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Accessible Online Learning

In our last article, we explored different kinds of information that schools and school boards can post online. Now, we will discuss how educational institutions can make their online lesson content accessible to learners with disabilities. Many schools now offer courses and programs online. It is important for people who design online courses to make sure that every learner can benefit from them. Here we outline some guidelines for accessible online learning.

Accessible Online Learning

All public sector organizations and private or non-profit organizations with fifty or more workers must make their courses accessible to all learners. They can start to do this by making their websites accessible. Moreover, schools should choose accessible educational apps or online platforms to host their courses.

Accessible Slides, Audio, and Video

Many training courses provide lessons through slides, audio, or video. Courses that use both visual and audio content should be accessible for all learners, including learners who are:

  • Blind
  • Visually impaired
  • Deaf
  • Hard of hearing
  • Deafblind

In addition, visuals and audio should be accessible to learners who have other disabilities that affect how they process visual or audio information. Designers should make sure that the text and audio in their courses are the same, so that every learner receives the same information.

For instance, learners who do not process visual information may not be able to read slides. If a course has narration, these learners will rely on it for their understanding of course content. The narrator of the course audio or video should say every word on the slide and describe every picture, chart, or diagram in detail. Alternatively, the designer can provide a text transcript of the slides, including all words or pictures left out of the audio. Learners can read text transcripts with a screen reader or Braille display.

In contrast, learners who do not process audio information may not hear narration or the sound on a video. Instead, they will rely only on the slides. Course designers should be sure that every word of audio also appears on the slides. Alternatively, designers can make text transcripts of video and audio.

Exercises and Tests

Exercises and tests are a vital part of learning. Course designers should offer exercises and tests that learners of all abilities can complete. Designers should create clear instructions about how to complete exercises and what will happen when they are finished. Moreover, course creators should understand that some learners need more time than others to answer questions or complete activities. Therefore, course designers should be flexible when imposing time limits. They can work with professionals in their school’s or board’s accessibility office. These professionals can help them think of ways to accommodate students who need additional time during online tests or exercises. Furthermore, learners should have the chance to review their answers before they submit them.

In addition, designers should never create activities that rely on seeing, hearing, or moving and clicking a mouse. Types of exercises to avoid include questions that ask learners to:

  • Choose one item in a picture
  • Identify a sound
  • Click and drag items on the screen to move them around

There are easy ways to avoid these kinds of questions. Designers can:

  • Include lists of choices and ask learners to select all that apply
  • Use buttons screen readers recognize, such as radio buttons or Checkboxes

A range of question types, such as multiple choice, true or false, check-all-that-apply, and short-answer, can provide variety while remaining accessible.

Accessible online learning should be available for learners of all abilities. There are many things course designers can do to create courses that everyone can learn from.