The online space can help faculty explore new opportunities for teaching, but there are considerations to be made to assure an equitable learning experience for all students.

Universal design principles are key in developing accessible and engaging course material.

Wendy Steele, accessible technology manager, says considering accessibility from the start is key in developing course material.

“Thinking about it proactively helps you avoid problems before they happen,” said Steele. “As instructors are designing their courses, it should become a part of that process instead of an add on.”

The universal design for learning (UDL) guidelines are designed to benefit not only those with disabilities, but also a diverse group of learners. Steele says using accessible documents, accurately captioning videos and offering materials in multiple formats removes barriers and allows all learners the opportunity to equally and independently access the course content. In fact, if this is done proactively, students may not have to seek disability related accommodations.

“Universal design for learning is really directed toward the learning aspect,” Steele said. “The idea is to provide all learners more accessible, inclusive learning opportunities.”

Open communication and frequent check-ins with students can help to ensure they are able to access and digest material. Steele and her colleagues are available to assist with video captioning and other resources to assist faculty in providing accessible materials for their classes.

Faculty are encouraged to take advantage of Learning Innovations’ Toolkit for Extended Distance Delivery and the full list of Tips for Creating Accessible Course Materials.