Inclusive Design for Instructional Material
by Jackie L. Luft, Ed.D., Assistant Director, Accessibility
What is inclusive design? Online and hybrid courses that have a variety of assignments and learning opportunities that are formatted and presented in an accessible version allow students to better access and acquire the information. Many face-to-face teachers have learned that implementing a flipped classroom, using collaboration, problem solving, movement, visual aids, humor, and other non-traditional methods of teaching increase student learning and class involvement.
The idea of moving from the "Sage on the Stage" in a face-to-face classroom has been adopted across higher education, but how does one implement that philosophy into the online classroom? The first step is to identify a variety of online activities that dispense new information, and then to consider the many ways students can use their new information.
I'll use an Issues in Education course as an example since that is an online course I have taught for several years. The course is typical compared to most classes: there is a textbook, I provide relevant articles from peer-researched journals, the students interact in discussion boards, write a few papers and have a final exam. I want to note that my students not only have different learning styles, but they also have various backgrounds and lifestyles. Some are teaching in private schools, some are teaching in low-income public schools, and some may be teaching adults. I may have a letter of accommodation from a student who has declared a disability, and I may have a student that does not declare their disability. I want to make sure my students all have an opportunity to learn and express their understanding of issues in education.
Below are some examples of how adding variety to your courses will encourage each individual student to show their individuality to enhance their education and prepare them for their chosen career path.
Ideas for dispensing knowledge inclusively:
- Reading material that can be read by screen readers such as eTexts, PDFs, Word documents, well-designed websites,
- Videos that have captions and a transcript for easy download, ease in searching for a subject, and ability to highlight important information,
- PowerPoint presentations that include a text only version,
- Audio clips that include a transcript,
- Images that have a narrative that describes the image's relevance,
- Charts, diagrams and graphs that have variables described in text,
- Guided web searches that require students to find information within websites you suggest, and
- Interactive lessons that quiz for understanding.
Ideas that encourage students to demonstrate their new knowledge:
- Discussion boards for developing and sharing ideas,
- Wikis to allow sharing of resources,
- Assignments that encourage student choice,
- Collaborative problem-solving projects,
- Presentations with PowerPoint presentations or other multimedia,
- Short quizzes with immediate feedback, and
- Online websites and portfolios that encourage student use after the course.
The ideas listed above are just a few that will increase the inclusiveness of your online courses. As you start to add these new dimensions, you will find other ways to become more inclusive in your instruction. Developing your courses with an inclusive and Universal Design of Learning mentality helps all your students become successful and retain more information that can be used in their future or present careers.
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