The Inclusive Learning Handbook
What were the main aims of the initiative?
This example outlines an EC-funded project (Leonardo da Vinci sub-programme of the Lifelong Learning Programme Contract No: 2012-1-ES1-LEO05-49449) entitled ‘Inclusive Learning’. One of the project’s main aims is to integrate Accessibility Guidelines developed by partners’ previous projects and from other sources, in order to develop an on-line OER (Open Educational Resource), the ‘Inclusive Learning Handbook’. These guidelines will help teachers to adopt pedagogical methodologies that address the learning needs of people with disabilities. The OER aims to help teachers to provide their students with as many learning options and accessible variations of the content as they can.
This work uses specific learning design principles to ensure that teaching practices can accommodate all types of students. It aims to assist educators in creating engaging and motivating learning experiences regardless of students’ abilities and preferences. It also seeks to create a simple heuristic evaluation method for instructional technologists to use when designing online learning spaces and scenarios.
Location, setting, Scope, key events etc.
The Inclusive Learning Handbook is an online website, utilising Wordpress. Wordpress is an open source content-management system based on PHP and MySQL and it is distributed under the GNU General Public License. The online version (http://boppo.udg.edu:8000/repo2/wordpress/ ) allows it to become “alive”. It is hosted in the Inclusive Learning website (http://www.inclusive-learning.eu/) and is addressed to teachers and policy makers.
The scope of the work covers the following areas:
What issues/challenges does the example address?
This work enables learning engagement using the latest technologies in Education (e.g. Massive Open Online Courses -MOOCs). Enhancing creativity and innovation requires diversity: of people, thoughts, experiences and knowledge. This creates less homogeneous groups of people. Policy makers should embrace diversity as a source of potential positive outcomes for societies because it promotes positive characteristics, values and attributes (empathy, respect, understanding, collaboration etc.) and cultivates a new ‘breed’ of learners that are inspired (not taught or educated). Embracing an inclusive and diverse culture is paramount to innovation, both personally and socially.
How was the Initiative implemented?
The consortium comprised of the University of Girona (UdG), the Open University of Catalonia (UOC), the University of Piraeus Research Centre (UPRC), University College Dublin (UCD) and Raising the Floor International (RtF-I). Associate partners were also involved from Latin American Higher Education Institutions (HEIs).
A key element of the Inclusive Learning Portal architecture is the Inclusive Learning Handbook, which provides an easy guide for teachers on how to develop accessible Learning Objects. The Handbook incorporates a selection of guidelines:
What where the key Outcomes? What impact/added value did they prove? What were the biggest challenges?
The Handbook contains a historical context of inclusive education worldwide, definitions, the main principles for inclusive e-learning and the Learning management tools that will be utilised. These are followed by the sections listed under the ‘example’ and ‘use case’ tabs.
The former tackles the issue of web accessibility by offering useful tips on how to design web content that allows anyone to perceive, understand, navigate and interact with that content. It is then envisaged that teachers and practitioners will be able to create and deposit their own Learning Objects that show how to make content accessible to every student. Each example will have an introduction to the accessibility challenge addressed, the target group that will benefit from the solution, a step-by-step how-to guide to making the content more accessible and further recommendations and additional reading.
The ‘use case’ tab contains learning scenarios, which is a space for reflection for educators. The scenarios present different circumstances that educators may encounter or are currently encountering in their classrooms and they try to help with the realisation of the different needs and preferences of each student individually. The main objective of this task is to obtain a set of cases that offer teachers didactic and technological alternatives to enable them in supporting a diverse classroom in the context of an Inclusive Design for Learning.
The project work has been disseminated through the website and social media, at conferences and through publications.
Has the initiative been evaluated or are there plans for this in the future?
A pilot MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) on Designing and Developing Inclusive Learning was delivered to teachers at Latin American HEIs. The purpose of this course is to provide teachers with the concepts and tools for designing and developing inclusive learning considering the preferences and needs of all students. The course introduces teachers to Universal Design for Learning and the main concepts of web accessibility while they develop open educational resources. Teachers will be able to apply these approaches and techniques to achieve an environment for inclusive learning.
Teachers’ feedback suggests that they would be very interested in taking a Certified Accessible e-Training Course to improve their skills and abilities to develop accessible learning designs.
Have any plans been made for future direction of the initiative?
A paper form of the Handbook is planned. This will be a brief document that could be regarded as a ‘how-to’ guide to Inclusive Education and Accessibility. It will introduce novices to the field and enable them to understand the significance and importance of inclusion as a concept. It will consist of a brief introduction to the terminology and definitions, the key principles in order to make teaching and learning content accessible to people with disabilities (e.g. hearing and/or visual impairment) as well as a checklist with the basics steps towards a more inclusive pedagogical approach and teaching methodology.
In order to increase its reach, use and influence, the Handbook is looking for other similar mission driven institutions to translate it to other languages and help distribute it. Initial work for translating it into Portuguese and Arabic is already taking place.
What are the main learning points?
It is important to highlight that substantial work on this field has been carried out in the past and should be consulted and utilised by future projects. Some of those contributions have been made by the project partners.
Are there further information about supporting materials?
Politis Y., Deveril D., Baldiris Navarro S., Avila C., de Lera E., Monjo T. and, Goodman L. (2014). Introducing the Inclusive Learning Handbook: an OER for teachers and policy makers. Valencia: IATED Academy Publishing.
Zervas P., Kardaras V., Baldiris Navarro S.M., Bacca J., Avila C., Politis Y., Deveril, Treviranus J., Fabregat R., Goodman L. and Sampson D.G. (2014). An Online Educational Portal for Open Access to Teaching and Learning of People with Disabilities. In D.G. Sampson, D. Ifenthaler, M. Spector & P. Isaias (eds.) Digital Systems for Open Access to Formal and Informal Learning. Dordrecht: Springer.
The web area:
Figure 1: Screen shot of web page - Inclusive Learning Handbook for Teachers