Pervasive Inclusion – from roots and branches

Digital capability is on the radar of many organisations – investments in learning platforms and digital resources are often undermined by the lack of skill or confidence in staff (or even students). In this post, Julia Taylor explores how inclusive thinking needs to be pervasive if digital practice is going to create benefits rather than unintended barriers.

Tree in a forest with large roots

Best Digital Practice

Accessible organisations have inclusive practice in every branch and root of their practice, underpinning everything – projects, training, developments etc.
As organisations adopt digital approaches, they will need a framework for digital development and digital capability that addresses new requirements and responsibilities for access and inclusion. Implementing technology can result in unforeseen additional costs for supporting learners unless their needs are considered at the outset.  In fact NOT being inclusive incurs not only additional support costs, but user dissatisfaction and even legal risk under the Equalities Act.

But getting accessibility and inclusion right can have real benefits:

What if you could dismantle existing barriers using technology and avoid buying into unnecessary problems in curriculum design and delivery? What if you could…

  1. reduce the cost of supporting learner achievement
  2. integrate a common approach to digital policy
  3. provide a framework for addressing new requirements and responsibilities
  4. involve all stakeholders and reduce risk of exclusion or unforeseen additional costs
  5. identify opportunities for technology to extend and improve engagement and
  6. encourage innovative teaching practice at the same time.

We believe that these are all achievable by putting accessibility and inclusion at the heart of your policies and practice. By exploring your investments through the lens of inclusive practice you start to ask new questions and come up with new answers. The sections below illustrate some of questions you might ask yourself of your current platforms and your ongoing developments.

Are your website, platforms and content accessible?

What kind of message does that convey to the outside world… if your website isn’t accessible?

If your website / learning platform etc were designed for corporate branding rather than usability?

What would the consequences be for your organisation if a student underperformed on a course because of accessibility issues?

What are there consequences if a students who use assistive technologies can’t access your interactive content?

What if learners can’t complete learning outcomes due to unnecessary barriers?

Is your approach to Digital development inaccessible?

Are you getting a good return on investment is your brilliant assistive technologies have an impact but only on those students who have disclosed disabilities?

So when you are working on any area of your digital policy or practice, always consider accessibility.  Jisc Accessibility & Inclusion subject specialists can help advise on any of these areas. We can also conduct a free accessibility snapshot as part of your Jisc membership subscription. See link at the bottom of the page for details.

Blended Learning

In the drive to improve efficiency and extend the use of technology are you risking accidental exclusion? What about the additional cost this will incur when some learners can’t use the resources or participate in activities because systems and platforms have not been tested for accessibility?

  • Are you even risking litigation under the Equality Act?
  • Have you thought about the implications of learners failing due to limited or reduced access to resources or activities?

Find out how to ensure your blended learning approach is inclusive.

Online Safety

Widening participation in FE and HE means new learners, learners that you may not be used to accommodating. Many will certainly be more ‘at risk’ and therefore more of a risk to the organisational reputation.

  • How will you best protect learners with mental health or learning difficulties?
  • Do staff have the skills and awareness to respond to their needs?
  • How will you protect the organisations reputation and ensure fair treatment?

Find out if your current approach covers all the bases

Assessment

Assessment platforms have become an increasingly important part of educational provision. There are many considerations when choosing which to use. Cost, compatibility, usability?

  • Does the platform you have chosen enable flexible assessment approaches?
  • Are your online assessment activities accessible to all your learners?
  • Do you provide equivalent alternative assessment opportunities?

Find out how staff can be supported to develop awareness and skills to design accessible assessment and learning activities

Digital capability

Inclusive Digital Capability will ensure that Technology investments maximise student independence, retention, achievement and employability.

  • How do you ensure that staff have the skills to support all learners to use technology for independence?
  • How do you ensure digital assets are useable by most learners and staff?
  • Is there a risk that some of your learning content creates problems for some learners?

What accessibility awareness training is provided for staff creating externally facing information and communications?

Find out how to develop staff skills to support all learners digitally

IT Infrastructure

Increasingly students are using personal devices and apps in education. Assistive technology and productivity tools can make a difference to all learners if they are made available to everyone on the network.

  • Can learners with disabilities access their support devices and course resources that suit their needs anywhere in the campus?
  • How is Assistive Technology assessment and support integrated into your IT support systems?

Test your infrastructure against inclusive criteria

Data analytics

You track and record every detail of a student’s journey, their successes and challenges, their interest and engagement. But data is only useful if it is the right data, it can be accessed by those who need it and it is interpreted within a clear ethical framework.

  • Does the data collected allow you to differentiate progress of disabled students?
  • Is the data presented in a format that is accessible?
  • Are all disadvantaged students properly represented?
  • How is Equality Law and data protection law used to support disabled and disadvantaged learners?

Find out if you are using learning analytics inclusively.

Legal Compliance and reasonable adjustment

  • What are the implications of General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) for students with additional challenges?
  • Are you ready for the European Directives on website accessibility and mobile applications?
  • Are you confident you meet Equality Act requirements on making reasonable adjustment?

Digital resources

Library services and digital resources are at the core of delivery. Whether managing or creating digital resources, an inclusive approach will ensure the maximum return on investment.

  • How will you ensure disabled learners can access digital resources, platforms and services?
  • Do all learners have parity of experience across the provision?

We can help you develop procurement criteria, checklists for e-books platforms and workflows and templates for ensuring accessible resources and alternative formats.

Embedded Tech

Organisations that have adopted digital technology successfully can ensure compliance and consistency of experience for all learners by taking an inclusive approach to developing digital leadership, encouraging innovative, digitally capable staff and planning a future proofed Digital Strategy.

  • How do you ensure learners with additional needs can use the technology they need when and where they need it?
  • How do you ensure you maximise the use of technology to support all learners?
  • How do you ensure learners have the digital skills to be as independent as possible?

Use your subscription-included accessibility health check to identify strengths and weaknesses. Or use our benchmarking tools to review the inclusiveness of your practice and policy.

See www.jisc.ac.uk/consultancy website for more on Developing a digitally-inclusive organisation – taking a strategic approach to inclusive digital. http:tiny.cc/JiscAI to find out more about the Jisc A&I Snapshot.

 

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