As the move to online learning accelerates dramatically, learners are being left behind. In response to this, we’ve initiated an Innovate UK funded research and development project to develop and share best practices in inclusive online learning.


Since we started the project with Innovate UK, we’ve been capturing our thoughts, takeaways, insights and ideas on inclusive learning experience design (ILXD). We want to make our journey visible and open to discussion as it evolves. We recognise there’s a lot to learn, and we’re open to learning it.

If you’d like to be kept updated as the project progresses, please sign up to our inclusive learning design mailing list.

Long read

An introduction to inclusive learning experience design (ILXD)
Why it’s something you need to be thinking about if you’re designing learning experiences.

We need a more inclusive approach to learning design

The year 2020 has highlighted the urgent need to design experiences in which each and every learner can participate fully. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about a dramatic acceleration in existing global trends for learning and working online – and this rapid transition risks partially or entirely excluding some learners, especially those who were already marginalised. There’s still a lot of work to do to overcome these risks, and we’re determined to play our part.

An inclusive approach to learning design involves reconciling individual with general needs, designing for both individual humans and broader humanity. It’s about understanding how people interpret and navigate the world differently, as well as what they tend to have in common, and finding practical ways to meet these needs. Our ultimate learning goals might be the same, but the paths we take to reach them are infinitely varied and unique.

The change we want to see

We want to live in a world where:

  • good learning design means creating engaging and effective experiences for every learner;
  • an approach based on what works for most learners doesn’t mean ignoring or overlooking individual learners’ specific needs;
  • learning experiences are designed to be inclusive as standard. This isn’t something extra or separate from the ‘usual’ work of learning design – it is the usual work;
  • good learning designers are also good learners themselves, embracing uncertainty and keeping our minds open to new and different ways of doing things.

Our inclusive learning principles

Our EDI research and the resources and tools we’re developing are guided by these core principles:


We take a practical approach. A more equal, diverse and inclusive culture is built up from many small, principled, fair moments and practices.


We respect the unique and complex nature of any individual learner’s own lived experience. We will avoid imposing labels or definitions that could encourage preconceptions or limits on learners’ abilities, ambitions or identities.


We recognise the importance of the systems in which individual learners exist. We actively seek to avoid perpetuating unfair or unbalanced systems of power and privilege.


We work to remove both physical and attitudinal barriers to access in all our projects and practices. We believe a good learning experience is one in which all learners feel welcome and able to participate.


We are aware of how cultural differences may influence concepts such as equality or fairness. When making recommendations for inclusive learning design, we are mindful of cultures and customs that are local to the learners we’re designing for.

Press release

Download our press release announcing our involvement in the Innovate UK Sustainability Fund.

Becoming a fairer and more inclusive organisation

Over the course of working on this project we have realised that we can’t simply develop a tool or set of tools to make learning design more inclusive and accessible, no matter how useful these tools might be. We also need to take a long, hard look at ourselves, to reconsider and evaluate everything we do, and take concrete steps towards becoming a fairer, more diverse and inclusive organisation in all respects.

This means:

  • interrogating, clarifying and articulating the principles that underpin our approach and what we know to be necessary in building a fairer world
  • holding ourselves accountable to these principles through our general organisational policies, such as how we find and recruit new partners for our projects, how our website is designed, etc.
  • reevaluating, revising and refining our practices so that we can evolve from LXD to ILXD and create courses in which all learners can participate fully

By attending to all three pieces of this puzzle, we hope not only to improve our work as learning designers but to improve ourselves as individuals and as a professional team.

One conversation isn’t enough

There are many possible reasons behind a lack of access to learning, and these can’t necessarily be addressed easily, quickly or just once. Finding the right approach for a particular learner might take time; it might mean revisiting multiple conversations and revising decisions; and that’s OK.

We’re always learning

It’s important to remember that there isn’t a single universal definition or approach to inclusive learning. The key issues and questions are always subject to change, so we too must always be open-minded, flexible and adaptable.

We promise regularly to review and evaluate the fairness and inclusivity of all our projects and practices, as well as reflecting on our own personal biases, prejudices and complex identities as learners and individuals.

Further reading

An introduction to inclusive learning experience design (ILXD)
Why it’s something you need to be thinking about if you’re designing learning experiences. (25 minute read)

Be part of the conversation

Please do get in touch with thoughts and suggestions – we always welcome feedback from a wide range of different perspectives and voices and we’d love to hear from you.