Delivering an inclusive learning experience ‘at a distance’
Jane Fitzgerald – Lecturer, School of Sport and Health Sciences
Inclusive learning and teaching ensures equity and fairness to all and means taking account of, and valuing, students’ differences within mainstream curriculum, pedagogy and assessment (Hockings 2010); means that any element of the course – teaching methods, resources, assessment – should be anticipatory of individual student needs and flexible enough to accommodate those needs (Morgan and Houghton 2011).
The students on the course are generally all distance, on-line learners who work full-time in the area of Health Informatics; recently, however, there have been a small number of international students taking one or two Health Informatics modules to integrate with their main Masters-level degrees.
To ensure that no students are excluded, it’s necessary to consider a number of important issues:
- How do we teach, resource and assess so many different types of students with so many possible needs?
- While it’s essential to ensure that any online resources are fully-accessible, how do we accommodate students whose first language is not English?
- How do we accommodate students with different learning styles?
- How do we support students who support needs change or are more significant than was first supposed?
In order to address these concerns, it was decided to review both Module teaching style and resources, and as a result of this, the delivery of the Module was fundamentally changed. In the forthcoming semester, students will have access to OneNote Classbooks, which will contain all of the teaching materials currently available on Blackboard, but with the addition of several new sections. This will include a Glossary of Terms (some of the terminology is difficult for students who have English as a first language, so for international students some of the words and principles must be incredibly difficult to grasp). Students will be asked to complete the weekly evaluation in OneNote using the evaluation grid provided – not just for the formative submitted formally via Blackboard – and in this way, it will be possible to quickly see who was engaging with the module and who may need extra support. The student’s summative work can also be filed in this Notebook, allowing on-going feedback to be given.
It’s hoped that this new approach will prevent any individual student from only concentrating on the summative assessments rather than learning incrementally (i.e. deep rather than surface learning). In addition, a Teams area will be developed for each student group; here discussions or mini-tutorials on certain aspects of the course will be set up: as most students will never meet their contemporaries it will be an opportunity for them to work together and will provide them with a safe space in which to ask questions; it will also enable tutors to see who is engaging and who may need further support.
For those students who may feel unable to speak up in a discussion environment, embedding on-line polling, quizzes and questionnaires will be embedded into OneNote, so that students can take part anonymously if they wish. Webinars on subjects are also to be created that students will be able to access, and this will give them a choice on reading, listening or watching many resources, depending on their preferred learning method.
With regard to the assessments for the module, a change to the established method has been requested so that the first summative assessment can be delivered in a method of the individual student’s choice (e.g. essay, PowerPoint presentation, audio presentation, poster etc.) The specific assessment will be agreed with the tutor in advance to ensure that the mode of delivery will not prevent the student from meeting the learning outcomes. However, this cannot now take place until September 2020.
Mid-module and end-module evaluations will enable the success (or otherwise) of this universal design to be reviewed. It’s expected that using OneNote and Teams will allow most student needs to be met. However, there may be individual needs that have not been anticipated, but OneNote and Teams are flexible enough that amendments or additions can be made to accommodate them.