Creating Inclusive Online Learning Communities
An inclusive classroom is one in which both faculty and students feel respected and comfortable in expressing their views and concerns. (Saunders, Shari and Diana Kardia. 2003
Creating Inclusive College Classrooms, cited in WebCT Impact 2004 presentation on Creating Inclusive Classrooms Online, by Adrienne Cassel).
According to Wlodkowski, (1999), “exclusion is usually an indirect act, an omission of opportunity or of someone’s voice.“
(Source: Wlodkowski, Raymond. 1999. Enhancing Adult Motivation to Learn. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, p. 89.)
He further suggests that exclusion diminishes motivation to learn.
In the online environment, there are numerous factors that may contribute to learner exclusion.
Some of these factors include the following:
The use of multimedia in the online environment requires steps to ensure that all students have access to the learning materials. In brief, alternative means for access to materials should be provided. For example, an audio or video clip requires a text alternative for deaf students. In the case of video clips, video captioning may be used. See the George Brown College Policy on Video Captioning (on the GBC intranet at http:insite)
If plug ins are required, provide clear instructions to students in relation to downloading them. Avoid large file sizes when adding in multi-media. Students with dial up connections may not be able to open the files.
Incorporate a number of activities to enhance learning and accommodate various learning styles and preferences. This means that audio or video might be used to augment reading material.
Images, music, literature references and text materials etc., should reflect more than one cultural background.
Web Accessibility and Usability
Web Accessibility and Usability is closely related to the notion of inclusion. Online Accessibility means learners with disabilities can access the web pages. For example, in order to ensure that a person with a visual impairment is able to understand a page with images, all images should have "alt" (alternative representation) tags when they are inserted into a document. These tags can easily be added in when an HTML editor is used to create web pages.
To view an alt tag, hold your mouse over the image at the top of this page. A little text message that describes the image will appear . This is to ensure that a screen reader (used to interpret web page information by a person with a visual impairment) will describe the image.
Much has been written about both accessibility and usability with web pages.
George Brown College is the first college in Ontario to have developed a policy on web page accessibility.
It can be viewed on the college intranet.
Usability means that web sites are constructed in such a way that users can easily find information, navigate throughout the site etc.
Would you like more information on ensuring that your web pages are accessible?
Take this introductory tutorial on Web Accessibility. (http://www.webaim.org/.)
You may also want to visit this EASI site (Equal Access to Software and Information) (http://www.rit.edu/~easi/index.htm) that provides workshops and web conferences on improving accessibility in the online environment.