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Ruth North - Education

{Ruth North}
Ruth North

"I am originally from St. John's although I now live in Paradise. I completed my undergraduate work at Memorial University, graduating with a Bachelor of Vocational Education degree.

"I will receive a Master of Education in Post-Secondary Education (Student Services/Development) at the 2003 Spring Convocation. I opted to complete my program through the paper folio route. My research topic was "Fostering Inclusive Online Learning Environments for Students with Disabilities in Higher Education."

My research has relevance to the direct practice and administration of services to students with disabilities in online learning environments. In particular, my first paper examined the types of barriers students with disabilities face when they use the World Wide Web. It offers solutions for improving Web content accessibility to optimize readability and navigation. This paper can be used as a practical resource for faculty, staff, and administrators who are unfamiliar with this new and emerging issue in higher education. The second paper advances the discussion from awareness building to institutional accountability through policy development. The distance learner is profiled, since the effect of inaccessible online resources is most drastic in Web-based distance education courses. This paper is relevant for distance education practitioners and senior university administrators interested in the legal, ethical, and practical facets of accessing virtual learning environments. Finally, the third paper explores the theoretical frameworks for fostering inclusive online learning environments for students with disabilities. It highlights the importance of the relationship between campus ecology and student development. This paper is especially pertinent for student affairs professionals and their academic colleagues.

"As an established Student Affairs professional, I was seeking graduate training to enhance my work skills, especially around program planning and development, evaluation, research, and student services administration--all of which are essential competencies for any student affairs professional. I am also a strong proponent of lifelong learning and believe that it is no longer sufficient in my field just to complete an undergraduate degree. Graduate training also opens more doors for employment and advancement.

"There are many opportunities in the United States to pursue graduate work in the student affairs field. However, I found Memorial's program, the only one of its kind in Canada, especially attractive because it focuses on Canadian content. As a Memorial employee, I was also able to qualify for financial assistance to cover my tuition costs--another bonus! As well, I know first hand that Memorial University has a very good reputation.

"I like that the Faculty of Education offers students several routes to program completion, e.g., the comprehensive course route, thesis route, paper folio route, or internship route. The Faculty's decision to offer more of its courses through Web-based learning environments made it easier for me to juggle work, school, and family commitments. By completing several of my courses online, I was also able to meet and collaborate on assignments with students from across the province, the country, and throughout the world. This expanded my horizons by introducing me to different cultures, opinions, and professional practices. I would like to add, however, that one of the university's real gems is the Queen Elizabeth II Library, especially its Interlibrary Loans Division. I used their services extensively throughout my master's program and credit their staff with helping me to achieve my research goals.

"The staff in Graduate Programmes are friendly and professional; they always responded to my enquires in a timely manner. I am also especially grateful to my supervisor, Dr. Donna Hardy Cox, for her insight and guidance.

"A major advantage has certainly been the ability to complete my graduate program at home, eliminating the costs associated with moving away and having to incur an interruption in my earnings. However, because some of my courses were offered through distance education, using Web-based and teleconferencing media, I was able to meet (in a virtual sense) other students from outside St. John's. That was a definite plus when studying at home.

"I am an active member of the Canadian Association of Disability Service Providers in Post-Secondary Education (CADSPPE), which is a division of the Canadian Association of College and University Student Services (CACUSS). I served as the secretary-treasurer of CADSPPE from 1997-2002. This year, I am on the selection committee for its awards program. In my free time, I am an avid reader of true crime novels and autobiographies. I enjoy spending time with my many nieces and nephews. I also like watching Formula 1 races with my husband--sometime by phone if one of us is out of town!

"In the immediate future, I hope to disseminate my paper folio research at Memorial University and prepare the key findings for potential publication. I am also collaborating with my supervisor on another research project that explores the nature of disability policy evolution and redevelopment at Canadian universities. Teaching courses on higher education and disability is another option for the future along with doctoral studies.

{Memorial University of Newfoundland}