Learner populations are increasingly diverse with significantly differing objectives, needs and preferences. All learners should be able to participate fully in their courses in order to have an equal chance to be successful. Going forward, inclusive digital delivery will be a key factor in successfully meeting their diverse needs.
More online delivery could inadvertently add to problems unless it is designed to be inclusive at the outset. Designing for diversity as a default will avoid the need for higher levels of support or adaptation to ensure access. It will minimise additional costs, risks and unnecessary stress for both staff and students/learners.
The benefits of inclusive digital practice
Inclusive use of technology offers greater flexibility, and choice. Giving everyone options that work for them. Technology facilitates better inclusive pedagogy and practice and that helps address stress, anxiety and isolation and impacts positively on wellbeing.
An inclusive approach to technology can:
- Enable more differentiated teaching and assessment. It will increase personalised learning and enhance engagement
- Provide the tools to design and deliver a more flexible, responsive curriculum
- Increase awareness and use of customisation options, assistive technology and productivity tools. That helps remove barriers, increase independence and makes access easier for everyone
- Contribute directly to digital confidence, independence, employability, and efficiency and have a positive impact on digital wellbeing
- Build the digital skills and knowledge needed for a proactive approach to managing our digital lives
- Allow us to connect and maintain contact during difficult times
What you can do
Wellbeing must be of equal concern as academic progress. We have an opportunity to design and implement a digital-first curriculum that makes the best use of technology for all learners.
Make the most of online platforms to connect and communicate
Foster a sense of belonging through online groups and personalised communications. Ensure all platforms and tools are accessible to all students.
Promote productivity tools and study strategies that can lessen the pressure by helping students manage and prioritise their time and work.
The University of Sussex has created wellbeing ‘what's on’ student webpages, a buddy scheme and virtual language café for international students. Read more in the OfS coronavirus briefing note (pdf).
Offer digital choice in learning and assessment activities
Offering students more choice in the way they learn and are assessed will encourage and maintain better engagement and facilitate deeper learning.
Asynchronous delivery can provide the same access on and off campus. Those with care or work responsibilities will benefit from flexible online study schedules that can be fitted in with their other commitments.
Build inclusive digital skills and confidence by co-designing with students
Provide templates, guidance and support to co-create accessible multi-media and interactive content. This will ensure all students can play to their strengths and demonstrate their ability.
Identify and develop digital skills so that staff and learners can make best use of the available technology through digital CPD and digital induction. Involve both in digital planning.
Technology will play an increasingly important role in education. Used well, it will help remove barriers and support digital choice. It will build the digital skills needed for employability, independence and managing our digital wellbeing.