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Embedding and sustaining inclusive STEM practices

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Rebecca Ferguson
15 May 2017

Trevor Collins, Chetz Colwell, Victoria Pearson and Nicholas Braithwaite

National student data has shown a range of attainment gaps for specific groups across Higher Education, specifically for: students from low socio-economic groups, students from black and minority ethnic groups, and students with disabilities (HEFCE, 2015). Consequently, the Higher Education Funding Council for England are funding 17 projects under the Catalyst programme to help address these inequalities. Building on prior experience, The Open University is leading a project with colleagues from the University of Leeds and Plymouth University, to evaluate and promote inclusive educational practices within the STEM disciplines.

Integrating accessibility within teaching and learning requires universities to embed and sustain module design and delivery practices that consider the diverse needs of all students. As more of our teaching and learning is being mediated through technologies, this brings opportunities as well as potential pitfalls, when it comes to inclusive education. Digital access to learning resources introduces opportunities for the use of assistive technologies and alternate formats that enhance the accessibility of learning resources for students with disabilities, but care needs to be taken to ensure the pace of innovation and interaction matches that of accessibility and inclusion.

Across the STEM disciplines there are particular challenges associated with fieldwork, labwork and notations. However, with changes to the Disabled Students Allowance Scheme, universities are increasingly responsible to ensure that the education they provide is accessible and inclusive. Within this presentation we’ll consider the role of the OpenTEL Research Area in inclusive education at the OU; we’ll describe some of the processes and approaches used in OU modules, and we’ll discuss how case studies and recommendations on inclusive practices might be produced and shared across the STEM disciplines.

HEFCE (2015). Causes of differences in student outcomes. Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) Independent Research Report. Available from: (last accessed 6th April 2017).


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