Determining Essential Course Requirements

The term, ‘essential requirement’, has a specific meaning in the field of human rights legislation and is defined as that which cannot be adapted without compromising the basic objective of the task; it cannot be done in another way without significantly altering what is intrinsic to the task or activity.

  • You are responsible for identifying and evaluating course requirements you consider essential including skills, knowledge, and attitudes.
  • Course objectives and learning outcomes should be included in this process.
  • Evaluation for a subsequent purpose such as those of a licensing body or for potential workplace requirements should not be considered. The focus must be on meeting the requirements of a specific course or university program.

Source: University of Victoria Procedures for Academic Accommodation and Access for Undergraduate Students with Disabilities, Policy AC1205

  • What are students expected to know, do, or value at the completion of this course?
  • Are the methods of instruction negotiable?
  • What are the core outcome goals for all students?
  • How will class standards be communicated to students?
  • How will variable outcomes (excellent to poor) be assessed?
  • Are variable outcome measurements negotiable?
  • Are there alternative outcomes that could be offered to all students?
  • What information about learning goals or prior experiences do I gather from students at the beginning of the course, what feedback do I gather as the course progresses, and what evaluations do I collect at the end of the course?
  • How do I prepare students to meet the assignment expectations?
  • How do my strategies for assessment reflect key learning goals?
  • How do I factor in individual differences?

Source: Faculty Development and Universal Instructional Design


What are the learning objectives?
  • What is the purpose of this course? (Scott and Maniltz, 2000, p. 35).
  • Would elimination of the skills/knowledge/attitude alter the learning objectives of this course/program? (Blacklock, 2001).
  • Is the competency integral to the learning of this course? (Wales, 1997).
  • Are the skills/knowledge/attitudes an integral part of the learning objectives of the course? (Blacklock, 2001).
  • Does the ability or skill necessarily need to be performed in a prescribed manner? Why?
  • Was this course created to teach any of the skills/knowledge/attitudes? (Blacklock, 2001).
  • Would these accommodations require a fundamental alteration in the nature of the program, service, or activity? (Blacklock, 2001).
  • What is the purpose of the program?
  • What are the outcome variables that are absolutely required of all participants?
  • What academic skills can be demonstrated?
  • What percentage of subject area knowledge must be mastered?
  • What specific knowledge, principles or concepts must be mastered?
  • What methods of instruction are non-negotiable? Why?
  • What methods of assessing outcome variables are absolutely necessary? Why?

Can an alternate method be used?

  • Is there only one way for the skills/knowledge/attitudes to be demonstrated? (Blacklock, 2001).
  • Is there an alternative way to do the same work?
  • Academic Adjustment: Substituting Exam Methods
  • Is the exam methodology specifically designed to test the particular course material? (Hicks, Morley, 2000, p.27)

Is demonstration of a skill required?

Will there be undue hardship if accommodated?

  • Would there be any significant* consequences if this skill were performed at varying levels of competency? 
      • Does it put the student or others in danger?
      • Does it make a difference to the field acquisition of unique approaches or philosophies?
      • Does it make a big difference to the student's life or future? (Wales, 1997)
      • Would there be any significant consequences if the skills/knowledge/attitudes were not learned? (Blacklock, 2001).
      • Will accommodating the individual needs pose a risk to personal or public safety?