The call for diversity and accessibility in instructional design has to start at the top of any university. The administration needs to mandate the integration of diversity and accessibility into every course. This integration may take more effort for some faculty, and they need to understand why it is essential. They also need to know what resources are available to them to do so. This integration should be done at the beginning of the course design, not as a response to an individual.
Each learner has a unique set of circumstances that can affect how they learn. Reiser and Dempsey give some great examples of adaptations and design suggestions, breaking them down into four categories: visual, auditory, mobility, and cognitive involvement. Providing closed-captioning or transcripts of videos is required, and universities should have policies to provide these services. This includes live-streamed events on Facebook and Zoom. Many software or platforms have closed captioning built into their design. If they don’t, universities will need to hire an outside company to provide this accommodation.
Multiculturalism is another component that needs to be integrated into any instructional design model in higher education. Faculty can bring their cultural bias into their instruction without even realizing it. Personal bias can be addressed by having faculty look at their own culture and its impact on their teaching. Learning activities should be inclusive of all students. Faculty should look at their language, social norms, and how they can be culturally responsive and adaptive to their students’ challenges. Faculty should also consider the type of delivery they use in their instruction to make sure there is no cultural bias. This can be challenging when the diversity in a class is limited. These students may be hesitant to join in class discussions or to speak freely. Our university requires all faculty and staff to participate in yearly diversity training to ensure instruction and student interactions are inclusive and without bias.
The Multimodal Diversity Model includes three major components:
1.Multiple means of representation – The “what” of learning that incorporates cognitive diversity.
2.Multiple means of expression or performance – The “how” of learning that incorporates physical diversity.
3.Multiple means of engagement – The “why” of learning that incorporates cultural diversity.
These principles need to be part of the everyday teaching in any university and embedded in the course design. Unfortunately, not all universities can do this due to budget, staffing, and resources. My university has an Office of Disability Support Services (ODSS) that recognizes disability in the context of diversity. They work collaboratively with students, faculty, and staff to foster a climate of universal academic excellence. Students apply for DSS accommodations each semester. ODSS notifies faculty of any students requiring these accommodations before the course begins. These accommodations can include interpreting and captioning services, alternative text requests, note-taking requests, and final exam proctoring. The accommodations are not addressed holistically by the university but on a case-by-case basis. DSS offers training on cultural diversity, but the training does not include how to optimize class instruction. The various multicultural student organizations across campus have asked for more diversity and cultural training for students, faculty, and staff. Unfortunately, with the severe budget cuts that are happening due to the pandemic, this will not be a priority. My school is dedicated to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging, so we offer training for our faculty and staff through a grant we received to do so. We are committed to making every student feels they are an integral part of our school community. I am hopeful that when the other university units see what we are doing, they will pressure the administration to make this training available across campus.
The easy access to technology has completed redefined the classification and expression of knowledge in higher education. The Internet is a source of free-flowing information that anyone can access and was considered revolutionary for education when it was introduced. This information is constantly updated, unlike printed materials that become obsolete almost from the moment they print. Information can be classified as goods that are public, private, or club. These classifications have become more nuanced over time. However, commercial concerns are created when information from the Internet is used in the classroom. Copyright laws can prohibit sharing of educational materials. This is in opposition to the belief that education is sharing. It’s the willingness to share knowledge and expertise, skills and passion, with one another. Instructors and students need to be aware of these issues when incorporating information gleaned from the Internet into a project.
Images can also be restricted by copyright. Getty Images consistently monitors the use of their pictures and assesses fines on people who have used their images without consent. I had a student in one of my online courses use a Getty image in a presentation that she posted on YouTube. Two years later, this student received a letter from Getty stating she had used this image without permission and published it in the public domain. They levied a hefty fee for the use of the picture.
Some initiatives address these copyright issues. Creative Commons is a nonprofit organization that licenses and uses an open copyright license, making it easier for instructors to access openly licensed material. Many instructors are starting to use open sources instead of textbooks, making it easier and more affordable for students to access the course content. Adopting these open educational resources allows instructors and students access to various resources while following the copyright laws.
Reiser, R.A. & Dempsey, J.V. (2018). Trends and issues in instructional design and technology
(4th ed.). Pearson
I am a higher education administrator with over 15 years of experience in communications and operations. The views in my blog are my own.