Course Design, Inclusive Teaching


  • Let students know the required readings as early as possible, and try to resist changing the readings during the semester.  Students who require readings in alternative formats (for example, electronic versions of textbooks) sometimes require substantial advance notice to be able to acquire readings they can use.
  • If you add readings during the semester, try whenever possible to distribute them in accessible formats (see Inclusive Educational Technology). For example, if you are distributing a newspaper article, add a link to the HTML version of the article from a newspaper website to the class Blackboard site in addition to or instead of distributing photocopies.
  • When ordering textbooks, check with the publisher whether electronic copies are available for purchase, or whether it is possible to receive an electronic copy of the textbook that can be provided to students through the accessibility office on their campus, and note the availability of electronic texts on your syllabus.  (Often, students will need to demonstrate that they have purchased a paper copy of the textbook to be able to use the electronic copy.) Electronic copies mean that students who need to use adaptive technologies do not have to wait for a paper version of their textbook to be scanned, a process that can take some time – especially at the beginning of the semester.
  • Unfortunately, current copyright law does not permit copy centres to provide electronic versions of course readers without significant additional costs for the licensing of electronic documents. If some of the documents in the course reader are available in an electronic format through the library, you might consider posting links to these resources on a course Blackboard site or website, or providing students with instructions for gaining access to these resources. Students who require an electronic version of documents in course readers for which electronic versions are not available through the library will need to contact accessibility services on their campus.
  • Choose materials that represent a broad range of cultural perspectives and that are accessible to students from a wide range of cultural backgrounds. Texts that presume particular background knowledge not directly related to the course, or texts that use highly-specialized or idiomatic language, may require additional contextualizing information.


  • Consider whether your goals for the course or assignment could be met by allowing students to complete class activities or submit assignments in multiple ways. For example, you might allow students to participate in class discussions by raising a question in class, by submitting a question by email to you before the class session, or by posting a question on the class discussion board. Alternatively, you might allow students to communicate their findings from a research project by writing an essay, by developing an interactive website, or by creating a poster presentation.
  • If students come to you with a request for accommodation or propose alternative arrangements for completing course requirements, consider whether this alternative arrangement can be extended to other members of the class. For example, if a student requests to record your lectures as a study aid, consider whether you might want to use a lecture capture system to make lecture recordings available to all students.


  • Timed writing assignments (such as in-class essays or one minute papers) can challenge students for a variety of reasons.  If you develop timed writing assignments, you might consider:
  • Allowing students to bring a laptop to class and email you their work.
  • Allowing students to complete the writing assignment at home if they have not had time to complete their work in class.


  • Not all students are equally able to interact, or are equally comfortable interacting, in particular environments (for example, posing questions of the instructor during a lecture, or participating in an unstructured tutorial discussion).  To ensure accessible and inclusive discussions and interactive activities, you might consider employing a mix of strategies that include:
  • Opportunities for students to reflect and prepare their contributions before participating.  This can include one minute papers (ask students to produce a short, informal, in-class piece of writing in response to a question or reading) or think-pair-share activities (students are given a short amount of time to think about or write down their answer to a question, then compare their responses with another student.  They may then report back to the class as a whole).
  • Opportunities for each student to contribute a question or comment. In addition to in-class discussions, you might consider running an online discussion board or soliciting questions or comments about the day’s material by email, and responding to some or all of these questions or comments in class.
  • At the beginning of the course, outline the interactive activities that you will be using throughout the semester or year, and ask students to speak to you if they have any concerns about participating in those activities.  You may wish to identify alternative opportunities or responsibilities for students uncomfortable with their ability to successfully complete particular kinds of interactive work.


  • If students must complete group work outside of class, this may present challenges to students with dependents, with inflexible work environments, and who commute long distances to school. Consider developing group work assignments that can be completed online, or providing students time during class or tutorial sessions for group meetings.