Inclusive eLearning design

Gill Chester, Lead Developer at the Little Man Project, shares her top tips for getting started when designing inclusive eLearning. 

What is inclusive design?
The term inclusive design has many definitions, but I use this one: Design that can help everyone experience the world around them in a fair and equal way. It’s not something that you should think of as an add on, or something you do after a module has been built. Inclusive design is a way of thinking, of designing for everyone, not just the majority.  

What is the difference between accessibility and inclusive design?
Making an online resource accessible and easier to use for a person with a disability is part of inclusive design, but it’s so much more. Inclusive design considers the nuances of people’s experiences, views and life experiences and tries to represent them authentically. 

What does this mean for eLearning design?
It means creating the best possible experience for everyone, and making all learning content available to all. Ideally, everyone should be able to see themselves in what you create and not feel excluded from it. This will include:

  • The things you say
  • The instructions you give
  • The images you use
  • The stories you tell
  • The way that you build
  • The media you use

Tips to help you make your eLearning more inclusive:

You aren’t going to get this right straight away. This is a journey that you will have to continually work towards. The important thing is to get started. To help, here are some things you can do:

  1. Read/listen to Ruined by Design by Mike Monteiro.
    He won’t tell you what to do, but he will convince you that good design is your responsibility and change your mindset, which is a great start. 
  2. To design for everyone, you need to start learning about everyone.
    This is an impossible task, but it shouldn’t stop you from trying. Read and research widely, talk to people you know, talk to people you don’t know, and speak to designers from other charities to find out about their experiences.  
  3. Put together a library of profiles and stories.
    Include people from different backgrounds, ethnicity, race, gender preference, ability and experience. It’s impossible to represent everyone in your library but the act of creating the stories will help you to learn about other people’s experiences and remind you that everyone is different. When you are designing, think back to your characters and try to think about how those people would respond to what you’re developing. Will they see themselves in your images, will they understand your instructions, will you be telling their stories?
  4. Ensure your quality process includes a full review for inclusive design principles. 
    This will include a step by step review of all the images, stories and language used in the module to ensure it meets the standards you have set.
  5. Try to get a range of people to review your modules and provide feedback.
    Treat their feedback with respect, try to understand their perspective and incorporate their opinion.  This can be difficult at first – you may feel their feedback is unfair, that they have not used the module correctly or that they want too much. If you feel this way, read
    Ruined by Design again as a reminder of your role as a designer!


Sarah Burrell

About Gill Chester

Gill has worked in learning and development for more than 20 years and is the lead developer at Little Man Project, a chosen partner to the Charity Learning Consortium. She often leads eLearning workshops at events hosted by the Consortium.

Little Man Project is an award winning eLearning design company specialising in working with voluntary sector clients, to develop sustainable solutions to meet their L&D needs. This includes a programme of training and mentoring to help charities create eLearning in-house.

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