New Resource for Enhancing Accessible Online Instruction

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While faculty may be spending more time contemplating the design of their online course offerings, an equally important consideration is ensuring accessibility of their content to students. Just as faculty differ in their level of experience, competence, and comfort in the area of online instruction, they may also differ in recognizing the need to ensure their course content is accessible to students with a wide range of abilities and disabilities. Proactively addressing accessibility issues can support student engagement, encourage quality collaboration, and promote a greater sense of inclusivity and community among students in online courses.

Blackboard, the course management system used at Northern Illinois University, recently developed a resource to address the issue of accessibility. Working in collaboration with a consortium of accessibility minded personnel from universities in the United States and abroad,  this online course was designed with the goal of improving accessibility for its users by encouraging faculty to build courses that are usable and accessible.  This new resource appears to reflect Blackboard’s commitment to expanding accessibility. Blackboard Learn 9.1 was recently awarded National Federation of the Blind Gold Level of Certification.

The new Blackboard resource is in the form of a self-paced course in Blackboard entitled, “Universal Design and Accessibility for Online Courses”.

While the public perception of the term “accessibility” may be tied to a student population with physical or cognitive disabilities, an important feature of Universal Design  is that its inclusive instructional design elements benefits a broad range of learners.  Given the increasingly diverse characteristics of students, (i.e., educational background, age, gender culture, ability, disability, primary language) faculty can design a more supportive learning environment by anticipating the student needs rather than reacting to them.  One example would be to include a transcript of a narrated lecture capture which could be useful for students whose native language is not English.  Similarly, faculty who utilize videos as supplemental course material, might only select videos that have captioning available, a feature that could be beneficial for students with a hearing impairment.

Universal Design

 

While the learning objectives of this self-paced, online course focus on applying, promoting, and expanding awareness of Universal Design principles, the online course also includes modules on Accessibility for Online Learning, Assistive Technology, and Learning Styles.

Module Areas

While the public perception of the term “accessibility” may be tied to a student population with physical or cognitive disabilities, an important feature of Universal Design  is that its inclusive instructional design elements benefits a broad range of learners.  Given the increasingly diverse characteristics of students, (i.e., educational background, age, gender culture, ability, disability, primary language) faculty can design a more supportive learning environment by anticipating student needs rather than reacting to them.  One example would be to include a transcript of a narrated lecture capture which could be useful for students whose native language is not English.  Similarly, faculty who utilize videos as supplemental course material, might only select videos that have captioning available, a feature that could be beneficial for students with a hearing impairment.

Discussions on design guidelines for universal accessibility include helpful suggestions to keep the webpage layout simple and consistent, use alternative text for images, and the need to design large buttons. Assistive Technology provides enhancements to interacting with software and hardware required to accomplish required task (i.e., screen reader, hearing aide, and voice recognition software). The module on Learning Styles offers suggestions for designing appealing material with different learning styles in mind in order to more effectively engage learners.

This course will be available to faculty through the Blackboard course management system in March 2012. It will appear as a new course in the “My Courses” module.

Listing of My Courses

Faculty are encouraged to explore this new resource.  In  addition, they are also invited to visit a resource compiled by Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center, ‘Resources for Accessible Teaching’ available at www.niu.edu/facdev/resources/accessibility. For questions, contact Dan Cabrera, Multimedia Coordinator for the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center.

One Response

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    I would like to thank to for sharing informative, useful and an outstanding post over here. I heard about that subjects for other segments include availability for online studying, assistive technology and studying designs in this article.

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