Skip main navigation

Academic perspective

Prof Graeme Earl provides us with the reasons he feels inclusion is important and how it has changed his teaching practices whilst delivering courses.
GRAEME EARL: I’m Professor Graeme Earl. I’m a professor of digital humanities. I’ve been teaching in higher education, one way or another, for about 20 years. But only over the last, maybe, five years have I done quite a lot of teaching that’s online. And particularly in a context where I’m not directly interacting with that person, the person that I’m teaching. And it’s that process that’s made me realise how important understanding issues of inclusion are to my teaching, and also from the perspective of the person being taught.
I’ve been based in a higher education institution, which has lots of mechanisms for supporting students and staff with a wide range of needs and interests. But moving that process online means that some of those support mechanisms aren’t present. And so I’ve become very interested in ways in which technology, and the ways in which we design different learning experiences, have an impact on how people understand, how people build discussions, how people interact with each other, and what the barriers are as a consequence of those differences. But also, what the potentials are as a result of that difference.
Sometimes I think that the language and the way in which accessibility is framed might be seen as a kind of conforming to a deficit model. There is a problem. And that problem needs to be addressed. In the case of my interests, let’s deal with that through technology. Whereas I, wholeheartedly from every part of me, is now convinced that exactly the opposite is the case. Clearly we have to have the legal and ethical frameworks, because, for so long, we haven’t done this, which is evil in every sense. But doing it is not in order to comply with our legal and ethical obligations.
Doing it is an extraordinary creative opportunity, because it has made me think much more about how I communicate, much more about what I think is important, and much more about the role of different voices in my own understanding and in the understanding of all of my students.
In this video, Professor Graeme Earl explains why he feels inclusion is important and how it has changed his teaching practices.
Graeme is a professor in Digital Humanities who has worked with digital technologies to introduce archaeology to many students over the years. He highlights the need to remember the barriers that can come into play and how important it is to understand the issues of inclusion.
When thinking about some of the issues faced by those with disabilities when studying, it is worth remembering that not all that is created in a digital manner is automatically accessible. Whilst developing the resources for this online learning experience, we have had to think about the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and the accessibility of a MOOC environment.
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are recognised as a legal requirement for digital content in many countries and in the UK and Europe Universities may be required to comply with the EU Web Accessibility Directive which includes WCAG.
The basis of how digital content and technologies (ICT) must be made accessible is stated in a set of ‘Key principles for accessible procurement’.
You may also be interested in other related resources which can be accessed from the ‘See also’ section at the bottom of this page.
You may feel you do not need to know about web accessibility guidelines when thinking about inclusive learning and teaching environments! However, these guidelines can be the key to being able to personalise documents, develop multiple accessible formats and allow access for those using assistive technologies.
Having looked at the links provided, can you share with others, what impact they may have in your situation?

© This work is created by the University of Southampton and licensed under CC-BY 4.0 International Licence. Erasmus + MOOCs for Accessibility Partnership.
This article is from the free online

Inclusive Learning and Teaching Environments

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education