Distance learning is one of the fastest growing areas in education (Moore & Tait, 2002) and developments in computer science and information and communications technologies have spurred this growth. The impact of ever-increasing numbers of online courses on the demographic composition of classes has meant that the notions of diversity, multiculturality and globalization are now key aspects of curriculum planning.
“In recent years, the two Ds—diversity and distance education—have been gathering momentum in higher and continuing education” (Bo-Yuen Ngai 2003, p. 157).
The aim of inclusive e-learning platforms is to create an equal experience for people with all abilities. In order to achieve this, it is necessary for e-learning designers to consider the diverse backgrounds and circumstances of their learners.
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are an internationally recognised set of recommendations that explain how to make digital services, websites and applications accessible to everyone. These guidelines are based on four design principles: perceivable, operable, understandable and robust. An inclusive e-learning platform should aim to address these four areas. In practice this translates to:
An inclusive e-learning platform allows the learners to communicate effectively. The learners should be able to communicate any feedback, concern or communication with ease.
It is also imperative to consider the varied circumstances of the learners. Not all learners may have the same internet and device access. Therefore it is important to ensure that the e-learning platform can be accessed from many different devices, including mobile phones and tablets.
There are many other ways to ensure inclusivity such as gamifying the platform and learning, creating personalised learning paths and ensuring removal of bias from content. To create the best experience for all learners, inclusive e-learning platforms must be the norm. An inclusive e-learning environment will make the learners feel comfortable and welcome, encouraging interaction and learning, ensuring that the learners will get the best possible experience.