Inclusive Teaching Online: Community of Practice Panel


APR, 2020

Digital Learning
Teaching & Learning

Learning Innovations

‘Accessibility is always going to be challenging but having a really friendly interface is good. Design for easy access to lectures, and name Week 4 or Week 6 rather than lecture 6 or 5 etc. Regular contact is needed. I really appreciated one lecturer who reached out to me as I was quiet in the online seminar. I was fine, I like to be quiet but it meant I knew the teachers were watching’.
(Kim Koelmeyer, Student)


A panel of experienced academics, Deakin Learning Futures experts and students gave their take on the most effective, inclusive ways to teach online in a lively Q and A style Inclusive education community of practice Zoom discussion on Inclusive teaching online just before Easter.

COVID-19 conditions were on the minds of the 97 staff who attended, well aware of the heightened importance of using inclusive methods to ensure their students’ learning despite the financial difficulties, noisy, crowded, chaotic study environments, poor internet connections and computers, heightened mental health conditions and other challenges many of them are facing.

Students Kim Koelmeyer and Erica Adams combined with Jaclyn Broadbent (Psychology), Jan West (Life and Environmental Sciences), Naomi David (Education, NIKERI), Peter Vuong (Deakin Business School), Jo Elliot (Digital Innovations DLF), and Brett McLennan (Learning Analytics, Office of the DVCE) to offer their thinking and practice examples to this critical teaching and learning topic.

Accessibility was a key theme throughout the discussion. Recent graduate Erica Adams recalled her online challenges; as a regional student she needed to travel to a library to connect to the internet. Erica experienced system crashes especially when viewing video and when in an online seminar. ‘Downloadable and accessible PDFs are critically important in that situation.’

For others, accessibility was about clarity of the interface, the consistency of communication coming from teachers and importantly, the opportunities to learn and complete assessment via a number of avenues. Fifth year BA/Law student Kim Koelmeyer appreciated it when academics ‘gave very clear objectives, instructions and support. I can drop in and drop out at regular intervals. There is a responsiveness that when quite quick, is really good’.

Panel member Naomi David spoke about making her seminars accessible for her diverse cohort of students by telling a story of vulnerability about herself. ‘I always start with a story of my own that begins with, “I can remember…” This story could include thinking, feeling and doing elements. My own migration story is a good example. Students get a glimpse of you. Then you can say, “Do you remember feeling…”’

Jaclyn Broadbent works hard to provide a safe learning environment for her students by providing multiple avenues to engage in discussion with other students and their teachers. ‘Students can live chat, use discussion forums or use Facebook groups – they have preferences, and these are all good social engagement opportunities. I do use an intelligent agent to detect who has been missing and I send a message that says just want to know how you are going. Multiple avenues in online assessment are also important. Students benefit from ‘three pieces of assessment that are scaffolded with feedback after each piece. Students have choices. There are written and video components and video feedback for students on how to improve. We create exemplars and link assessment to a real-life situation. The more pathways we offer, the greater the inclusion.’

Steve Morgan, from DSA – Access and Inclusion, spoke about the importance of avoiding online assessment assumptions. ‘You could think being able to do an exam at home will help a student struggling with mental health or physical disabilities. But at home there might be less support, and the new routine itself could create stress.’ Importantly, Steve believes lecturers’ attitudes are critical. ‘Patience, flexibility and understanding – these attitudes are strategies for lecturers to support students experiencing isolation and changes of circumstances in unpredictable times.’

For further information on this subject:

The DLF Transitioning Teaching Online blog provides regular updates, FAQs, links to workshops for online delivery and a lot of other useful information for Deakin teachers.

The Inclusive Teaching Toolkit is also packed with tips and examples of inclusive teaching at Deakin, including an online/blended teaching page.

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