How institutions and instructors can build more inclusive learning environments 

Creating an inclusive learning environment is a journey, both for an instructor and for an institution. Given the role that technology plays, accessibility is essential not just inside an inclusive classroom, but throughout the entire learning environment, regardless of whether the classroom is virtual or physical. 

For instructors, developing accessible and inclusive content is key to keeping students engaged and learning in a way that fits their personal needs and learning styles. If you’re just beginning your journey toward a more inclusive learning environment, consider asking yourself the following questions about your material. 

Images 

  • Do images that provide additional context to the material include alternative text that describes them? Students using screen readers or learning without access to high-speed internet benefit from a detailed description of the image for context. 
  • Does your material include any pictures of text? Pictures of text cannot be read by a screen reader. 
  • Does material include moving images like GIFs? Ensure that the animation is clearly explained in alternative text.  

Document structure and captions 

  • Do documents include structure like headings, quotes and paragraph notations for screen readers to read and provide context? Without these elements, it is more challenging for learners to understand the content as there are no indications of transitions or importance. 
  • Do PDF documents include tags? Tags provide a logical structure that guides how content is presented through assistive technology.  
  • Are tables being used in any content? Tables can be difficult for screen readers to interpret. Use bulleted or numbered lists as an alternative.  
  • Do links include descriptions that make clear what information will be found when clicked? If links are on words such as “here”, it is challenging for individuals relying on screen readers to interpret where the link will take them. 

Classroom and presenting 

  • Do videos and recordings include captions? 
  • In recorded or live sessions, are you providing verbal descriptors for any visually referenced items? Avoid using statements such as “on the graph you will see why the item is trending downwards.” First, verbally describe the graph. 

Building an inclusive environment is about setting all students up for success and making sure that their needs are being met. Institutions must also examine how to make the digital classroom universally more accessible. What should institutions consider when talking about accessible and inclusive learning? Follow these 10 tips as a starting point to guide your institution in this journey. 

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Creating an inclusive learning environment takes collective action, from the classroom level to institutional leadership. It also means each of us plays a part in creating a more accessible and inclusive experience, improving the overall learner experience for all of our students.  

Let us help you on the path to build more accessible and inclusive learning environments for everyone. Learn more about Blackboard Ally.   

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