Accessibility of eLearning

most/least accessible forms of eLearning based on our student participants

most/least accessible forms of eLearning based on our student participants

by Jennison Asuncion -
Number of replies: 5

We asked our student participants to rate the level of accessibility of specific forms of eLearning that they would have used in the courses they took.

To frame their responses, a bit of demographic information - the 245 students who completed the online survey were enrolled in colleges and universities and represent nine of ten provinces, the exception being Prince Edward Island. There were no students from the Territories. Students were instructed to indicate all of their disabilities/ impairments. The five most common disabilities/impairments that students declared were:
1. Learning disability (42%)
2. ADD/ADHD (20%)
3. Psychological/psychiatric disability (16%)
4. Mobility impairment / wheelchair user (16%)
5. Health or medically related impairment (15%)
 
It is worth noting that almost half of the students (44%) indicated having more than one disability/impairment.

In terms of their “level of accessibility” ratings for the types of eLearning that they encountered in their courses, the top five most accessible for all students, based on 245 respondents were:
1. email;
2.  course-related files in Word, PowerPoint etc.;
3.  WebCT, BlackBoard, FirstClass or other course/learning management system;
4.  course web pages; and
5. in-class presentations using PowerPoint.

The least accessible forms of eLearning for all students with disabilities were:
1. videoconferencing;
2.  live online voice-based chat (speaking and listening);
3.  audio clips / files (e.g., recorded class lectures);
4.  online content that uses Flash; and
5.  CD-ROM tutorials used in class or computer labs.

It goes without saying that these rankings are different if filtered by different disabilities / impairments. For example, the most accessible form of eLearning for students who are blind was course-related files in Word, PowerPoint, etc. and the least accessible was PowerPoint presentations viewed online using a browser.

For those of you actively working in eLearning with persons with disabilities, how closely does this relate to your realities?

Jennison

In reply to Jennison Asuncion

Re: most/least accessible forms of eLearning based on our student participants

by Emma Duke-Williams -
This is interesting, as the statistics you have on range of disabilites fits quite closely with the cohorts that we have - i.e. many students with learning disabilities, and few/none with sensory impairements.

The other thing that I find telling is that the most accessible tools are the lowest tech - and also the lowest bandwidth requiring, which the least accessible is seen as video conferenceing - qhich probably requires the students to have to install & configure software & hardware - and have a decent internet connection. Do you have information breaking down the inaccessibility into aspects such as:
Installing software/hardware if needed.
Using it - just from a "using" point of view
how much it added to their learning, if they'd got over the technical problems.
In reply to Emma Duke-Williams

Re: most/least accessible forms of eLearning based on our student participants

by Claude Almansi -
Emma, are orientation problems sensorial or cognitive? In French, we speak of "orientation sense", but scientifically?

Because re your:

Installing software/hardware if needed.
Using it - just from a "using" point of view.

maybe we could add: "finding one's way in new versions of software"?

I just stared like an idiot for 3 minutes at the admin interface of my blog. I wanted to modify the template, but I couldn't find the icons opening its various parts. And yet they had just been moved from the left to the top of the interface box - a perfectly reasonable move, from a usability viewpoint - but it broke my orientation routines.

I also remember undisabled colleagues at school being thrown off when the table function in Word were moved from a submenu of Insert to a menu of their own.

Third case: a young man, heavily medicated for depression, who just couldn't remember where he saved things, or where the Word menu functions were. But I had noticed that he loved tables. So we made a table with the content of all the menu items in Word, then he added a + if he knew how to use a function, an = if he understood what it was about but couldn't use it, and a - id he hadn't a clue. Then he made another table for the paths to different folders he was using. He printed the 2 tables and kept them next to his computer.

So thinking of him, I'm wondering: what will he do, how will he find his way about, when he has to use the new version of word whose interface - if I understood correctly what someone who tested the beta told me - has been very strongly changed. My friend says in a far more usable manner. But what about people who are clutching to their mental mapping, and might feel lost in front of the reshuffled one, even if it is actually far simpler?

In reply to Claude Almansi

Re: most/least accessible forms of eLearning based on our student participants

by Emma Duke-Williams -
I think that I'd have included your "getting used to a new version" in the "just using the software" - though I agree that once you have got used to the way that particular software works, it can be very difficult to get used to a new one (e.g. IE 7....!)

As to your friend & office 2007, I have had a quick look & found the new appearance very different, but I've not really experimented with it.
Do you (or anyone else) know if it's possible to set Office 2007 to a "traditional" view, (as one can with Windows XP).

It's hard at times to know when to try to learn the new, and when it's best to emulate what you're familiar with.

When I made the point I made earlier, I was thinking about a video conferencing session I'd had with my students. We had problems with one student who had bandwidth problems, and another couldn't get her camera to work at all, so she just had to use the audio only.
It would be interesting to know in the original study, how many of the students felt the technology was inaccessible due to the software not working, and how many had it working fine, but there were other aspects affecting the accessibility.
In reply to Emma Duke-Williams

Re: most/least accessible forms of eLearning based on our student participants

by Claude Almansi -
Hi Emma,

I'm translating below the answer from my friend, Luca Mascaro (1):

Up to the beta versions of Vista and Office 2007, it doesn't seem to me that [a traditional view] is or will be possible, as far as the functioning and position of the icon commands is concerned. In effect, Office 2007 introduces a new paradigm, which is more usable and simpler than, but clearly different from, the former.

And as to the orientation problems this might cause, he writes (my translation again):

Yes, the problem exists, but Microsoft's reasoning is not wrong: in the end, a user-centered projecting approach means selecting a panel of users and work with them (in Microsoft's case, this panel is very wide). If this makes a program simpler for 70% of the users, then of course they [Microsoft] are ready to sacrifice the small percentage of users who find it hard to readapt.

(1) Luca Mascaro is member of IWA International WebMasters Association and was part of the team who prepared and wrote the Italian accessibility law (English translation of the law in http://www.pubbliaccesso.gov.it/normative/law_20040109_n4.htm )

In reply to Emma Duke-Williams

Re: most/least accessible forms of eLearning based on our student participants

by Jennison Asuncion -

Emma et al,

 

No, we did not explicitly ask the items you posed in terms of breaking-out the inaccessibility piece. We did though ask participants to tell us about three eLearning problems they encountered and how they resolved these. These were open-ended questions which we have analyzed at a high level at this point. These results will be shared in an upcoming post.

 

Jennison