Students can study this distance learning programme on a part-time basis from anywhere in the UK or internationally (if they have access to the Internet). By studying at a distance, you remain in your work setting and can therefore tailor the programme to meet your professional needs or your particular interests and experiences.Learning and teaching take place through:
Self-study materials in the form of booklets are sent to students and other online resources are available within the e-learning environment (WebCT) area and e-library. WebCT is designed to enhance your studies, giving you immediate access to resources and documents including interview footage with prominent autistic authors and researchers. It is designed to be viewed alongside your reading to help you translate theoretical ideas into actual practice. The WebCT area also offers you an important opportunity to make contact with students, not only in your own tutor group but across the Autism programmes, through bulletin boards and online chats.
The programme is structured as Modules and divided into Units. Each Module has overall aims and outcomes and the specific aims and outcomes of the Units contribute to achieving these. By keeping the aims and outcomes in mind as you study, you will be able to check your own development and make sure that you are 'on target'. The core reading materials are designed to provide a comprehensive overview of theory and practice in relation to adults on the autism spectrum. Depending on your work setting, previous experience, and your personal goals in pursuing this study, you may choose to either work methodically through all of the materials, or to select parts that are relevant to your particular area of interest. Some students wish to develop a broad spectrum of knowledge and have never studied autism before; others join the course with an existing knowledge base and wish to use the course to develop one particular area of interest through their study. You will know best how best to utilise the study materials to suit your own personal study needs. In addition to the programme booklets, you are expected to read a range of other books and journal articles, especially at Masters level.
Regional or online tutorials
Regional tutors or online tutorials with a tutor and small group of other students support students in their learning. At the tutorials students discuss course materials, plan assignments and share their experiences of practice in the field of autism. The tutorials are a compulsory part of the course and must be attended.
Study weekends at the University of Birmingham are arranged for September and March/April. Attendance is required in the first year of study and if attendance is missed for other than medical reasons, the University tutor will negotiate another activity with the student. Study weekends operate from Friday lunchtime to Sunday lunchtime. In the second year, students may be attending other study weekends but will also be invited to attend the second autism study weekend. The first residential school acts as an induction to the course. It introduces many of the ideas in the course and prepares students for the particular approaches to study. The second weekend offers a mix of lectures and workshops. In both weekends, it is a chance to visit the University, buy relevant books, mix with students and tutors and meet people on the autism spectrum who are able to articulate what their autism means to them.
Learning is assessed through a written assignment at the end of each module. The assignments for the first three modules on the programme are essays, addressing an issue that is of practical and intellectual significance to the student. Students are expected to draw on the literature and their own experience to support their arguments. The third assignment in the first year is a project module in which the student undertakes and writes up a piece of reflective practice. These first three modules form the 'core' and are compulsory for an award to be made in Autism (Adults).
The modules are sequential; information in Module 2 building on the prior unit. In the second year, students may stay within the autism field by taking a double project (which is all that is needed at Level H for a BPhil, followed by the dissertation of 10,000 words). Masters students may also do a double project module, but in addition they need to do one or two other subject modules, which may be the second module from the Autism (Children) programme of study or a module on Challenging Behaviour and Autism, for example. MEd students then take the research module (PIE) followed by a 15,000 word dissertation.
Students who successfully complete three modules at Level H are awarded the Advanced Certificate in Autism (Adults) or are permitted to proceed to BPhil. Students who successfully complete three modules at Level M are awarded the Postgraduate Certificate in Autism (Adults) or are permitted to proceed to a Postgraduate Diploma or MEd.