A surefire way of promoting powerful learning experiences is to make sure that inclusivity is at the forefront of every experience. In this article, we will focus on why placing emphasis on inclusivity plays such an important role in creating favourable learning experiences.
What is inclusive learning?
Rooted in the values of diversity and empowerment, inclusive learning seeks to recognise learners’ right to learning experiences that respect diversity, enable participation, remove barriers and anticipate a variety of learning needs and preferences. Inclusive learning can be achieved by EdTech firms shifting focus to honouring different cultures and communities in their products and services, and reducing exclusion from education.
In an environment that fosters inclusive learning, individual needs are met and every student is given the opportunity to succeed. This sort of learning environment embraces the benefits of diversity and rises to the challenge of creating learning experiences conducive to the growth and development of all learners involved.
What should be considered when advancing digital learning to promote inclusivity?
If there is no conscious, concerted effort to include learners, you can work on the assumption that you are actively excluding certain individuals from the learning environment. In the EdTech industry, or any sector in education for that matter, the learner should be the North Star. When working on product development, content ideation and the many other facets of EdTech, we should always be thinking about who the learners are and how we can best include them. This way, we’ll not only promote the values of diversity but we’ll also be certain that we’re providing value to learners with impactful products and content. This is ultimately what EdTech is all about.
A practical example of this is to focus on building diverse learner personas. To create efficient and diverse learner personas, you need to empathise with your target audience in order to best identify and understand the learning objectives, challenges, styles and aspirations of learners. A major stumbling block in the path to creating diverse learning personas is stereotyping. Avoid basing learner personas on stereotypes. Blanket attributes result in weak learner personas that fail to identify crucial trends, behaviours and characteristics in learners.
Limited access to technological resources is a significant obstacle in the path toward inclusivity. When we start to think about the efficacy of EdTech solutions, we need to take a number of practical factors into consideration. This might include access to data, internet connection, access to laptops or other technological resources. The access disparity is vast, particularly in Africa, and if we're not consciously considering these barriers to access, then our EdTech solutions will not reach those for whom they are intended.
What practical actions can we take to go a step further and actually eliminate these barriers? For starters, we can limit the number of videos we add to eLearning content for learners with limited access to data. Keeping the videos as short as possible to limit data consumption is also an effective way to navigate this particular challenge. Another practical way to create valuable and easily accessible eLearning content despite the barriers is to make sure that the content we create is always optimised for the different types of devices that could be used by learners. It’s important to acknowledge the fact that not every learner has access to a laptop and may need to use a phone or tablet to view the content.
When we think about the democratisation of the education system, there is a practical element to be considered in terms of inclusivity. Lived experience, which is quite subjective in nature, is an essential part of accessibility. If a student can identify with, and feel represented by a learning experience, they are more likely to assimilate that knowledge in a long-term, effective manner. This is a true reflection of the pedagogical principles that emphasise the importance of thinking about inclusion as a first step to actioning inclusive policies and guidelines. The thinking stage serves as a reminder of our own assumptions and biases. These biases are likely to impact the content that we create, in a way that does not honour inclusivity.
It is incredibly important for the content creators themselves to be reflective of a diverse learner demographic A diverse demographic of learning creators and stakeholders will result in an assimilation of diverse skills, which are invaluable in capturing learners’ lived experiences.
It has been great to see an uptake in companies publishing policies that speak to diversity and inclusion and how their content ought to reflect these values. However, inclusive learning is about more than just policies - it’s also about how these policies are implemented in the workplace itself. Without alignment in policy and practice, true diversity and inclusivity cannot be achieved. We now need the focus to be on creating harmony between concept and action.
What are some of the barriers faced by entrepreneurs designing EdTech solutions?
While technology is often thought to be the answer to all our problems, it is important to note that technology alone doesn’t solve challenges in education. Rather, it’s a tool that can be used to address problems such as access to quality education and inadequate accessibility to learning content.
EdTech solutions ought to be built with the goal of supporting existing educational institutions. Some of these institutions struggle to provide quality education that’s accessible to all students no matter their background, geographic location or socioeconomic status. The EdTech industry has great potential to provide solutions to this. By creating EdTech solutions that seek to replace existing systems, entrepreneurs run the risk of alienating those who rely on the education system.
Entrepreneurs in EdTech need to understand the different needs of learners and how to cater to those needs. In addition, they should focus on how their solution can be accessible to the most under-served, under-represented and under-resourced learners. The EdTech industry is held together by many common objectives, but the most important of those is to improve the quality of education currently available.
By requiring a multi-stakeholder approach, entrepreneurs open themselves up to greater insight and invaluable collaboration that will undoubtedly help design impact-driven products for the benefit of all students. Why take an independent approach in an innovative journey when you can include governments and institutions as part of a collaborative effort to drive change?
How can EdTech make education in Africa more Afrocentric?
EdTech brings forth endless opportunities to remove educational barriers, and essentially, recalibrate the playing field in Africa. Transforming a whole system sounds like a mammoth task, but what if we just focused on filtering EdTech solutions down to as many communities as possible? What if, by just making these solutions more accessible, we could breathe new life into learners who were only given the opportunity to learn from traditional teaching methods that have previously failed? Imagine the future we could create.
Keeping learners at the centre of everything we seek to accomplish in EdTech, and drawing on diverse ranges of scholarship, steers us away from the notion that western White educational philosophy is the way. It starts with us deconstructing how we have been conditioned to think about what education and learning look like, aligning policy with practice and, most importantly, looking ahead at how we can provide impactful learning experiences for all.
UNESCO. What is “inclusive education”? (accessed on 17 May 2022)
TTRO. Learner Personas: Adding Dimension To Your Instructional Design (accessed on 30 May 2022)