With the first wave of COVID-19 in Australia in 2020, many students faced unforeseen challenges and many lessons were learnt. Despite distance education being a part of tertiary education for some time, remote learning for primary and secondary education sectors was new. Including all students in learning experiences and promoting inclusive education in remote teaching became necessary concerns.
The abrupt nature of the change to learning caused challenges. For example, educators’ own competence with digital course design and delivery, and maintaining equity and access for all students.
A student’s readiness for online learning, and their technical capacity at home impacts their ability to access the teacher’s information. Luciano Frumos explains these and other challenges in her article Inclusive Education in Remote Instruction with Universal Design for Learning.
Frumos also notes that while students are different in the traditional classroom, school closures and distance learning have a disproportionate effect. This is especially the case for students with learning difficulties or disability.
In her article Frumos draws on the 2011 work of Florian and Black-Hawkins to introduce two approaches for at-risk learners:
- the additional needs approach that focuses only on the student who has special educational needs and the demand for additional support
- the inclusive pedagogical approach that focuses on all the students of the classroom
Frumos argues that the online remote learning environment provides a backdrop that is flexible enough to focus on an inclusive pedagogical approach. This means the learning design supports the learning of ALL students, not only those with learning difficulties. Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is one approach to support inclusive education in remote teaching.
The UDL approach is aimed at reducing barriers to students accessing learning, engaging with their learning and representing what they learn. The framework has many checkpoints that can be used to promote access, engagement and expression, which can be implemented readily in the online learning environment.
- CAST (2018). Universal design for learning guidelines version 2.2. http://udlguidelines.cast.org/
- Florian, L., & Black‐Hawkins, K. (2011), Exploring inclusive pedagogy. British Educational Research Journal, 37(5), 813-828. https://doi.org/10.1080/01411926.2010.501096
- Frumos, L. (2020). Inclusive Education in Remote Instruction with Universal Design for Learning. Revista Romaneasca pentru Educatie Multidimensionala, 12(2Sup1), 138-142. https://doi.org/10.18662/rrem/12.2Sup1/299