Guest blog by Dr. Louise Karwowski, Head of Science, Cognassist
The terms diversity and inclusion are often lumped together, so let’s clarify before we go any further.
To put it simply:
Diversity: is being invited to a party.
Inclusion: is being asked to dance.
And whilst we’ve made progress in improving both diversity and inclusion in education, there is still work to be done to remove barriers to learning. We need to ensure our education systems, especially online delivery, cater for the range of diversities learners have, both cognitive and otherwise, to help every learner reach their full potential.
There are three big reasons why it’s essential to build inclusivity into your online delivery:
- Fairness: To give every learner the chance to succeed, you need to be carefully designing your online delivery with inclusivity in mind. Simply putting your resources online to make them easily available isn’t good enough. You need to be delivering information in a way that caters to all thinking pathways.
- Efficiency: Awareness and implementation of inclusivity in best practices is growing. Ensuring that your online teaching caters to all kinds of minds is an inevitability – so why not build inclusivity in from the beginning? This will save you time and money and build a better experience for learners.
- Learner outcomes: The inaccessibility of digital platforms can be a significant barrier to education for some learners. Our data shows us that 1 in 3 learners is neurodiverse in a way that requires support. Many of these individuals will struggle with different aspects of learning, which your learning designers will need to consider. We must design digital systems that are accessible to these learners and remove any barriers to their success.
We’ve split our top tips into two sections: visual design and framing of learning.
How much have you thought about the typeface you’re using on your online platform: is it accessible? Does it follow inclusivity best practices?
Selecting the right typeface is essential for neurodiverse learners. Unfortunately, there isn’t a simple solution.
Most neurodiverse individuals prefer typeface styles that have an affinity to handwriting. The problem with this is that these types of fonts can also lead to confusion as the letters can bleed into each other with certain combinations, for example, “rn” and “m”.
There’s a delicate balance to strike between a natural looking font and one that has clear differentiation between letters. Here are a few fonts that work well: Courier New, FS Me, Consolas.
Size is also important – are learners able to adjust the size of the font on your learning platforms?
- Use of icons
This one is simple – incorporating icons within text is helpful for all learners.
- Visual differentiation between sections
- Supporting memory through a visual connection, this can help with finding the right section or a piece of information
- Those that read slowly can easily see the most relevant sections
- Visual hierarchy
A simple visual hierarchy has a significant impact on comprehension. The goal here is for students to be able to identify the top three pieces of information through position, shape and colour
Without this, some learners may miss vital pieces of information needed for comprehension of the whole.
Framing of learning
- Set out expectations at the beginning with learning objectives:
A learning objective is a statement, beginning with a measurable verb, of what the learner will be able to do by the end of the module.
Whenever there is a case of a process or framework, you should use a numbered system and also state how many things are in the list before you continue.
In this module, you’ll learn how to do three things:
- Construct clear learning objectives
- Outline the benefits of greater inclusivity
- Apply these ideas to your own online delivery
- Establish or acknowledge links with prior learning:
If the learner is likely to know something already that this content builds on, acknowledge it.
“You may already understand that inclusivity is key in all aspects of teaching. In this module, you’ll learn some practical ways you can implement inclusivity in your online delivery.”
If the learner will access a related module within the broader curriculum, you can reference this as well.
“You will build on these practical tips at the Cognassist session “Inclusivity in online delivery” at the upcoming AoC conference, ‘What does high quality online delivery look like?’”
- Recap at the end:
Explain what they have learned and highlight where they will be able to apply their new learning.
Give a call back to the introduction to close and give clear instructions to the learner on what they can do next, and how they will be able to apply the new knowledge (strategies, tips, etc.) when completing the task.
These tips may seem like simple steps, but they can make a real difference to your learners and improve the effectiveness of your online delivery.
So, to recap:
- Creating your online delivery with inclusive best practice is fair, efficient and improves learner outcomes
- Visual design is key for neurodiverse learners
- You can use framing tools to clarify the relationship between pieces of information and aid comprehension
To learn more inclusivity best practise and how to improve online delivery in education, join us online on the 20 and 21 October.