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Week 6: Supporting learners with different needs – accessibility in online teaching


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Figure 1 Accessibility

It is important to ensure that your learning materials are suitable for as wide a range of learners as possible, whether they are materials you create yourself, or resources that you find online and reuse. Accessibility, usability, inclusion and universal design are all commonly used terms for ensuring that your learning materials can be used by a wide range of potential learners, including those with disabilities who may be using assistive technologies. For the purposes of this week’s materials, we use ‘accessibility’ as a shorthand. Note that this is not necessarily advocating a one-size-fits-all approach to every learning object, and that it can be perfectly appropriate to provide alternative materials or activities for some situations, as long as the overall learning objectives are met for all learners. However, effort and understanding applied to this area can save a greater amount of effort and difficulties later on, and make the learning experience better for everyone.

To understand some key themes in accessibility, you will first learn about assistive technologies and the impact they have upon the way learners interact with learning materials. You will then learn how to make the materials you use more accessible, and finally some guidance on alternative formats.

Teacher reflections

We join Sarah H. again this week for her experiences of considering accessibility. She focuses on ways of working with PowerPoint to make use of its full potential for inclusive teaching:

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By the end of this week, you should be able to:

  • define assistive technology and list a variety of examples
  • understand how to make most of your online teaching materials accessible
  • assess the accessibility of OERs
  • understand what alternative formats may be needed in online teaching.

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