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05/01/2001
Hudson Valley And UConn Pair Up For Better Access

CONTACT: Jeff Foley (518) 629-8085 or Sarah Boggess (518) 629-8071
FOR RELEASE: Immediate, Tuesday, May 1, 2001
http://www.hvcc.edu

Hudson Valley Community College, along with 20 other higher-education institutions across the United States, is currently involved in a partnership with the University of Connecticut. Working together on a project called "Universal Design for Instruction," the colleges are planning to assist faculty and administrators who want to enhance instruction for all college students, including a growing number of students with cognitive disabilities (e.g., learning disabilities and attention deficits) and other diverse learners.

The "Universal Design for Instruction" project was formed two years ago, when UConn received a federal grant. The ultimate goal of the project is to create a Web site called FacultyWare.com.

"The Web site will be available to faculty all over the world," said Dr. Joan McGuire, a UConn professor and co-project director. "At the heart of the site will be products submitted by faculty, which they have found to be effective and helpful in all areas of teaching."

Hudson Valley's instructors have been asked to submit products for possible inclusion on the Web site, which is slated to be up and running by 2002.

"The objective of the ‘Universal Design for Instruction' project is to improve teaching ability to allow for access to a broader range of students," said John Buono, president of Hudson Valley Community College. "An ever-growing percentage of our population is non-traditional and would benefit from non-traditional teaching methods."

According to a Chronicle of Higher Education study, from 1978 to 1998, the percentage of full-time college students with disabilities rose from 2.3 to 9.8. Students with learning disabilities make up the biggest portion of that group, accounting for 3.5 percent of the overall population.

Among the major barriers faced by students with learning disabilities, as identified by the "Universal Design for Instruction" project, are: unclear expectations; difficulty attaining accommodations; difficulty obtaining textbooks in an accessible format; and difficulty with note taking during class lectures. Additional barriers include: the stigma of accommodations; self-disclosure concerns; faculty teaching styles; and heavy workloads on disability services offices.

"We have laws in place, we have support services in place, but as we talk with students, we discover that, in terms of learning, there are still barriers in place," said Dr. Sally Scott, an assistant professor at UConn and project coordinator.

With that in mind, FacultyWare.com will feature multimedia instructional products such as video clips, audiotapes and documents, all contributed by instructors. These will be available free of charge to fellow instructors around the world.

As an example of the type of product that might be found at FacultyWare.com, Dr. Scott described a video clip that features a molecular biology professor talking about his experience with cooperative learning. The professor explains that the day after giving his students a test, he divides them into groups of seven or eight and re-tests them. If, as a group, they score better than the highest individual score in each group, they all receive the higher score.

The hope is that instructors will download information such as this and, if they feel it will work, apply it.

"When we look at the community college population in particular, and we see how diverse it's become – we have learning disabled students, students of different ethnicities – we have learners on campus who don't learn through traditional teaching methods," said Bob Falle, facilitator of Hudson Valley's Access Project Team, which was established in 1999 to improve access for students with disabilities. "That's where the ‘Universal Design for Instruction' project comes in. This project and the ensuing Web site will help us figure out the best ways to make learning possible for everyone."

Hudson Valley Community College, located in Troy, offers more than 50 degree and certificate programs in four academic divisions; Business; Engineering and Industrial Technologies; Health Sciences; and Liberal Arts and Sciences. One of 30 community colleges in the State University of New York system, Hudson Valley Community College has an enrollment of more than 9,000 students each year, and is known as a leader in distance learning initiatives and worker retraining.