The New Accessibility: Students With Disabilities and Access to Technology

The_New_Accessbility“The New Accessibility: Students With Disabilities and Access to Technology” is Inside Higher Ed’s latest compilation of incisive and practical articles.

You may download a copy of the print-on-demand booklet here, free.

Inside Higher Ed’s editors will conduct a free webcast on the themes of the booklet on Thursday, April 23, at 2 p.m. Eastern. They invite you to sign up here.

 

“Ten Steps Toward Universal Design of Online Courses”, by UA Little Rock

online1Implementing the principles of universal design in online learning means anticipating the diversity of students that may enroll in your course and planning accordingly. Designing a course with principles of universal design in mind is an ongoing and creative process. One does not achieve the level of usability aspired to with a simple checklist, but with an open mind and a commitment to making design and inclusion a priority.

There are a few elements, though, that if taken into consideration, can enhance access and usability greatly. Knowing and incorporating these elements on the front end of the design process can save hours down the line.

Read the comprehensive guide at UA Little Rock’s website.

The Digital Courseware Accessibility Problem

5176“Educational publishers such as Cengage, McGraw-Hill and Pearson are investing heavily in digital courseware — interactive, personalized course content that aims to improve the learning experience.

Videos, simulations, quizzes and built-in homework assignments make these products an attractive option for faculty and students alike. But not every student’s learning experience is enhanced by them. College accessibility staff say that digital courseware is frequently inaccessible to students with disabilities, particularly blind students who use screen readers.”

Read Lindsay McKenzie’s piece at Inside Higher Ed.

Learning Moodle 3.8

asd5Moodle, the popular learning management system (LMS), has revolutionized education. Instructors can create online classes for anywhere, anytime learning; add assessments and activities; track student progress; calculate grades; and more. Students can access resources, complete assignments, and communicate with classmates and instructors—all from a single digital platform. This course demonstrates how instructors can get started using Moodle 3.8, including newer features such as forum enhancements.

LinkedIn Learning staff author Oliver Schinkten shows how to set up an instructor profile, create a course, and adjust course settings. Then find out how to add files, post announcements, and make quizzes. Finally, learn how to enroll students, grade assignments, and run reports.

Topics include:

  • Customizing Moodle
  • Creating a course
  • Adjusting course settings
  • Posting announcements
  • Adding resources and activities
  • Adding assignments
  • Creating a quiz
  • Enrolling students in a course
  • Setting up a gradebook
  • Viewing gradebook reports

Check out Oliver’s lecture at Lynda.com!

Learning to Teach Online

asd4Technology has changed the nature of education—and the jobs of educators. Online instruction requires different methods to help students learn. This course is designed to help corporate trainers and teachers update their skill sets to teach effectively online.

LinkedIn staff author Oliver Schinkten draws the connections between high-quality instruction and online education. He provides a framework for creating a digital classroom and guidance to get students interacting with the course material, the instructor, and each other. Collaboration is the key to making the learning experience more dynamic. Plus, Oliver shows how to make sure your lessons are accessible to students of all ability levels.

Topics include:

  • Benefits of online education
  • Incorporating technology in the classroom
  • Setting guidelines and expectations about online courses
  • Writing learning outcomes
  • Sharing and curating files and resources
  • Tracking student progress
  • Engaging students
  • Fostering communication
  • Providing feedback
  • Making learning accessible to students with disabilities

Check out Oliver’s lecture at  Lynda.com!

LMS best practices: accessibility in learning management systems

longAccessibility is no longer just a “nice to have”, but is best practice for learning management systems – and in some cases, even required for compliance. Accessibility has gone beyond the physical classroom or workplace. Thanks to greater education, awareness, and legal requirements, it’s become increasingly important for schools, universities, and organizations to improve accessibility to their websites, apps, and LMS platforms.

But what does accessibility mean? And how accessible is your learning management system?

Read Ben Long’s piece at Blueprint.

“How do I make a course accessible?” A Guide by Northwestern SPS

EV-arch“Accessibility is a key component of every piece of a course. All students, regardless of background or ability, should have equal access to education. Accessibility differs from accommodation in that accessibility is pro-active, while accommodations are reactive. Sometimes, accommodations are the best option; but many things can be made accessible in advance, making coursework smoother and easier for all students. These guides cover a wide variety of topics, from the importance of web accessibility to specific, technical steps that can be taken to improve the quality of your text, images, and media. Accessible design is good design for all students.”

How do You make a course accessible? Check out this in-depth guide by Northwestern University School of Professional Studies.

Mike Kent: “Disability and eLearning: Opportunities and Barriers”

asd6“This paper explores the current rising rates of online learning in higher education. It examines how disability is activated differently online and the impact of this on learning and teaching through the internet and the accessibility of two of the most popular learning management systems, Blackboard and Moodle, and the different approaches, benefits and problems associated with each system. It then explores the eLearning environment beyond the structure of a LMS to a broader digital campus that includes social networks, video hosting sites and micro blogging, where students and staff are increasingly expanding the learning and social environment in higher education. It also questions the legal and moral responsibilities of universities to make all their online activities accessible to all students, regardless of disability.”

Check out Mike’s article at the Disability Studies Quarterly.

Mike Kent is a Professor in the Centre for Culture and Technology at Curtin University in Perth, Western Australia. His university profile can be found here.

Teaching Techniques: Making Accessible Learning

asd1Do all students have equal access to the learning resources and opportunities in your classroom? Learn to provide accommodations to make learning accessible to students with disabilities and meet the compliance for digital learning.

In this course, Oliver Schinkten explores how to modify your classroom and online instruction to accommodate students with special needs. Find out about the different types of disabilities and challenges students may face, and learn how to use assistive technologies such as screen readers and closed captioning, incorporate visual and auditory cues into teaching, and encourage students to seek the learning supports that will help them succeed.

Topics include:
– What is accessible learning?
– Accommodating different needs, from vision impairments to lack of digital access
– Adapting presentations, responses, and timing
– Using an LMS to make learning more accessible
– Adding alt text to images
– Adding closed captioning to videos

Check out Oliver’s lecture at Lynda.com!

Unfair at Any Speed

Faster students are smarter students. So declared Edward Thorndike of Columbia University’s Teachers College a century ago.

You would think we are more enlightened today. Unless you looked at Mingus Union High School in Cottonwood, Ariz., where students are required to wear a red badge that “publicly identifies and shames underperforming students.” (The policy has since been dropped.)

It is patently true that “Society rewards rapid thinkers!” as my high school humanities teacher, Mr. Sabo, said many times, usually as I searched my suddenly blank mind for an answer. But faster is not always right, and it is rarely an equitable measure of performance — or potential. Like racism and sexism, speedism (the belief that faster is better) is a contemptuous conceit that eviscerates our colleges and the souls of our most needy students.

Read Myk Garn‘s piece in full at Inside Higher Ed.

Helping Institutions Reach Accessibility Goals

Champions of accessibility awareness have made strides in highlighting that all students, not just those with disabilities, benefit from multiple, flexible options for learning materials. A recent uptick in high-profile lawsuits alleging failure to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act has motivated many institutions to think carefully about how they work with students.

But many colleges and universities still lack coherent policies around accessibility, and those that have them sometimes struggle to enforce or define them across the entire university.

A new set of quality indicators for accessible educational materials aims to help institutions ensure at scale that all students have the same learning opportunities in face-to-face classrooms and digital learning environments. The guide took 16 months to complete, and time will tell whether institutions will widely adopt it, underscoring the challenge of gathering consensus on an issue that’s only recent risen on institutions’ priority lists.

Read Mark Lieberman’s piece in full at Inside Higher Ed.

Darrell Gunter: Accessibility Is The New Innovation

“Imagine you are in your first year of college sitting in your Introduction to Psychology course and the instructor directs the students to a document that is on their computers. When visually impaired, you are not able to read the document. You are immediately put at a distinct disadvantage versus your peers, moreover your education is being diminished, due to your accessibility to the material being limited.

For students with hearing issues, similar challenges are faced, as their ability to hear the lecture is impaired. They are not able to fully participate and contribute to the class discussion due to their hearing disability.

Consider the student taking an online course. They are not able to read and hear the instructor’s lectures, the course materials and the questions from their classmates. In today’s digital world this is a reality for the students and the parents of these students. Students are not the only people that are affected by these digital limitations. There is a growing population of adults with disabilities that are part of the professional workforce and their performance is greatly affected by the mere fact that they are not provided equal access to information due to their disability. How much productivity is lost at thousands of companies due to team members with visual and hearing disabilities that don’t have equal access to information to perform their duties?”

Read Darrell Gunter’s (slightly older) piece at The Scholarly Kitchen. Great comment section, too.

Roadblocks to Accessibility

“Perhaps most of us assume that the population of our readers with physical, learning, or cognitive challenges is too small to make a difference. Fake news! Measuring those with sight impairments alone, the National Institutes of Health report 285 million people are blind or have low vision worldwide. Research shows that US colleges have 10-20% disabled student enrollment. Beyond the ivory towers, the overall rates of disabled persons in the US is on the rise – students today could be life-long customers if we’re able to effectively reach them.”

Read Lettie Y. Conrad’s piece in full at The Scholarly Kitchen.