Highlight: Celebrating World Autism Consciousness
World Autism Awareness: How to Create Inclusive eLearning Experiences
Autism Spectrum Disorder manifests itself in different ways. While some may have difficulty with social interactions, others display repetitive behaviors or their senses are oversensitive. Personalization is always the key to meaningful and memorable learning. However, course developers and educators must always consider those who have specific needs when designing online resources. This is the only way to create truly interactive and integrative eLearning content that everyone will like. In honor of World Autism Awareness Month, here are some insights into instructional design to create a more engaging and emotionally centered e-learning experience for EVERY member of your audience.
Tips for designing accessible and engaging eLearning courses
Offer personal learning paths
Self-direction is often the key to creating inclusive e-learning and empowering the individual. It gives them the ability to set their own course and choose activities that align with their goals and gaps. For example, you can offer personal certification pathways that focus on specific skills or core competencies. Learners can create a schedule that works best for them at their own pace. You can even pre-evaluate strengths and areas for improvement and then give them a list of recommendations if they need additional guidance.
Add various eLearning resources
Special needs learners may feel alienated from the group, especially if you dedicate certain resources just to them. They are no longer equal to their colleagues because they have limited access to the training library or are treated differently by trainers. However, offering a wide range of emotionally centered activities puts everyone on a balanced playing field. Everyone can choose activities that suit their preferences, interests, and learning needs. For example, those who are sound sensitive may opt for reading activities or visual aids versus serious games and podcasts. Conversely, others may prefer to remove external distractions as they need these sensory stimuli.
Offer flexible support
Every member of your study audience needs assistance at one point or another. Preferably micro-learning resources that help you close knowledge and skills gaps on-site; For example, bite-sized tutorials that guide you through a task or help you troubleshoot a common problem. A JIT library gives them more autonomy as they can discreetly focus on areas for improvement between planned learning sessions.
Let the learners set their own expectations and milestones
People often know their own boundaries and limits when it comes to educational activities. Therefore, encourage them to set personal milestones and goals based on previous experience and behavioral considerations. For example, they may not be able to sit for long or may be concerned about inappropriate social interaction with their peers. You should be able to determine when and how to participate in your eLearning program.
The difference between inclusive and individualized
Individualized learning is not always the best approach, especially when it comes to isolating learners. While any eLearning experience should be tailored to your learner, people with special needs rarely want to feel “special”. Hence, it is important to design accessible resources that are intended for all online learners versus bespoke resources that limit their potential or underestimate their skills. For example, there shouldn’t be a library exclusively for learners with ADHD and another for those on the spectrum. However, they can set up peer-based communities and other support networks that allow them to dictate the terms.
Another valuable step in the design process is the needs analysis. Conduct surveys and assessments to find out what learners want from your eLearning course and identify potential barriers. Do you have negative prejudices about online learning? Should you include subtitles and captions so that they have more control during their meetings? How can you improve navigational skills to guide them through the course without compromising their autonomy? These are all factors to consider when designing accessible eLearning.
World Autism Awareness Month should be a time when we re-evaluate our current approach to eLearning to ensure that it is inclusive and easily accessible regardless of learner needs or special considerations. On the other hand, we should never stop thinking about how we can design engaging learning activities that give everyone equal opportunities to broaden their horizons and actively participate in the experience.
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