Ensuring Accessibility and Inclusive Learning in Online Teaching

Learning tools, such as recording lectures or giving online reading lists, can make the learning process more accessible and inclusive for all students. However, online instruction has its own set of difficulties. Students may have challenges if they have a learning need that impacts how they engage with online learning, if they lack comfort with online interactions and technology, or if they have limited or no access to a quiet study environment, to name a few examples. You must enrol in good online courses for teachers so that you can polish your skills and enjoy teaching in the best manner. 

Anticipating these requirements via inclusive practice is a smart idea. Key principles of inclusive practise give additional insight into inclusive practises that may be used in any educational environment. Support is also provided for employing flexible and inclusive teaching methods that may easily transition to more remote or face-to-face instruction.

Establish a standard of behaviour.

Select a method of communication. Let students know how they may reach you if you use several platforms in your teaching, such as email, discussion forums, and so on. This will give them confidence in contacting you responsibly. Consistency is the key. Agree on certain essential ideas and procedures for remote learning, as well as the technology to be utilised, with colleagues who teach on your programme, so that students may anticipate some consistency. This you can only do when you have the expertise that you have learnt from teaching courses online

Make provisions for accessibility.

Stay in touch with pupils that are impaired. Students with impairments are more likely to have specific needs when it comes to online learning. So, get in touch with them to learn more about their requirements. Prepare to check in with these pupils after a few weeks to see how things are going and make any required modifications.

Use forms that are easy to understand. Materials in accessible formats can be viewed by ‘assistive’ or ‘enabling’ technology (e.g. screen reader programmes). This means they’re searchable, selectable, and screen-readable, and they provide you with a lot of control over how you read the text.

Encourage pupils to participate in online practise. 

Allow students to practise utilising the technology by asking a simple inquiry to see whether they can utilise the messaging function (for example, “identify one object you can see from your nearest window”). Be careful that any such conduct does not insult someone accidentally.

Establish ground rules for dialogue. Setting ground rules can help students feel more confident about how and when they should interact online, which can be especially difficult during ‘live’ sessions. You may, for example, agree that students will electronically ‘raise a hand’ or write questions to indicate when they want to speak, or that you will call on students by name to ensure they have been given an opportunity to speak. 

Organise ‘live’ learning.

Begin your first session as soon as possible. This will allow everyone to connect and verify that everyone can utilise the important functionalities (e.g. chat, muting microphones, etc). If you haven’t previously done so, this is a good time to outline how you anticipate students to participate in the session.

Materials and activities should be prepared ahead of time. ‘Live’ or synchronous meetings can be exhausting, and conversations can take longer than in person. Providing students with accessible learning material/tasks to interact in advance minimises the pressure to cover everything in the ‘live’ session and also ensures that students are better prepared.

Make time for asynchronous learning that is adaptable.

Students can use tasks that they can do on their own time to prepare for and follow up on ‘live’ teaching sessions. Instead of attending a long live session via video conference, students can view or listen to a series of short, pre-recorded videos or podcasts, which can bring several benefits. This asynchronous, flexible approach, for example, means that:

  • Technical issues, bad internet connection, illness, care obligations, a lack of quiet space, and other factors are less likely to cause students to miss classes.
  • Those in various time zones can finish the assignment during normal business hours.
  • Students can work at their own pace, re-watching or revisiting content, pausing to allow for better note-taking, speeding up if part of the information is already familiar, and so on.
  • Students have more time to articulate and voice any questions or concerns they have about the topic and their learning, which can be difficult in a ‘live’ setting.
  • There is less dependency on a ‘live’ tutorial or teaching session, especially if assignments incorporate the usage of discussion boards, for example. This makes distant learning more durable and gives self-study greater structure and variation

Follow the tips on how to make the best use of technology.

Using the offered information on how to generate high-quality audio and video recordings, as well as the technical recommendations on properly hosting Teams meetings, online education may become more inclusive and accessible. There includes advice on what equipment to use and how to make accessible movies, for example. Using a headphone instead of a laptop’s built-in microphone, for example, is likely to improve audio quality. Students’ attention will be aided by a higher-quality recording or live feed, which will be especially beneficial to those studying in a distracting or chaotic setting. It will also be critical for pupils who are deaf or blind to have access to education. Including subtitles or transcripts with any recorded content is also a good idea.

Create online learning video and audio solutions that are accessible.

It’s critical to be conscious of providing audio explanations to films in a class with students who have vision difficulties. While Zoom offers its own set of useful hotkeys and shortcuts for students, these are not necessarily complete. Listening to a video without seeing it is a straightforward technique to evaluate if it needs an audio explanation. Is it possible to understand the information without a description? If it doesn’t, you’ll probably need to provide descriptions of the scene, activities, and facial expressions.

Conclusion 

When several colleges made the swift transition to online learning early this year, they did the best they could with the technology they had. Now is the moment to consider what worked, what didn’t, and what may be improved. The sort of digital technology utilised by a university is an important aspect of online learning. Students in various time zones and worldwide contexts should have access to digital tools. Accessibility elements such as bigger cursors closed captioning, keyboard shortcuts, alternate text, high-contrast themes, and text-to-speech capabilities should all be included in the tools.