Inclusion is defined as “the act or practice of including and accommodating people who have historically been excluded or marginalized (because of their race, gender, sexuality, or ability).” 

But what does that mean in terms of e-learning? Inclusive e-learning courses embody two main characteristics:

  • Representation: they include diverse and respectful content
  • Accessibility: they remove barriers and make the content accessible to everyone 

Let’s explore each of these characteristics and why they’re key to creating effective, engaging, and inclusive e-learning.


Representation in e-learning means the content—imagery, language, and names—are relatable to your learners. 

When learners feel seen and included they’re more likely to positively identify with course content, and they’re better able to relate the information to their own individual experiences. This helps them engage with the material and retain what they’re learning. If everyone’s unique backgrounds and situations aren’t considered, they might conclude the content doesn’t apply to them or, worse, they might feel left out or hurt. 

One of the goals of representation in e-learning is to create an environment where everyone feels valued and safe, and that feeling of safety is critical when it comes to learning. Studies show that for people to learn effectively, they first have to feel emotionally safe. Beyond feeling safe, feelings of all kinds influence different parts of learning—like attention, motivation, and engagement. 


Obviously, for learners to engage with content, they must first be able to access it. You may have seen us talk about accessibility here on E-Learning Heroes before, and for good reason! We know that courses that aren’t designed with accessibility in mind miss a huge opportunity to reach everyone. They also aren’t effective because learners will focus more on trying to access the content than actually absorbing it.

While most instructional designers understand the importance of creating accessible e-learning, it may not be as obvious to stakeholders. If you need to build a business case for creating accessible e-learning, try sharing these facts:

Learn More

There’s a lot to learn about inclusion, but now you have insight into what inclusive e-learning is and why it matters. Want some tips on adding inclusive content to your courses? Check out this article: 4 Ways to Make Your Courses More Inclusive.

How has inclusive e-learning impacted you or your learners? Share your experiences in a comment below.

Follow us on Twitter and come back to E-Learning Heroes regularly for more helpful advice on everything related to e-learning. If you have any questions, please share them in the comments.

Cathy Edwards

I started learning more about how to make my elearning accessible when I learned of an employee who got stuck navigating a course. He had to guess on a test question and ended up having to retake several times. When I connected with him, he showed me some failings within courses he had reviewed using Jaws. It was such an eye-opener for me and totally has been the driving force behind what I've done in my company over the past couple of years from leading a subteam to create our 508 standards to presenting in team meetings, to co-presenting (in October) in a company wide learning event. I've even reached out to complete strangers on LinkedIn who have listed accessibility as a skill just to learn what they are doing and how they are incorporating accessibility into their online courses. I'm ... Expand

Amanda Nielsen