Developing Digitally Inclusive Capabilities 

Margaret McKay reflects on the Jisc digital capabilities framework from the point of view of inclusive practice.

The more I speak to inclusion practitioners the more they emphasise the importance of a devolved nature of inclusion where staff across the institution understand and feel confident about what they can do to embed principles of inclusion into practice in their everyday activities.

Students increasingly expect staff to have the ability and skills to support their independence and employability in a digital world. The Jisc Digital Capabilities framework has inclusion at its core. Inclusive practice supports digital capability for all students and staff

layers of an onion

In the Jisc Digital Student Tracker 2017 students said that they wanted to be able to communicate their knowledge in a number of ways using a variety of media. The following digital skills reflect ways that staff can incorporate inclusion into everyday practice:

  • Appreciating the universal benefits of assistive technologies (e.g. text to speech, mind mapping, screen tinting tools) and actively promoting as productivity tools for all.
  • Designing learning experiences that are customisable and that support and facilitate learning without the risk of excluding some learners.
  • Exploring different ways to exploit everyday tools (e.g. Office Mix, Sway in O365, immersive reader feature) to deliver and support learning.
  • Knowing ways that learners can use their own technologies to capture content and actively engage in learning (e.g. inbuilt recorders, note taking, planning/organisation, apps) and confidence in sharing with learners.
  • Staff having the digital literacy to understand what makes learning experiences more or less accessible for disabled learners.
  • Learning technologists (in collaboration with learning support) raising awareness of inclusive practice with accessible content –  and ensuring accessibility is fully explored when guiding staff in their use of the learning platform/ learning technology systems.
  • Procuring and using digital media (text, video, audio) and presenting in ways that will make it as accessible as possible, and where necessary knowing how to offer alternatives.

Digital creation and problem solving

  • Ensuring that content is created in a way that minimises the risks of excluding some people (anticipating need) and being confident in investigating ways to find suitable alternatives (reasonable adjustments) where required.
  • All staff who create content of any kind in the institution having the skills and knowledge to reach at least minimum accessibility standards e.g. understanding basic principles of creating accessible content using Microsoft Office, PDF and digital platforms.  Understanding the importance of using styles, alt text in images, hyperlink hygiene, using notes pane in PPT, saving PDFs with bookmarks for structure.
  • Confidence in creating non-text based information and learning material. Ability to present information in digitally diverse ways (e.g. audio, how to video guides, ebooks).
  • Encouraging alternative ways of conveying knowledge in formative and summative assessment (e.g. audio, videos, ebooks, blogs).
  • All learner-facing staff having an understanding of the accessibility features in everyday technologies. Having the confidence to tell students about them or knowing where to signpost learners to guidance on these features (e.g. changing colour or listening to text in Word or Adobe Reader).  Knowing where to point students to guidance about these features which should be available on a generic all-student facing information page).
  • Staff knowing about the range of enabling technologies to help support learner independence and productivity (e.g. technologies the institution has already purchased, browser plugins).
  • Actively creating opportunities for learner feedback and ensuring that a wide demographic of learners including assistive technology users are represented in this feedback process.

 Information data and media literacy

Learners engaging in the student tracker talked about thriving on digital resources.  When talking about the use of digital resources on her course, one student said that ‘things weren’t limited any more’. Staff who had confidence in digital learning, teaching and development would use audio, video and other digital methods to deliver their content and support assessment and feedback.

  • Appreciation of the fact that text only information can sometimes be inaccessible and unfriendly for many readers.  Knowing how to create ‘how-to’ screencasts, videos and audio information. Understanding what could be done to ensure that they are accessible for people who might find them difficult to access.
  • Library/learning resoruces, learning technologists and others with responsibility for digital development and procurement would feel confident about understanding key accessibility criteria for digital platforms (such as ebook and learning platforms).
  • Staff who use online to tools being aware how to evaluate the pros and cons of using different resources so they can make an informed choice on how to create the best possible learning experience for students.

Digital communication collaboration and participation

In the tracker students talked about using interactive quizzes and polling and the benefits this had for them.  Using social media or engaging learners using voting, polling or other interactive activities to get the best from everyone including less confident learners.

Digital identity and wellbeing

  • Being aware of digital strategies and resources (e.g. apps) to help learners maintain physical and psychological wellbeing and manage workload/cognitive overload/ distraction.
  • Awareness of safeguarding and safe practice for vulnerable learners.
  • Role that learning analytics might have in building into learner facing apps dynamically seeking feedback about progress.
  • Blending psycho-social well being with learner progress whilst tracking engagement/disengagement
  • Identifying those at risk and encouraging early intervention.
  • Understand the issues relating to e-safety for vulnerable learners.

Learner differences

  • What technologies will learner be using in their own organisations to support learning
  • Are assumptions being made that all learners will have access to technologies and if they do, do they know how to exploit them for their learning?
  • What technical skills will learners need to master when they join your institution (e.g. to access key administrative and college wide information, to access their learning material, to manage their own learning and management of their study, to convert their own personal technologies into learning tools?)
  • How will you support learner difference?

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