How To Design For All Learners
Every learner is different. Whether they are different ages, races, or genders, and whether they have specific content accessibility needs, pre-existing knowledge about your training content, or no experience at all, each learner comes to your training with different backgrounds and expectations.
How Do You Design eLearning For All Those Unknown Variables?
Two words: inclusive design.
“Inclusion benefits everyone, it should be everyone’s concern. In this digitally transformed reality that we live and work in—where consumption does not consume and space has no limits—there is no downside to inclusion and it is possible to make room for us all.” – Jutta Treviranus, director of Inclusive Design Research Centre (IDRC)
Creating a culture of inclusivity goes far beyond offering annual diversity training and hoping it makes an impact. Inclusive design concepts need to be thoughtfully included from the ground up. HR directors, training managers, eLearning developers all need to hold diversity and inclusion top of mind when creating, developing, and delivering eLearning.
What Is Inclusive Design?
Inclusive design is not a design practice, but a philosophy of designing for one and extending to many. The goal of an inclusion mindset is to give as many people a seat at the table as possible in your design, regardless of experience level, abilities, socioeconomic status, education, ethnicities, race, gender preferences, culture, age, etc. It’s about creating the best possible experience that everyone can participate in.
The general idea is to remove as much bias (including unconscious bias) as possible. To do this, you need to include a diverse group of people and perspectives in your design process from the very beginning. A slogan popularized by the disability activism movement in the 1990s perfectly explains this idea: “Nothing about us without us!”
If you want to reach a diverse group of learners in your training, you need to include a diverse group in the development and beta testing.
Why Designing For Everyone Matters
Adopting an inclusive design mindset is worth the effort. Why? Bringing in the most people is good for business. You’ll reach more leads, drive more sales, and increase awareness of your brand. Having more diversity and a culture of inclusivity internally can also enhance your product development with new ideas and perspectives, leading to better offerings for a broader customer base.
“More than 60% of organizations believe diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) are important drivers of business results.” –Brandon Hall Group
Inclusive Design And Accessibility
Inclusive design involves more than following accessibility standards, but creating accessible content is a great starting point.
Your authoring tool should include certain features to make creating accessible content easier and more intuitive. For example, Lectora® includes a Use Web Accessibility Settings option that you can turn on at any time while developing your course. When you select this option, Lectora will automatically enable certain features in the application that will assist you with meeting Section 508 standards and the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 Level AA.
No matter what authoring tool you’re using, ensure that you’re including image alt tags, adding closed captions, and making sure your tab order flows naturally.
Then, take a look at the reading level of your closed captions and other on-screen text.
There are services out there, like Grammarly and Readable, that will analyze your copy and score the readability of your text. These tests are based on respected readability standards like the Flesh-Kincaid Grade Level and Gunning Fog Index. These standards are used across many industries to ensure that business and technical writing is accessible to all, no matter their educational background or reading level.
Another design practice to start incorporating into your eLearning development is what universal design experts Thomas Tobin and Barbi Honeycutt call “plus-one thinking.”
For every interaction you create, offer another way for the learner to get that same information. For example:
- If you’re presenting content as a graphical process flow with click to reveal text callouts, add a short video that demonstrates the process in real time.
- If you’ve created a splash interactive eLearning course that might be eating up your learner’s bandwidth, offer a downloadable text document too.
- If you include a video with audio narration, add a transcript or closed captions.
When you create content that’s too difficult for learners to access or understand, you automatically set them up for failure. By being more inclusive from the start and offering multiple ways for learners to engage with the learning, you’ll improve learner retention and satisfaction. And that will pay off big for your organization’s productivity.