Essential components of an academic course

Contributed by Jeanne Lindell, Head of Disability Services:

Identifying the essential components of a course or program plays a critical role in determining whether or not an individual meets all the necessary objectives and whether or not a disability related accommodation fundamentally alters a course or program.

Disability Services (DS) staff have begun talking more to faculty about essential components. So you’re looking for more information about what essential components are or how to determine them, look no further! Well, actually, please do continue reading.

Important questions to ask when assessing a course or program’s essential objectives and components include:

  • What is the purpose of the program or course?
  • What outcome variables are absolutely required of all participants?

 

Specifically for a course:

  • What academic skills must be demonstrated?
  • What percentage of the subject-area knowledge must be mastered?
  • What specific knowledge, principles, or concepts must be mastered?

 

Specifically for a program:

  • What skills or competencies will be needed in the field after                        graduation?
  • What are the requirements for licensing or professional accreditation?
  • What methods of instruction are non-negotiable, and why?
  • What methods of assessing outcome variables are absolutely necessary, and why?
  • What are acceptable levels of performance for these measures?

Essential components must be met with or without reasonable accommodations. Non-essential components are those for which alternate methods or products may be substituted. In discerning appropriate accommodations, DS staff rely on faculty to know their course’s essential components. DS staff may discuss alternate methods or products with faculty that would equally assess students’ mastery of the essential components but will allow them to demonstrate what they know. An example would be allowing an oral instead of written assessment (unless writing is itself an essential component of the course).

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This information has been adapted from Brown University’s Accessibility websitehttp://www.brown.edu/campus-life/support/accessibility-services/.

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