Accessible learning

Online learning resources can help to make learning more accessible for those with physical and mental disabilities…

One PhD Student in Ohio, Jessie Male is looking to develop an online course. Male claims that online accessible resources can improve the studies of those with disabilities, anxiety and those whose career and personal life prevent them from physically studying in person. In the UK, lecture slides have been available online for some years through online learning environments such as Moodle. Male is now awaiting approval from faculty committees and adapting the curriculum to suit an online platform, ensuring that this new online course is accessible to those with disabilities.

How can this be achieved?

Jessie says that the course will be designed using techniques such as “access moves”. Using captions for video lectures, for example, will allow users with visual impairments to navigate through the course. She hopes that this approach will help to reduce the cost of course materials.

It is also outlined that this approach is not totally unique. Male went on to explain that “you have to stand out in this space”. She has made efforts to not only make her academic resources available to those with accessibility issues but also make accessible her time with students. Male offers office hours but is also able to take video conferences with those students that are unable to speak with her face to face. She incorporates the use of discussion boards as a way of engaging with students online.

Male also offers online books for students and the use of videos that are available online for students to use. Male has claimed that she will refuse to include one unless she “can find robust captions – not automatically generated ones.” This will help with situations where an individual may require the use of screen readers, as outlined in a previous accessibility blog.

Can we expect this to become the norm?

Jessie’s determination to change the landscape of her course and to make it more accessible to impaired students really outlines that there is a demand and a need for change. “Some organisations that advocate for the rights of people with disabilities, such as the National Federation of the Blind, are lobbying Congress to pass the Accessible Instructional Materials in Higher Education (AIM-HE) Act”. With this type of attention, it’s likely that changes are likely soon to further ingrained in law in America and potentially in the UK.

Jessie has yet to complete a finalised curriculum and claims that her approach is that of many and that she “does not believe hers is necessarily the ideal way to design an online course”. Online learning platforms have been growing in recent years, eLearning is certainly becoming more popular throughout the corporate world as one of the main training techniques, due to its low roll out cost and general flexibility.

You can read further into Jessie Male’s efforts here.