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THE ‘HIDDEN CURRICULUM’ FOR INVISIBLE STUDENTS: CHALLENGES OF ELEARNING

D. Gurbutt1, J. Duckworth1, H. Partington1, R. Gurbutt2

1University of Central Lancashire (UNITED KINGDOM)
2University of Bolton (UNITED KINGDOM)
Much has been written about the ‘hidden curriculum’, the so-called non-curricular learning which occurs as a by-product of the focus on another subject. Students on healthcare professional courses learn the identity and values of a practitioner, and also those of Higher Education and study. Important skills for employability are learned beside the curriculum ensuring agile learners who develop and utilise knowledge, (Lyall, et al 2015). Whilst multiple skills are acquired alongside subject specific learning (including time management, IT skills, communication, teamwork, problem-solving) which employers seek and value, these are often developed in the spaces around the curriculum as well as within it.

For remote and distance learners there is another facet of the hidden curriculum concerned with building rapport with someone they will not see, being part of a community which is never geographically together and managing the identity of student without inhabiting and having reference to the campus. Not only are they remote, but they are also potentially rendered invisible by the structures and processes of the university, always being the ‘exception’, the ‘outlier’ , or ‘other’ to the campus student. Tutors working with these students may also see themselves as ‘other’ to the tutor teaching in a visible classroom with students who are active consumers of all the campus has to offer.

This paper provides insight into challenges faced by elearners and their teachers and draws on the extensive experiences of the authors in delivering and developing elearning practice. Consideration is made of the strategies and initiatives to uncover the hidden curriculum of the elearning student and the staff who manage it, in addition to approaches and activities designed to focus the lens of inclusivity on an equitable and ‘visible’ elearning student experience. Discussion considers initiatives to address the hidden curriculum for elearners including an engagement strategy (DigiLearn), fostering collaboration between staff and services, developing a Community of Practice for Elearning (Lave and Wenger, 1991) , a whole university approach to inclusivity for all students and adoption of a ‘ community on line’ approach to Elearning.