To create an inclusive learner journey, everyone in the organisation, from marketing to curriculum will need inclusive digital skills. These are not specialist skills, they are the essential digital skills that ensure everyone can access their course, engage fully and have a chance to be successful.
For example, teaching staff now need to be confident in a range of digital activities on the VLE - such as setting collaborative work, giving feedback, and creating and curating interactive resources. Students are expected to navigate and interact through online platforms and systems to engage with their course.
An inclusive approach enables everyone to make the best use of interactive functions and accessibility options on the VLE and other platforms to support differentiation and personalised learning.
Inclusion means providing everyone with productivity tools, apps and learning strategies that will encourage independent learning and support wellbeing. It encourages the co-creation of diverse, accessible rich media resources that will maximise engagement and provide choice.
As the Government Digital Service (GDS) Digital Inclusion checklist suggests - inclusive practice is the basis of good digital delivery. Inclusive practice has benefits at every stage from recruitment to graduation.
The Heart of Worcestershire College is working to create a collegial and collaborative approach to blended learning. Read the Heart of Worcestershire College story.
Jisc offers a digital capability service to help staff and students develop digital skills and digital confidence – a recent survey indicated the need for a minimum digital staff skillset to deliver online. Read the survey findings reports.
Recruitment - how to extend your reach
Your website, prospectus and marketing information are the shop window for prospective students. As well as meeting new accessibility regulations, an inclusive approach to recruitment materials and activities will make it easier to get information and find support. Follow GDS digital inclusion guidelines and provide a range of options.
The benefits include:
- GROWS (Uni Connect partnership in Gloucestershire) having an interactive blended learning careers booklet for potential students to develop their interests and identify actions toward their dream career
- LiNCHigher (Uni Connect partnership in Lincolnshire) has adapted its in-school activity to an online platform with individualised work modules. There are courses with a modular video-based approach for students with Specific Learning Difficulties such as dyslexia
Induction – maximising independence
New students will have experienced disruption. They may be less prepared for study and lack the skills they need so induction to online platforms and institutional systems has never been more important.
Anyone working remotely will benefit from being able to customise their learning environment. Encourage collaboration with others to build digital skills and confidence. You could:
- Promote assistive technology and study support services to everyone
- Offer buddying, mentoring and online communities to foster a sense of belonging
- Provide tailored help with navigating learning environments and support platforms
The Office for Students (OfS) higher education outreach case studies includes how Birkbeck, University of London is rethinking outreach with mature learners by providing ‘live’ and ‘watch later guidance’ and tailored guides to help participants navigate these new learning environments. Student ambassadors advise participants about the challenges and positives of learning from home and how they will be supported and prepared come the start of term.
Leeds Becket University provides inclusive induction guidance for staff which can offer a framework for an inclusive induction to online learning.
Teaching – with a focus on digital difference
Use digital versatility to provide choice and improve engagement. Build-in activities to co-create relevant and useful activities that can deepen learning. You could:
Portsmouth College is co-designing a digital transformation journey in partnership with students and the community. Students said they wanted learning to be more engaging, with more fun and less stress. They wanted to learn independently, off-campus in ways that fit in with their busy lives, responsibilities and commitments. Read the Portsmouth College story.
The Jisc co-design playbook 2017 (pdf) contains strategies for collaborative innovation. For the staff of academic institutions, co-design is a means to get directly involved in the creation of services you need to support you doing your job easily and efficiently, as well as placing digital technology at the centre of your operations. For students, co-design is an opportunity to get involved in shaping their own experience of HE and FE.
The Jisc digital capabilities framework (pdf) has most often been used by digital leaders and staff with an overall responsibility for developing digital capability in their organisation. However, it can be used by staff in any role and by students in any educational setting.
Personalising the learning
Most online platforms offer customisation options and interactions that enable more personalised learning pathways and experiences. Provide as much choice as possible in learning activities to develop digital skills for learning and employability:
- Discussions and forums provide quick responses, relevant guidance and can help motivation
- Data-based feedback can directly support an individual’s progress and wellbeing
- Multimedia-based assessment activities offer choice and play to different strengths
At the University of Gloucestershire, learning analytics is helping staff have better-directed conversations that might make the difference between students failing or flying. They are using Study Goal to encourage attendance and allow students to take more control over their learning. Read the University of Gloucestershire story.
The University of Wolverhampton provides specific support for students without family support, care leavers and estranged students. There is a Learning Canvas course with resources and virtual workshops on academic study skills, online chat services and equipment loans and wireless dongles for those who need them. Read the University of Wolverhampton case study.
- The Education and Training Foundation EdTech platform is linked to the Digital Teaching Professional framework. The CPD programme modules on Dealing with Difference and Diversity include personalised learning pathways.
- Read our blog on hyflex approaches to learning make use of digital difference
- Explore the Jisc code of practice for wellbeing and mental health analytics
Assessment and outcomes
To be inclusive, assessments should be varied, unambiguous and designed to assess the learning aims not dependant on unrelated skills or knowledge. Digital platforms support continuous, informal self-assessment and instant feedback that can be built into course design. You could:
- Create modular skills-based pathways with digital accreditation
- Provide flexible, relevant and ongoing assessment opportunities
- Offer clear communications and constructive feedback that supports progress
De Montfort University held virtual workshops and one to one meetings on postgraduate study options, careers advice and moving on for graduate students without family support. Read the De Montfort case study on the OfS website.
Coventry University's DRIVER (Data Responsive Initiatives as a Vehicle for achieving Equity in Results) project is working to address barriers to student success. Read more about the DRIVER project on the OfS website.
- Jisc and Emerge Education's assessment rebooted report
- The University of Leeds' principles of inclusive online assessment
Inclusive use of technology removes or overcomes barriers and meets more learners needs by offering differentiation and choice. Well-designed, asynchronous online delivery has the potential to deliver an inclusive digital-first curriculum that will work for everyone.
This needs a planned approach designed to impact the whole organisation.
Putting inclusion at the centre of digital strategy will demonstrate a commitment. It will shape an inclusive digital culture in which everyone from senior leaders to practitioners understands and can carry out their responsibilities.