NEADS CampusNet Project Activity Report
Submitted to the Community Learning Networks Initiative, Office of Learning Technologies (December 2001)
The National Educational Association of Disabled Students (NEADS) is a consumer organization with a mandate to encourage the self-empowerment of post-secondary students with disabilities. To achieve this challenging goal, NEADS takes on many exciting projects all of which provide students with disabilities the tools they need to succeed in their post-secondary studies. The newest of these projects is CampusNet. NEADS is charged with providing an online information clearinghouse for students with disabilities. It is able to fulfill this challenge through its comprehensive Web site (www.neads.ca). The Association’s Web site will be the platform for CampusNet.
The goal of CampusNet is to create a uniquely Canadian online collaborative community. It will bring together disability-related campus-based organizations, associations, committees, and groups. The objective is to create a virtual community of learning where information on campus-based issues, projects, and activities that affect students with disabilities can be shared and discussed across the country. In addition to providing a means of communicating between groups, CampusNet will help these groups create their own web page in the community. All of this information will be provided online and free to everyone.
The work on the CampusNet Project has progressed well since the project began on October 1, 2001. The project consultants (Chris Gaulin and Myrtis Fossey), under the direction of Jennison Asuncion, NEADS Web Site Manager, and in consultation with the project advisory committee (Joelle Arvisais, Catherine MacKinnon, Sanjeet Singh, Karl Tower, and Susan Vida) and Frank Smith, National Coordinator, have been working to meet the project objectives and the checkpoints of the project’s first phase.
Commencing in October, calls were made to all campus groups listed in the NEADS Organizations of Students with Disabilities Guidebook. Subsequently, calls were made to all current Disability Service Providers at Canadian colleges and universities in an attempt to identify new contact persons for the groups. These calls continued well into November and early December. The results and current status of these telephone calls are as follows:
Concurrently with the initial contact attempts, a comprehensive questionnaire was designed for interviewing representatives from student groups. The questionnaire consists of several demographic questions in order to obtain detailed information about the group/association/committee. Many questions probed into the activities of the organizations, their involvement with employment initiatives, and the extent to which they use technology to make students aware of their work.
To date, the project consultants have interviewed ten contacts from groups. These contacts range in geographic location from as far east as Newfoundland to as far west as British Columbia. Seven of the ten interviewed groups were university-based.
In order for the storyboarding of CampusNet to begin, preliminary conclusions were required. The design and development of the online collaborative community that will comprise CampusNet was based on the following recommendations obtained from our interviewees:
From January to March, a functional prototype of the online community will take form. Incorporating the recommended features will be key to the success of the project and guaranteeing the desired knowledge transfer.
As we dive into phase two of this developmental project, we will endeavour to meet the objectives set out in the project proposal. Direct contact with the grassroots level will aid us in developing a community that is both usable and beneficial to student leaders. We will continue to telephone schools to verify contact information and will arrange interviews with students with disabilities who represent interested groups and access committees.
On Friday, January 25, 2002 NEADS will be holding a “Student Leadership and Employment Forum” at the Courtyard Marriott Hotel in Toronto. The forum will include two panels, one on the development of campus-based organizations of students with disabilities and the second on employment opportunities after graduation. Student leaders from universities and colleges in Toronto will be participating in this forum. Human resources and employment equity personnel from companies representing different sectors of the Canadian economy will be well-represented and they will hold a dialogue with students on transition from school to work issues. This consultation will present an excellent opportunity to share information on the CampusNet Project with forum participants. Two members of the CampusNet Project team will be in attendance on January 25th to present material on the project work and answer any questions about the initiative. This meeting should produce some excellent feedback on our work to date and be a worthwhile supplement to data and comments already gathered through CampusNet telephone interviews.
In conclusion, it should be noted that NEADS held a very successful CampusNet Project consultation during a board of directors meeting the weekend of November 10-11 at the Delta Ottawa Hotel and Suites. This meeting brought together members of the advisory committee for a thorough discussion of project work to that point. Myrtis Fossey and Chris Gaulin presented preliminary findings and recommendations and discussed next steps with committee members and the NEADS board of directors. This consultation proved to be very useful to our project team in the first phase of the initiative. We plan to continue to inform members of the advisory group of our progress on CampusNet through regular communication and conference calls, as required. In addition, visitors to the NEADS Web site will find a description of the CampusNet project which can be accessed easily from the home page. The project overview gives credit to the Office of Learning Technologies, Human Resources Development Canada as the funder of the project.
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