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Academic Accommodation's Relationship to Essential Learning Requirements

A guide for course instructors/departments/schools on academic accommodation as it relates to essential learning requirements

Learning in a Prescribed Way

When learning is expected to be completed in a prescribed way, it is considered an essential learning requirement. Essential requirements are the outcomes (including skills, knowledge and attitudes) all students must demonstrate with or without using accommodations.

  • An essential requirement is a component of a task that cannot be adapted without violating its purpose and integrity; it cannot be done in another way without significantly altering what is intrinsic to the task or activity.
  • Essential requirements should reflect established practices, standards and methods in the academic field or discipline and are supported by the regulator in academic programs governed by one.
  • The college policy on academic accommodation recognizes that in some cases, learning may need to take place in a prescribed way.

Essential vs. Non-Essential Requirements

The difference between essential and non-essential requirements is similar to the difference between "essential" and "preferred" skills listed in job descriptions. An employer may want to see both sets of skills, but only the essential skills are an absolute requirement of employment.

Similarly, in courses instructors can articulate essential outcomes that all students must demonstrate in order to successfully complete the course, as well as preferred outcomes they hope students will be able to demonstrate.

Once instructors have determined the essential course requirements they should be able to:

  • Articulate the overall purpose of the course
  • Identify what skills, knowledge, principles and concepts in a course must be mastered and demonstrated by all students
  • Treat all students fairly
  • Convey the framework used to set academic and program standards to CAL instructors in the context of exploring academic accommodation
  • Assist in responding to accommodation requests through review of instructional methods or assessment, considering flexibility in how information is taught and what alternative opportunities are available for teaching and learning the information, format of materials, skills etc.