Inclusive Design is a teaching approach that acknowledges that students have diverse needs, abilities, backgrounds, and experiences. It aims to create a learning environment that adapts to the diverse needs of students.
The Guiding Principles
Designing an inclusive course is an ongoing and creative process. It requires anticipating the different dimensions of learners coming into a course and planning accordingly. There are a few guiding principles, when taken into consideration, that can greatly enhance the accessibility and usability of the learning environment.
Students appreciate having a choice in how they engage with your course. Students learn in different ways, so making your course content available in a variety of formats is helpful.
How to include choice in your course:
- Provide multiple ways to gain and demonstrate knowledge.
- Survey students to determine their interests and provide optional resources to meet their varying needs.
- Enable students to pick from assignment options based on what they wish to gain from your course. Example: writing a term paper, drafting a final report, or creating a multimedia project.
- Allow students to create their own project groups based on their interests, goals, learning styles, and abilities.
- Provide multiple ways to interact with your course content and each other.
- Present course materials using a mix of media (text, audio, video, images, graphics, PowerPoint slides, etc.).
Clearly articulate your course objectives and expectations in your course syllabus and throughout your course.
How to include transparency in your course:
- Incorporate a modular design model where content is organized by week and broken down into lessons with instructional content, additional resources, and practice activities.
- Explain the purpose of course materials and activities, as well as how they align with your learning outcomes.
- Include Weekly Overview pages that identify the topics, outcomes, and activities for the week.
- Use plain language, simple sentence structures, bulleted lists, and brief summary paragraphs to help students understand and identify key information.
- Create a rubric for each graded assignment to let students know exactly what is expected to receive full credit.
Students should feel valued as unique individuals whose experiences enrich your course. Courses should demonstrate sensitivity to students' diverse cultural backgrounds, privacy, and comfort level with technology.
How to include sensitivity in your course:
- Instruct students to share only as much information as they "feel comfortable with."
- Provide students with additional technical support to succeed in the course.
- Give students multiple attempts and no time limit for taking a quiz.
- Provide assignments that allow students to draw on relevant personal experiences and reflect on the value of doing so.
- Anticipate potential technical obstacles and provide solutions. For example, allowing text entry submissions and/or providing screenshot instructions to prevent issues with uploading assignment files.
Inclusive design overlaps significantly with accessibility for students with special physical, sensory, or cognitive requirements, and should account for the different ways that students learn.
How to include accessibility in your course:
- Caption all recorded lectures or videos.
- Add alternative tags to embedded images so that screen readers can read the descriptors.
- Tag and format PDFs so that they can be read by screen readers. Avoid uploading scanned PDFs.
- When possible, use bulleted lists instead of tables.
- When using tables, include headers in the top row to be read by screen readers.
- Place links over descriptive text that explains what information your readers will find when they click on the hyperlink.
You can also explore these additional accessibility guides:
- Adding alternative text to images in Canvas
- Formatting PDFs to be read by screen readers
- Creating clear and accessible hyperlinks
- Canvas's general accessibility design guidelines