Accessibility of eLearning

faculty perspective

faculty perspective

by Catherine Fichten -
Number of replies: 5

As Jennison indicated in the "research background and approach" thread, our research  involved evaluating the perspectives of students, disability service providers, eLearning specialists, and faculty.

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Because I am faculty, I think the role of professors in ensuring accessibility of eLearning is pivotal. But… most of us know little about making exciting web sites. Or about how to make our materials accessible. So we need folks like many of you to give us a hand.  

 

While many of us see ourselves first and foremost as teachers, we  do not see ourselves as "course designers" or "instructional designers." Perhaps this is why PowerPoint is, by far, one of the most popular forms of eLearning in colleges and universites. Many of us play with PowerPoint - and manage to make either wonderfully accessible or truly inaccessible presentations! So we need help - to teach us, AT OUR LEVEL and WHEN we need help, to make teaching materials more accessible. Even simple things like alt tags on images and figures are beyond most of us. Nobody told us there is a need - or that it is possible to do this! We also need help from the college to do sophisticated things like captioning video clips and online lectures, providing described videos, and the like.

 

Are these things your faculty can do? If so, how did they learn? What sort of support does your school/institution provide to assist faculty make eLearning accessible? What can be done to increase awareness, affect institutional culture, and ensure universal instructional practice?

 

In reply to Catherine Fichten

Re: faculty perspective

by Janet Bowen -
I work in the instructional design field from the corporate area. The instruction that I create is used by corporations, government and other types of agencies to train their people. Learning how to develop instruction takes many of the skill that a teacher has and simply refines them. Most teachers and professors have heard the term universal design. Applying this to the creation of an instructional offerring at the beginning of the process rather than modifying after the fact makes it much easier and better for everyone.
In reply to Catherine Fichten

Re: faculty perspective

by ingo niestroj -
Catherine, you have stated: "While many of us see ourselves first and foremost as teachers, we  do not see ourselves as "course designers" or "instructional designers." Perhaps this is why PowerPoint is, by far, one of the most popular forms of eLearning in colleges and universites. "  Let me play devil's advocate with my post.  I can see another problem, especially as it pertains to PowerPoint presentations.  I have seen a number of really bad ones provided as teaching aids by text book publishers.  Flashy and 'flaming logos' yes, accessibility ????- Increased class sizes and fast paced change in technology make it apparently quite desirable for faculty to use these prefabs. It seems to be a false sense of understanding that they do know what they are doing.  It also makes it lucrative for for profit organizations to become creative in the e-learning business. I think that educational institutions need to invest more in web / curriculum / instructional design and hopefully adopt UID as a standard.
Ingo
In reply to Catherine Fichten

Re: faculty perspective

by Jayne Butler -

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Catherine,

At Open Learning we have 5 distance learning specialists who work with faculty to design and deliver over 200 courses via distance (which usually involves websites and other media). Faculty work with us to design and develop the course and then we create the website, print materials etc. for them. With regards to accessibility, we are identifying what we need to do and how we will do it. One of our means at the moment, is to take one course and make it as accessible as we can. We hope to learn a great deal about what needs to be done and in turn what that means for us.  

 

Elsewhere on campus, for in-class websites, there is support (of a different kind) and faculty have greater responsibility for creating their own websites using WebCT.

In the above situations because of the different contexts there are different levels of support and in both there are training issues both for faculty and for those providing support.

 

The University currently has several committees set up to examine accessibility at the University as a whole (e.g. access to buildings). I sit on a committee looking at multi-media.

 

In my personal view, there needs to be a combination of faculty knowledge and responsibility combined with processes e.g. captioning, and resources like expertise set up by the University. U of G is very committed to accessibility and has for the last few years had committees working very hard at the University level, as has Open Learning at the department level.

 

As far as affecting instructional practice, rewards usually help. I’m thinking specifically of things like taking teaching (and accessibility is part of that) into account for promotion and tenure, awards for teaching with accessibility as one criteria for the award, and perhaps competition for funds and time to implement accessibility practices into courses.

 

Cheers

 

Jayne Butler

Distance Learning Specialist

University of Guelph

jbutler@open.uoguelph.ca

 

 

In reply to Catherine Fichten

Re: faculty perspective

by WL Wong -
Are these things your faculty can do? If so, how did they learn? What sort of support does your school/institution provide to assist faculty make eLearning accessible? What can be done to increase awareness, affect institutional culture, and ensure universal instructional practice?

Getting web sites / online courses accessible has to start with small steps: first being awareness and then  training and support provided to move this agenda forward. It is not just from the faculty side, there needs to be support from elsewhere for example libraries so that materials sourced from online books/ ejournals are also accessible to students.

We were fortunate that at the same time, there was a great deal of awareness surrounding Bruce Maguire's court case against the Sydney Olympics 2000 web site and that spilled onto the web industry as well as the university sector. A small group within the university sector started the Web Accessibility Network for Australian Universities and a series of forums was organised back in 2005 for uni staff and students.

I was part of the co-ordinating committee for the Sydney based universities and that event was hosted by us. That and then forthcoming Disability Standards for Education provided additional impetus of pushing the awareness/implementation agenda.

We were also fortunate to link up with Dr Elaine Pearson from Teeside (UK) who ran a worskhop on creating accessible online courses in conjunction with AP Tony Koppi, UNSW and some of our academics from our university also participated in that workshop.That workshop which also featured some videos from Webaim, plus the hands on approach, in my opninion, helped cement the message even more clearly.

It is still an ongoing process of creating awareness and providing support to academics to create more accessible courses at our uni.
We had also developed some draft guidelines for creating accessible online courses back in 2004 - there's still more work to be done but like I said at the beginning, small, small steps. On a positive note, there was institutional support in purchasing Web Accessibility Wizard software which we use to help staff convert Word or Powerpoints into accessible web pages if they are not au fait with creating accessible web pages.

Cheers
Wai-Leng


In reply to Catherine Fichten

Re: faculty perspective

by Jane Jarrow -
This morning I tripped over a resource in searching for something else. This site is called "Teach Online: Virtual University Design and Technology."

http://teachvu.vu.msu.edu/public

I don't quite know what to make of it. It looks as though it has some excellent information for faculty about making the jump from the classroom to online teaching, and some excellent information for the technology folks about how website design impacts on learning. But I can't find anything that even HINTS at the idea of being concerned about accessibility, and I can't figure out where, within the structure of their information, such discussion would even belong.

How are we ever going to make headway in getting the word out when credible offerings from established institutions purport to train folks on how to deliver education online, and never even mention the issues WE consider salient?

Jane Jarrow