With the onset of the global COVID-19pandemic in March 2020, the world moved online. People settled in their home offices, meetings were moved from room to Zoom, and as a training provider in the international development field we were forced to further expand our online training services.

Our online learning experts, including myself, praised the switch towards more online learning for the opportunities it brought along. Suddenly, we could reach more people all over the world, especially those that we couldn’t have travelled to (for example, because the funds would not be available, or the situation in-country would not allow), and those that couldn’t have travelled to us (for example, because they could not be away from their office for several days/weeks in a row, or because they lacked the funds). Moreover, online learning allowed for more flexibility as people could(partially) learn at their own pace whenever it suited them (within their busy work-schedules). Wasn’t this great?! And, more importantly, wasn’t this also helping us to be more inclusive?

While implementing our online learning trajectories, I learned that, similar to any powerful innovation, online learning bears the potential to both include and exclude people from the learning processes. As a result, the sudden switch to online learning might have exacerbated existing inequalities in case such interventions were not designed and implemented well.

Therefore, I would like to ask for attention on the topic of inclusivity of online learning. The conclusion will not be to refrain from using online learning solutions. Rather, it’s about being aware of this inclusivity aspect when designing or implementing online learning trajectories.

When you are yourself working on this, here’s a tool to help you along. Below, you will find key questions that can help you to become more aware about the inclusivity of your online learning trajectories, based on a framework developed by Andy Nguyen and Lesley Gardner[1].According to this framework, there are three levels that determine digital inclusion: access to technology, ability to use and participate, and level of acceptance. Similar to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, the bottom level needs to be ensured to move on to the next level.

You can use these questions during design and/or implementation of online learning trajectories to help you better understand the context you are working in, and adapt your interventions accordingly.

Select the question marks to view the questions.

Even though this seems something that is more apparent in countries with poor internet infrastructure and limited resources to support learners (e.g., Sub-Sahara African countries), I believe inclusivity of (online) learning is something that is important everywhere on this world. So even though you might feel this is not applicable to your working context – in the Netherlands this might feel like a “ver-van-mijn-bed-show”!– it might still be useful to ask yourself the same questions when you are designing an online learning solution.