Teaching with Technology

Access and Inclusion in Online Teaching

Reinert Center typeset_icon_2014_solid_082214by James Fortney, Instructional Developer, Reinert Center

This past weekend (April 1-2), the Reinert Center hosted an Online Teaching and Learning Institute (OTLI) for accelerated courses. This two-day intensive workshop was designed for faculty with minimal teaching experience in an online format. Participant-driven conversations explored effective teaching practices for any discipline, with special emphases given to course goals/objectives, assessment, student engagement, and selecting online tools to support learning activities (e.g., Google Apps to facilitate student collaboration).

An important aspect of each session topic was online access and inclusion for students with disabilities. Participants grappled with the tension of designing for and responding to different accommodation needs—and how they emerge, shift, intensify, and even disappear throughout online learning experiences. During the OTLI conversations, disability became a catalyst for creative pedagogical thinking about more inclusive forms of online course design. Disability Studies scholars describe this creative process as a rupture to normative ways of doing teaching and learning (Gotkin, 2012). As such, starting from the experience of disability allows for alternatives, options, and possibilities to emerge that transcend retrofitted accommodations linked to individual student needs. Rather, we start to design and develop courses for access and inclusion across teaching situations (i.e., face-to-face, flipped, hybrid, online, etc.). This is important critical and creative work that benefits all learners.

Ask yourself: How will students experience this course online? Consider the aural, spatial, temporal, and visual dimensions of online learning. Consider how cultural, physical, and technological factors can create barriers to online learning. Consider how different online learning activities might eliminate, frustrate, or produce diverse accommodation needs. These (and many other) considerations offer creative “places to start” when developing online courses (Dolmage, 2015).

What experiences do you have providing accommodations in online courses? Do you have creative ideas for designing online learning activities that are accessible and inclusive? Share examples in the comments section of this blog.



Dolmage, J. (2015). Universal design: Places to start. Disability Studies Quarterly, 35.

Gotkin, K. (2012, July 11). The rupture sometimes [Video file]. Retrieved from http://kevingotkin.com/the-rupture-sometimes/