Deakin at STARS 2021 conference with Jo Elliott and Darci Taylor

Teaching & Learning
Inclusive Education
Best practice

Deakin continued its leadership in higher education with significant representation from staff sharing their innovative practice with colleagues nationally and internationally at the STARS 2021 annual conference in July. Here, Dr Jo Elliott and Darci Taylor from Deakin Learning Futures, discuss their STARS contribution on designing for inclusion and reflect on the successful event.

Too often, we treat accessibility as an accommodation, putting the onus on individual students to disclose their need for alternative learning materials.

If we design for accessibility and inclusion from the outset, it not only reduces the need for students to make such disclosures, but it can benefit all students by supporting a range of ways to engage with the content.

CloudFirst learning design incorporates Deakin’s Inclusive Education principles, through clear and scaffolded learning outcomes, the use of different media and activity types, provision of transcripts and text alternatives, and embedded support and regular opportunities for feedback.

Our CloudFirst CloudDeakin templates feature built-in accessibility requirements, such as appropriate colour contrast and structured headings. Incorporating this into the learning design process supports teaching staff to create inclusive, accessible learning experiences from the very beginning, creating better experiences for students and reducing the need to retrofit alternatives later.

This approach generated lots of enthusiastic discussion and positive feedback from the audience, with one audience member commenting, ‘this is terrific – Deakin leading in so many ways!’.

The plenary sessions, from Prof. Simon Marginson, Dr Jennifer Keup, Prof. Mark Brown and our own former VC, Emeritus Prof. Jane den Hollander AO, and student panel prompted us to reflect on what we’re here for and what we want to achieve, both through our individual and institutional practices and as a sector; a call to draw on the lessons of the last 18 months to create a better future for our students, our universities and our society.

Overall, the conference was a welcome opportunity to reconnect with colleagues across higher education to reflect, both on the past 18 months and on our vision for the future. You can access papers and read the full conference proceedings on the STARS website.

If you would like to learn how to use the CloudFirst templates and design inclusive and accessible unit sites, Deakin staff can enrol to access our self-paced resources via the CloudFirst website.

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