An Introduction to Inclusion and eLearning

What is inclusivity? Why is inclusivity a critical element of effective eLearning? How do you implement inclusivity into eLearning?


What Is Inclusivity?

Let’s start with what most good articles start with: a definition. In general, inclusivity is the practice of including traditionally underrepresented or marginalized groups of people.

An inclusive online course has, in the interest of being pithy, two key characteristics:

  1. Free of bias, either implicit or explicit, and

  2. Actively promotes, features, and provides visibility, access, and learning accommodations to underrepresented and marginalized groups.

Where Have I Heard About This Before?

"Inclusivity" is one of those interesting perennial buzzwords you might've heard bandied about recently, concurrent with the rise of eLearning discourse. That's an oxymoron, of course (the phrase "perennial buzzword," that is). A buzzword, by definition, is a word or phrase that achieves popularity for only a short period of time. So, why use it in reference to inclusivity?

Because while the term "Inclusivity", and the ideals it espouses, have deep roots in our society, it's often treated as a novelty when it eventually cycles back around into our cultural consciousness. And it does operate as a cycle—back to those aforementioned deep roots, specifically in the field of education:

  • 1835 saw the first college, Oberlin College, to accept black students as well as white students, and was also the first college to go coeducational with women in 1837;

  • 1954 saw the landmark Brown v Board of Education Supreme Court ruling segregation in schools to be unconstitutional;

  • 1975 saw the establishment of the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (today known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), which required public schools to provide free and equa