The University of New Brunswick (UNB) is preparing to launch an innovative new online course for faculty and instructors around accommodating students with differences in abilities.

The course is the result of nearly two years of work on the part of the university’s Office of Human Rights & Positive Environment, Student Accessibility Centre and the Centre for Enhanced Teaching and Learning. It’s designed to help instructors understand the principles surrounding the requirement to accommodate students with disabilities sufficiently well that they can apply them should they arise in their classroom.

Accommodations are strategies, technologies or adjustments that are intended to provide students with disabilities an equal chance to participate and learn in a post-secondary setting. Common examples would be note-taking support, text-to-voice software, large print material and exam accommodations. They do not modify or lower academic standards.

“The duty to accommodate makes it possible for students with academic ability, but for whom a disability has formerly been a barrier, to be academically successful,” said UNB Instructional Designer Bev Bramble, who was heavily involved in the course design.

Participants in the new online course can interact with the material in several ways. There are scenarios based on real incidents involving accommodation, videos, documents and short exams that draw from a question bank. All content is indexed and interlinked, meaning specific items and additional information can be found easily. After passing the three short exams, participants will receive a certificate that can be added to their teaching portfolio. The content within the course can subsequently be used as an information source.

“We’re really excited about the design of the course,” said UNB’s Student Accessibility Centre Director Jody Gorham. “We wanted it to be scenario-based but to also allow for easy access to supporting documents and resources on the topic of accommodation at the post-secondary level.”

A typical scenario might involve providing the student with a variety of ways to demonstrate understanding of a concept.

“Rather than having students only write a paper, they might be allowed to do a multimedia presentation or an audio recording,” Bramble added. “That could be beneficial not only to students with disabilities but for everyone. It makes the course more interesting and inviting to everyone.”

The course will launch this fall, but faculty members and instructors can already pre-register. Gorham and Bramble say they are excited to share what they hope will be a tool to reach many more faculty and staff in a much more engaging and productive way. The entire university stands to benefit.

“Accommodation makes for a more inclusive community. It allows people with differences to engage in all that university life has to offer,” Gorham said. “And that’s the right thing to do.”

Media contact: Hannah Classen

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