Though often thought of in relation to people with physical disabilities, web accessibility can benefit all users— making it easier for them to perceive, understand, navigate, interact, and contribute to the information and functionality that make up your web platform. Thankfully, web accessibility is not difficult to achieve. A number of LMSs—including Moodle —care about accessibility, take it seriously, and incorporate best practices (Rogers, 2018).
If you’re using an LMS like Moodle built with accessibility in mind the hard work has been done for you. Here’s what you can count on, right out of the box (Rogers, 2018):
A good LMS will do the heavy-lifting for you, but content must still be created, organized, and formatted by instructors with these 3 best practices in mind:
All text-based content should be uploaded in an accessible manner. For all documents you upload to online spaces, this means that these documents should not be images (scanned or photo-copied documents) but word processor or original pdf documents so that they can be utilized by a screen reader. LinkedIn Learning offers a great crash course on creating accessible documents.
All non-text content should be paired with a text alternative. In practice, this means (Rogers, 2018):
Videos and other visual multimedia content such as infographics, GIFs, and animations should be paired with a description. For example:
It is important to know that how content is displayed on a web page does not necessarily represent how the content is organized and structured in the underlying markup—the HTML. Screen readers read the markup, not the page presented visually in the web browser (Rogers, 2018).
Using your LMS content editor’s formatting tools correctly will make better underlying markup, and a better experience for screen-reader users. Here’s how:
While HTML markup organizes and structures the content, visual styling does matter in making content clear and discernible for users with limited vision or with learning disabilities:
All web users—of all abilities—face a learning curve when encountering a user interface for the first time. Ensuring consistency in how navigation and content are organized and displayed helps decrease the learning curve, and improves accessibility—for everyone. Creating an orientation/welcome tutorial that orientates new users to the primary navigation and tools used in your LMS will help all users start on the right path.
While best practices like the ones outlined here are helpful for improving the accessibility, the best way to make sure your online platform is doing the best job it can is to ask the people who depend on it. Get feedback from the people who use it regularly. Ask them to show you where they’re having trouble and what barriers they’re facing. Adopting that feedback—acknowledging pain points and working to alleviate them—is what will truly make your online platform accessible (Rogers, 2018).
For more information about accessibility in online platforms:
Whether you are already utilizing inclusive pedagogy in your F2F course or are new to the practice, this “Starting Point” document for inclusive teaching is a worthwhile resource to review no matter what mode of teaching you engage in.
As this recent article in The Chronicle of Higher Education notes, flexibility is one aspect of designing a more inclusive learning experience for our students. By creating flexible hybrid courses, you can inherently enhance the inclusivity of that course. In fact, instructional strategies like Universal Design for Learning hold adaptable, flexible course design as a hallmark of efforts to increase access and enhance participation of members of our learning community with diverse needs. To consider how you might improve your hybrid flexible course for inclusive learning, you can find an interactive UDL checklist here or you might find this shorter version focused on the “learner centered” nature of your course here.
The Transparency in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education project (TILT Higher Ed) is an award-winning national educational development and research project that helps faculty to implement a transparent teaching framework that promotes college students’ success. By focusing on removing barriers to success, the framework is designed to facilitate a more equitable learning experience. This resource provides detailed information about the TILT framework, example assignments, and tools for creating or revising your own transparent assignments. The redesign of your course assignments for FurmanFlex instruction provides a valuable opportunity to develop more transparent course activities.
FurmanFlex design asks us to focus on the learning outcomes we have for our students and the best approaches to evaluate if and to what degree students can demonstrate the attainment of those objectives through different modes of engagement. These adaptations are timely, as they occur within a broader context of work to support more equitable assessment strategies on college campuses. Highlighted in this recent article, the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment has just released several in-depth case studies of promising practices to advance inclusive assessment. As you redesign and revision assessment practices for your courses, we have an opportunity to incorporate lessons from these case studies to support a more equitable campus culture and curriculum.