Inclusive online course design: Lessons from a pandemic

Carter, A. & Seoudi, S. Inclusive online course design: Lessons from a pandemic. TESL Ontario Contact, 48(1),19-27.

This article describes the planning and process of adapting a lively and engaging in-person ESL foundation program at Ryerson University in Toronto to an inclusive virtual learning environment during COVID-19.  To support the development of an inclusive online learning environment that would create a sense of community, developers were guided by these four guiding principles that governed the design process:  

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) in which students were offered multiple means of engagement including choices of assignment and opportunities to work individually and in groups. Classes were offered synchronously and asynchronously.

Flexibility whereby classes were offered at two different times to accommodate schedules and students who were located in different time zones. Office hours offered by instructors were flexible and students were offered options as to the digital tools they could use to complete assignments.

 Digital tools to enhance community A wide range of digital tools were used to support learning and to enable students to connect with one another online and to work collaboratively.

 Demonstrating personal interest in students Instructors purposely chose assignments and topics that were relevant to the lives of students. Instructors connected with students as individuals with different interests and learning needs.

Overall, students and instructors responded positively to the virtual learning environment; students reported their satisfaction with the program in general and in particular with the opportunities to remain engaged with learning and to connect with each other online. Instructors noted an increased use of English through the variety of digital tools offered.

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