Ensuring Inclusive Learning With Online Education

by Inclusive Learning

Whether there be environmental, cultural, physical or mental constraints, everyone has their own way of learning best. If we do not adapt to the needs of learners, many will not have access to effective education. E-learning and online education offer many tools and possibilities for inclusive learning environments and can develop more accessible educational opportunities. We would therefore like to introduce you to the Inclusive Learning project. Below they highlight the needs, possible solutions and call you to join their webinar on 28 August!

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Image: Inclusive Learning Flickr

Inclusive Possibilities in Online Learning

Supported by the European Commission, the Inclusive Learning project aims to provide to Vocational Education and Training (VET) institutions with a solution for related inclusion problems considering two main aspects:
1) Guidelines and a certified training course for Vocational Education and Training trainers to help them address their diverse classrooms (e.g. students with hearing impairments, students with visual impairments).
2) A technological infrastructure for designing, developing, sharing and delivering accessible open educational resources.

Online learning offers students flexibility and control over their learning, which means that given choices and support, materials delivered in this way can be adapted to suit a variety of learning preferences. It also enables Assistive Technologies in the learning process:

  • Access to e-learning, with the digitisation of texts, can be an important element of day-to-day study for visually impaired students, especially those who are dependent on screen reading software.
  • Students can hear text read by synthesised computer voices, or change background colours and fonts, and use magnification.
  • Software programs to aid accessibility include on-screen keyboards with switch access, predictive software programs, and voice or speech recognition systems with macros.
  • If typing is difficult then asynchronous methods of communication may be preferred, such as emailing or posting to a discussion forum. It is important to encourage peer-to-peer collaboration and to maintain good contact with students to avoid feelings of isolation.
  • Students with hearing impairment whose first language is Sign Language may have issues with the written English needed for emails and conference discussions, but that does not mean they should be curtailed, merely adapted using clear and concise language.

Open Educational Resources (OERs) are a key answer for a more inclusive learning environment. They are more flexible in terms of the use, reuse and adaptation of materials than the automatic all-rights-reserved status of copyright. Just to mention some key benefits:

  • Open licences seek to ensure that copying and sharing, happen within a structured legal framework;
  • they can ensure attribution so that authors are recognized for their contribution;
  • they are free. Increased online access to OER has promoted individualised study which, coupled with social networking and collaborative learning, has created opportunities for pedagogical innovation.

Open Educational Resources can definitely make a significant contribution to:

  • Development and improvement of curricula and learning materials.
  • On-going programme and course design.
  • Organisation of interactive contact sessions with and among students.
  • Development of quality teaching and learning materials.
  • Design of effective assessment tools for diverse environments.
  • Links with the world of work.

We would like to invite you to know more about Inclusive Learning and Open education resources by visiting the Inclusive Learning Handbook. Please join us with your ideas and opinions.

The Inclusive Learning project is interesting for you if…

You are a teacher: As a teacher, you may want to be trained in the process of designing and delivering accessible training content and courses for all your students. Further, you may share your accessible content and best training practices with other trainers through the technological infrastructure of the Inclusive Learning Project.

You are representing a VET Institution: As a representative of a VET Institution, you may want to be informed about the Inclusive Learning Guidelines that can help you design VET programs by considering different aspects of inclusive design and accessibility. Moreover, you will be able to enroll the trainers of your VET Institution to our certified training course, so as to be trained in the process of designing, sharing and delivering accessible digital training content and courses for people.

You are a policy and/or decision maker: As a policy/decision maker, you can be informed about the project tools and services, as well as the certified training course for trainers of people with disabilities, so as to be further exploited to National VET Systems.

If you want to know more about inclusive learning and discuss with Jutta Trevieranus (Director at IDRC / Co-Director Raising The Floor), Lizbeth Goodman (Smart Lab, University College Dublin) and Eva de Lera (Executive Director of Raising The Floor) about the challenges and future of inclusive learning, join the open webinar on 28 August. You will find all the information and registration form here.

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