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Studying as an Adult Learner using BSL

By: Kevin Paul Burkitt

Hi, allow me to introduce myself, my name is Mr Kevin Paul Burkitt known by my nickname Kevso. I am a deaf person since birth and an Adult Learner at City College Plymouth. I am studying BSc (Hons) in Applied Computer Science.

I have been a mature student since 2017 when I first entered into an ‘Access to HE in Computing’ diploma and then progressed to Foundation Degree in Computer Systems Development, which is my current course.

What made you decide to become an adult learner?

My decision to undertake studies in a new subject which is Computing was because I felt it was time for a career change. I had plenty of experience in administration, which I acquired for over 17 years, but my last job resulted in redundancy.

I have been interested in computers since I was a teenager in the late 80’s and early 90’s but I had never had the chance to learn about them. In the past, it was difficult to have proper support at university due to a lack of deaf awareness and funding for disabled students. British Sign Language (BSL) was not officially recognised until 2003, when it gained recognition from the Government as a language but had no legal status until this year with the new British Sign Language Act 2022. I felt it was the right time for me to learn with the right support and funding with the Disabled Students Allowance which gives me a good chance of making progress into a new area of study.

What do you hope you will achieve from studying the course?

My motivation for learning this subject is that I would like to support the Deaf / Hard of Hearing Community when it comes to computing, to support them in how to solve problems with their PC’s or Laptops because of communication barriers. I want to help them with BSL (British Sign Language) to help them understand and solve problems when they occur.

Another motivation within this subject is that I would love to create a project which links deafness and BSL with computing and the latest technology create something that would support the Deaf / Hard of Hearing community, to make life easier for them.

Have you faced any challenges as an adult learner and what support has been available to you to support any additional learning needs?

My experience as an Adult Learner does have its own challenges. I have had support during my earlier courses where I had a Communication Support Worker (CSW) and note-taking when on a lower-level course. When the course progressed into a higher level, it was important for me to have BSL interpreters during lectures so that I would not miss any information which is relevant to computing studies.

Lockdown was a massive challenge for me, my tutors and BSL interpreters when studying online (I do feel that I am at a disadvantage compared to other students in the course with online study). I managed to ensure that I have good results in the assignments, no matter what challenges I have faced during the lockdown.

My strengths as an adult learner during these courses are my perseverance and determination to rise above any challenges including researching various information to learn and present a good assignment report. I like to include as much detail as I can.

When it comes to practical tasks, I can sometimes struggle to understand what needs to be done and need clarification from tutors when trying to understand assignment briefs. My understanding of written English is quite different from other students due to my disability as my preferred language is BSL.

What advice/tips do you have for those looking to study as an adult learner?

My view as an adult learner is that if you want to learn a new subject of study, for career prospects or your favourite hobby to improve your skills, do look for advice from the college or university as they would support you to start your learning journey, no matter what your age.

I feel that learning can be both interesting and challenging but fun as well. My learning journey does have its own challenges, but I find it exciting to learn something new and acquire new skills either for yourself, for employment or as a hobby.

What other support was available to meet your learning needs?

It is important for any disabled adult learner like me, to access the Disabled Students Allowance (DSA) to have the necessary support for your course, no matter if it is a Level 3, 4, 5 or 6 course. The college would be happy to accommodate the support that you need.

As in my case, it is important to sort out the DSA every year depending on the length of the course that you are studying. I would have BSL (British Sign Language) interpreters for lectures and a Communication Support Worker (CSW) for study times in college to work on assignments. It’s important that you can understand what you have learnt without missing certain information which is relevant to the course you are studying.

How did you manage your life/study balance?

I planned my time accordingly. My advice to anyone wishing to undertake a higher education course, is to prepare and plan ahead for any assignments and be flexible with time management. Divide your time into slots and, when it comes to doing any assignments, keep the deadline date and time in mind. It can be better to submit assignments sooner rather than leaving it too late.

Also, never be afraid to ask your tutor for clarification about the assignment brief, as they are there to help and guide you although the hard work has to be done by yourself!


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