Institute for Academic Development
Institute for Academic Development

Accessibility

Some questions you may need to consider around accessible curriculum design.

Am I designing this course to be as accessible as I possibly can within given resources?

Have you done everything within your given resources and capacity to ensure that students can equally access the teaching spaces you are creating whether within the classroom, in a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) or during off-campus learning?

Background

Our curricula must be designed to be both accessible and inclusive, ensuring that it is possible for all students to achieve the highest successful outcome. Any structural barrier to doing so may be perceived as discrimination.

The QAA Quality Code on Programme Design and approval states that:

In setting out criteria to be considered in the design of programmes and testing the fulfillment of these criteria in programme approval, higher education providers take into account the needs of a body of student who reflect the diversity of protected characteristics and prior educational experience, and promote the development of inclusive practice.

For more information on this, please see:

Flexibility

Flexibility is key to ensuring courses or programmes are accessible.

It is important that you think about what is core to a particular course or a particular degree programme.

What is core to your course? Something is ‘core’ when it contributes to a key competence standard. The Equality Act defines a competence standard as an academic, medical or other standard applied for the purpose of determining whether or not a person has a particular level of competence or ability.

Increasing choice and flexibility enables students to:

  • Manage their time effectively
  • Work in ways that they feel confident and comfortable
  • Have ownership over their own degree programme, allowing them to co-create their curriculum in partnership with the University

A few things to consider

Timetabling

At the University timetabling is rigid with thousands of courses competing for space and time. What will you do to ensure that students who have to miss classes (for example, due to illness) are not disadvantaged?

Example: Is it possible to give permission for a note-taker to attend lectures and take notes for the student instead of the student?

Delivery

it is inevitable that some students will need to take periods off from studying, for a variety of reasons. What does your course or programme do to support students studying part-time or taking an interruption?

Example: Patti has multiple sclerosis and for much of the year, her condition has been in remission. However, just before the exam period the Business School she experienced deterioration in her health and had to take time off. Given the circumstances, the Business School agreed to take an aggregate mark over the year instead of a insisting that the student took a resit.

Course selection

Students often know their own strengths, weaknesses, and limits. Do you provide a wide range of courses with accurate information to ensure that students can make informed decisions?

Not only is it helpful to students for them to be very clear on a course’s learning outcomes and content, but this can assist in helping a student decide if a particular course suits them and their skills.