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

Introduction

Described image
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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Transcript

NARRATOR:
Considering alternative formats. In developing formats for my teaching and those of my team, I consider two factors- firstly, exploring the full range of the tools that I already use, secondly, reflecting on how I can make my teaching inclusive for a range of participants.
One of the tools that I considered was PowerPoint- often used in my organisation, but not normally to its full potential. There are several points that can enable different formats for different students. Firstly, increasing the inclusivity of people who struggled with reading or have sight problems. This can be met by using the alt text, which is really useful. It can read text and descriptions of diagrams, and it can also be used by students who prefer to listen on the go because it can be easily transferable to mobile devices.
The second element of format is the font and the background. And with PowerPoint, it's easily manipulated by both learner and the teacher, which is important when you're considering a whole range of students. Links to other resources can be embedded into the PowerPoint, also links to more accessible versions of a particular page, so to make pages simpler and less busy. So on the one hand, you might want a really stimulating page for your students, but also one that can be read more easily before the session starts. And then animations and visual images can help learners who prefer a different style of learning, because a picture sometimes can save 1,000 words.
Finally, it's a good place to start with PowerPoint, but there are other formats. But this one I particularly like because you can use it for preparation teaching. You can use it for both face-to-face teaching as well as synchronous online teaching or blended learning. It can be manipulated, but you can use the same content for each of those delivery methods. So I think that also engages those students who are inhibited by where they live and how they can get to their classroom.
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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.
TTO_1

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