Digital equity: Diversity, inclusion and access for incarcerated students in a digital age

Concise paper

Download the paper [PDF]

Helen Farley
University of Southern Queensland

Julie Willems

Catch this session

Tuesday 5 December,  11.20am – 11.40am
Stream 4
Room L209


ELearning has been touted as the way in which universities can enable participation by large numbers of students from non-traditional cohorts. There is no doubt that the flexibility of access that eLearning allows makes study accessible for a number of cohorts, including those engaged in full-time work or caring duties. However, cohorts such as incarcerated students and other students without Internet access, are sitting on the wrong side of the digital divide and are increasingly marginalised by the very technology anticipated to overcome their exclusion from study. This paper examines the fundamental issues of equity involved with eLearning, and particularly for incarcerated students. The very issue of access to the Internet is fraught with rates of access varying widely between different sectors of society. This discussion prompts higher education providers to think beyond business-as-usual when speaking of increasing participation in higher education.

About the authors

Helen Farley

Associate Professor Helen Farley researches within the Digital Life Lab at the University of Southern Queensland. Her research interests include investigating the affordances of emerging digital technologies, including virtual worlds, augmented reality and mobile technologies, in formal and informal learning. She is passionate about digital inclusion and leads the $4.4 million Making the Connection project which introduces digital technologies into prisons to allow prisoners access to digital higher education. The project has attracted some 1500 course enrolments over five states and recently received an Australian Award for University Teaching for Programs that Enhance Learning. Associate Professor Farley has published extensively and is a featured speaker at both educational technology and corrections conferences.

Julie Willems

Dr Julie Willems holds qualifications in Nursing, the Humanities, and Education. She has worked across the Australian education sectors and, since 2004, has specialised in Higher Education. Her current position is as a Senior Lecturer in RMIT University’s Learning and Teaching Academy. Julie’s research interests include the promotion of educational and digital equity as social justice issues, and the media and technology of formal and informal learning (including social media). She was a recipient of the auDA Foundation’s national 2011 research grant for the i-Survive Project investigating the use of ‘back channel’ communications via mobile technologies and social media during Australian emergencies and disasters. Julie has a community focus and has actively served on a number of committees and boards over the course of her career, and is currently in her second term on the national Executive for Australasian Society for Computers in Learning in Tertiary Education (ASCILITE) (2015 – ). Julie has recently been recognised as a leader in open, online and distance learning in the Australia-Pacific region (