Margaret Debenham: Biographical Background

As an undergraduate in 1988 I became one of the first group of students to take the Open University's pioneering course in Information Technology, entitled "An Introduction to Information Technology: Social and Technological Issues". This introduced the use of computer conferencing for contact with the course tutor and fellow students in a distance learning environment. As an alumna of the course, I continued to use the medium on a self help basis to support my remaining undergraduate studies. It was this experience which later triggered my interest in undertaking research to explore the potential of the medium to support disabled distance learners.

For health-related reasons, I was myself registered as a disabled student with the Open University from the outset of my undergraduate studies in 1980. Later, when I was awarded a full time post-graduate research studentship at the Institute of Educational Technology (IET), commencing in early 1996, the department took great care in making special arrangements to accommodate and facilitate my study-related needs. These included permission to be formally based at my Regional Centre in Bristol, with a locally based supervisor in addition to my two departmental supervisors in Milton Keynes; extensive use of CMC and telephone for communication with my IET supervisors, other Milton Keynes campus-based staff and support services; and regular trips to campus for conferences, presentations and meetings. These CMC provisions were experimental in those early days, when data communication systems were still very slow and cumbersome in use — in contrast to today, when the highly developed Internet and fast broadband access have transformed the scenario for all distance learners.

(See Research and Innovation at The Institute of Educational Technology for further information about the pioneering role of the department in distance education).


Page last updated 2 May 2017

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