It is essential that programme design also takes into account the needs of disabled students who might be studying on the new degree course. The QAA Code of Practice: Students with Disabilities asks institutions to:
Consider making arrangements which ensure that all academic and technical staff:
- plan and employ teaching and learning strategies which make the delivery of the programme as inclusive as is reasonably possible;
- know and understand the learning implications of any disabilities of the students whom they teach and are responsive to student feedback; and
- make individual adaptations to delivery that are appropriate for particular students, which might include providing handouts in advance and/or in different formats, short breaks for interpreters to rest, or using radio microphone systems, or flexible/interrupted study for students with mental health difficulties.
While many of the necessary considerations need to be made at the unit level, the programme design and accompanying learning outcomes need to recognise the needs of students with differing abilities. At the level of programme design, ensuring accessibility is most evident in the learning outcomes and the assessment that will be used in order for a student to achieve these goals. Thus a learning outcome that requires students to demonstrate an ability to communicate effectively orally through individual and group presentations might be too restrictive. For example, a student who is visually or aurally impaired might, by the nature of their disability, be unable to achieve this learning outcome successfully. Therefore a more general outcome that requires students to communicate effectively issues relevant to the economics subject area might be considered a more inclusive learning outcome for those students who are unable to participate in an assessment mode that is limited to presentations.
Ultimately, programme design that incorporates substantial choice will be accessible to a wider range of students. Programmes with flexible study patterns, stand-alone modules/units that do not have to be completed in a strict order, extensive choice of options and flexible modes of delivery and assessment will be more inclusive. Also, incorporating flexibility into programme design acknowledges that there are many ways of demonstrating competence in relation to clearly defined course objectives. This can mean making available to, or developing with, students a variety of ways of demonstrating programme specific learning.
Top Tip: Consulting the institution’s disability officer in the initial stages of course design can provide valuable insight into the degree to which the new programme will be attractive and inclusive for students with varying disabilities.