How to Establish Universal Design in Education: Webinar Insights This installation of the Webinar Insights…
Institutional design is the foundation for student success. How your organization develops course material, creates online platforms, encourages student and faculty insight, and offers access to campus resources contributes to overall educational design. However, as universities and institutions transition to remote learning, inclusive design has not been a priority. By definition, inclusive design is “design that considers the full range of human diversity with respect to ability, language, culture, gender, age, and other forms of human difference,” according to EDUCAUSE.
As we continue to teach remotely, it’s important to ask questions like “Who has been served, supported, or allowed to thrive by our educational designs and who has not?” This will provide key insights into what areas of your institution need to be modified and what needs to be fully reconstructed. Inclusive design doesn’t just benefit marginalized students. It creates a better learning environment for all students, making it an important blueprint to invest time, money, and resources towards.
Going beyond accessibility
Inclusive design is more than just making content accessible for students with disabilities. It involves constant reevaluation of your education practices in order to recognize forms of exclusion or barriers to entry and act accordingly. For example, moving all lecture material to an online, recorded format not only assists disabled students who can then utilize closed captions, but also low-income students who need to work during class hours or students whose time-zones make required lectures occur in the middle of the night. Inclusive design empowers students to have flexibility and choice over their academic experience.
Encourage Student Participation for Inclusive Design
Very few people are involved in the design of educational processes. Often, the populations who are most affected by higher education design, such as students, have the least amount of influence. While bringing students’ perspectives into the classroom can be logistically difficult, as many courses are designed before even meeting the students, it can have incredible payoffs. Students will be more satisfied, engaged, and excited about your course, while also bringing attention to any inequalities or exclusion within your practices.
Ways to increase participatory practices could include free-writing assignments and flexible syllabi. Free-writing prompts allow instructors to hear the voices of all students, not just those that speak the loudest or raise their hands first. Students can then add their commentary in an anonymous and low-stress way. Flexible syllabi also can have incredible benefits to the course’s overall impact. Students can make suggestions to instructors about assignments, exams, or practices and their effectiveness in our constantly changing environment.
Recognize Implicit Biases
When designing educational programs and processes, it’s important to acknowledge your personal situation and the implicit bias that comes with it. If you center your educational design around what works for you or your subgroup, a majority of your students, faculty, or other staff will be disadvantaged. Without seeking out additional perspectives, your end product will reflect that of your own abilities and assumptions, not of the collective group. For example, if live, mandatory lectures work best for you, developing an educational system around that puts those with less flexible schedules at a disadvantage. To prevent implicit bias in your inclusive design, invite perspectives from people of different backgrounds at all stages of development to test for assumptions and bias. This will produce an end result that is inclusive and beneficial to all.
Inclusive design should not take a backseat. Make it a priority to enhance the educational experience for all students. For more information on inclusive design and design justice, take a look at EDUCAUSE’s latest review issue.
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