4 Ways IT Can Support Inclusive Education [video]

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There are several simple steps that the IT organization can take to make education more inclusive. You can read this article to find out more.

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Thomas Tobin
Program Area Director for Distance Teaching & Learning
University of Wisconsin-Madison

From an IT side of things, we are in a really good position to support inclusive education because it's the tools that we collect and approve for use with our staff members, our faculty members, our service areas, all of those tools present a universe of what's possible to do at our colleges and universities.

1. Personal file space

Now this seems like a no, not a really important thing perhaps, but giving students empty space where they can store whatever they want means that students are then in control of creating different types of materials themselves. It also opens up learning designers and instructors to give more choices in how they ask for information knowing that students have the tools and the space to be able to create different kinds of things based on their learning preferences in that moment for that assignment or that assessment.

2. Calendaring tools and software

Having a calendar that is a master calendar for everybody at the institution and asking learners to be able to use it and selecting tools that allow us to link to our personal calendars and other work calendars in an easy and seamless way means that our students have a leg up on the thing that nobody is good at, time management. And so that's one of those important things that IT can help with accessibility and Universal Design for Learning.

3. Collaboration software

Now a lot of our colleges and universities, we've adopted collaboration software that allows for synchronous video conversations and for remote meetings. That means that our professors no longer have to be tied to their offices for office hours. Our students don't have to be tied to the physical campus for collaboration with one another or collaboration with their instructors. And if we're selecting those technology tools well, we're selecting them with opportunities so that students can communicate with one another and with their instructor and with the support staff in more than one way. Imagine a student with a speech disfluency. That person can use the chat feature just as well as using the synchronous video and audio tools. So selecting tools that allow people to communicate in more than one way and select the way that they want to communicate best.

4. Mobile interfaces

And here is where as IT professionals we really have an influence over how the universe of possibilities exists at our colleges and universities. If the learning management system that we use, our websites, and our interfaces all have similar designs, similar functions, and they're all responsively designed so that people on their mobile devices can see, interact, and work with all of those different systems in a seamless way, it means that our learners have to learn our system once. And then they can get rid of that cognitive load and focus on learning the content or having the interactions with people who are helping them to learn.

So those four big pieces are places where we as IT professionals can really move the needle. Personal file space, calendars, collaboration software, and mobile interface design.