very reason, I was forced to un-enroll myself from my online class (on Philosophy of American Education) in February 2011, i.e. A hold was placed on my account by the KU Bursar because the university’s inflexible-paperless approach to communication, knowledge and service had developed no tolerance for individuality of its consumers.

NOTE: The current paperless approach leaves students spending fruitless hours emailing around to administrators, teachers, staff, and help-desks who sometimes send out form answers and demand that online forms be filled out. Likewise, simple things like enrollment dates and deadlines are often not so easy to find nor are they decipherable for new or returning students.

For example, because I gave up on Spring 2011 courses at KU (and the online course I had even paid for back in January), I am now trying to enroll in Summer II (July 2011) courses on the KU campus. I have recently looked for the online KU calendar for enrollment for Summer II. Alas, no such online calendar exists, specifically for July 2011 courses. (There is a combined all-purpose calendar for summer at KU. However, there is a lot of unnecessary and undecipherable material to be weeded through.
http://www.registrar.ku.edu/~registr/pdf/enrollment/calendar_date_4116.pdf
Meanwhile, I had looked in vain for specifically only the course offerings for Summer II.

Again there is only a single all-purpose calendar for all summer courses. https://classes.ku.edu/Classes/ExternalDisplay.action
In short, having a soft back copy of course listings would be easier for someone who has attention deficit to follow. However, KU has developed over the past 15 years a rather inflexible approach to troubled students (like me who already had filed in November 2010 at KU with the accessibility and disability office service or support). As a returning student I find this overwhelming amount of unhelpful info online at KU to be “U-find-it-U-decipher-it-Good-Luck approach.”

Is this the 21st century? And, if so, where are the knowledge skills being imparted to new students like me? In short, we with attention deficit can be too easily overwhelmed. ADD sufferers with bad back, bad neck pains, and chronic fatigue find it even harder to focus while perusing the KU websites.[4]

The whole point of serving students and enrolling them in a better or more efficient way is now being thrown out the window for me—one of many would-be older-returning students. In January, the one-size-fits-all-confusing-online enrollment system at KU charged me some 400 dollars for not being able to un-enroll in several classes by the university’s oblique deadline ( a deadline I had taken weeks to find online an only with technical help).

In short, the paperless university had blind-sided me and charged a 400 dollar penalty due to the inflexible-paperless approach of enrollment for non-distance learning courses at KU. It has since kept me from enrolling in Summer II 2011. The bursar or registrar is unforgiving in maintaining a hold on my account (to register).

NOTE: I had been planning to attend full-time and take classes at the Lawrence campus this Spring 2011, but family and financial considerations had forced me --in the period between Christmas 2010 and the end of January 2011--to try and switch my enrollment to simply a single online course. (My wife and child had both needed extra money for physical needs in 2011 than I had set aside for or felt like borrowing.)

BUZZWORD—PAPERLESS ENVIRONMENT

The un-enrolling process at KU form me in January 2011 was a nightmare for me online. (I did manage to enroll in one new course but I was blocked by the bursar’s office from taking that online course.) Believe me. KU’s paperless university was a horror for me in January 2011 and it cost me weeks of stress, emails, phone calls, and contacts to help desks, registrars, and the bursars. Worse still, I still have a hold on my account. Even though I have begged the Ombudsman and the disabilities office at KU to help the Bursar see the light—or at least to forgive me the penalties charged me in January.

In conclusion, in my case, the enrollment (and un-enrollment process or) regiment at KU is a student-adversarial system (especially since we are encouraged to enroll online and not in person) which appears to have been created by the out-of-control example of the modern paperless university, i.e. the University of Kansas.

As I listen to the I-pod panel discussion above on “The Paperless University: Myth or Reality".

http://podcasts.fredonia.edu/node/11

several discussants point out that the onus falls fully on the paperless university for training 21st century students to be able to do research, learn, and cooperate with other scholars in a modern paperless academic setting.

I would say the same onus should fall on the university for the initial enrollment phases at the university. Nevertheless, the unforgiving bursar and registrar at KU still wants my money for taking no-class-at-all Spring 2011. Recognition of this basic fact of the university’s role or duty in training consumers is absolutely essential for the modern university to comprehend or internalize—paperless or not—i.e. in order to function and to serve society and its potential consumers, such as myself.

Yours,

Kevin Stoda
Ban Li Elementary School


NOTES

[1] “’The Paperless University: Myth or Reality” -- panel discussion, 2-21-07”.
http://podcasts.fredonia.edu/node/11

[2] I do not yet have an I-Pod, so I still have never listened to a pod cast. I still need to be trained and have the money to afford the technology. However, as I have attention deficit, I will need someone with patience to teach me how to use it.

[3] One of the issues online discussed by the panelists in the Fredonia discussion is that many students feel distanced and depersonalized by overusing technologies, i.e. without clear justification.

[4] Below is the KU link on Institutional Rights and Responsibilities. http://www.disability.ku.edu/ I was planning to visit KU in late January and meet with the officials at the disability and access center at KU, but the Midwest suffered through 2 solid weeks of snow and ice. By that time, I had to leave Eastern Kansas to earn money for my household.

http://disability.ku.edu/~disability/students/rights_responsibilities.shtml

Section 504 of The 1973 Rehabilitation Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 continues to provide direction and guidance to the University as it reaches new levels of access in all areas. As such, both the University and student have rights and responsibilities.
Institutional Rights and Responsibilities
The University of Kansas (KU) through Disability Resources has the right and responsibility to:
1. Maintain the University academic standards.
2. Request qualifying disability documentation in order to verify eligibility for disability accommodations, academic adjustments, and/or auxiliary aids.
3. Discuss students' eligibility with diagnosing professionals given signed consent.
4. Select from among equally effective/appropriate accommodations, adjustments, and/or auxiliary aids in consultation with the student.
5. Deny requests for accommodations, academic adjustments, and/or auxiliary aids when disability documentation does not identify a specific disability, fails to verify the need for the requested services, or is not provided in a timely manner.
6. Deny requests for accommodations, adjustment, and/or auxiliary aids that are inappropriate or unreasonable based on disability documentation including any that:
• Pose a direct threat to the health and safety of others;
• Constitute a substantial change or alteration of an essential course element/program standard, or
• Pose undue financial or administrative burden on the University.
Student Rights and Responsibilities
Every qualified student with a disability has the right to:
1. Equal access to educational and co-curricular programs, services, activities, and facilities available through KU.
2. Reasonable and effective accommodations, academic adjustments, and/or auxiliary aids as determined on a case-by-case basis.
3. Maintain confidentiality regarding disability information including the right to choose to whom the disclosure of disability is made except as required by law.
4. Receive information in reasonably available in accessible formats. (i.e., meets request deadlines to ensure availability)
Every student with a disability has the responsibility to:
1. Meet KU’s qualifications including essential technical, academic, and institutional standards.
2. Identify as an individual with a disability and request accommodations in a timely manner.
3. Provide documentation from an appropriate professional source verifying the nature of the disability, functional limitations, and the rationale for specific accommodations being recommended.
4. Follow specific procedures for obtaining reasonable and appropriate accommodations, academic adjustments, and/or auxiliary aids as outlined.

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