Teaching for Everyone: Inclusive Course Design for Lasting Student Engagement

What is inclusive course design?

Inclusive course design borrows the elements from Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and takes it to the “digital age”. The idea behind inclusive course design, according to Linda Lee of the Wharton School, is to “provide access to a course for everyone without needing to make those accommodations on an individual basis.” It tries to be open and welcoming regardless of the learners’ needs, perspectives, behaviors and locations.

4 essentials when implementing inclusive course design

  1. Course policies: Flexibility should be diffused across every aspect of the course, from deadlines and technology use, to attendance and participation policies. Acknowledging that difficulty and struggle are normal parts of the learning process, and simultaneously emphasizing a growth mindset, is vital to students’ academic success.
  2. Course materials is an area that students - particularly those who are economically-disadvantaged - struggle with the most. Instructors should provide materials at no or low cost in the form of electronic course reserves or teacher-generated content; make these accessible through the LMS and available regardless of geographical and time constraints. Also, making sure the materials are culturally relevant (or at least, not irrelevant or inaccessible) to students is absolutely essential when implementing inclusive course design.
  3. Activities and assessments: offering students a choice, if possible, is the first on the list, as it helps increase engagement. Incorporating opportunities for multi-layer feedback, group work, and meaningful interactions should also be considered when designing inclusive learning activities and evaluation practices.
  4. Technology use: Instructors need to be thoughtful and selective when choosing the right tools to support course design and delivery. In general, think about using technology at all levels of the course, about what you choose to use in-class, and what you expect students to do with this technology.

References and resources

Nhi Nguyen
Content Specialist