Owen Guthrie in ED 653 challenged us to work through some of the issues linking ADA, IDEA and or work as Instructional Designers and teachers in the online environment. My post and work are linked here:
Owen’s original assignment is linked here: Designing for Accessibility
It was good for me to go back to it and review the learning objects in light of Chris’s assignment here in ED 654. The core readings were taken from this ebook, available through the UAF library.
Coombs, Norman (2010). Making Online Teaching Accessible: Inclusive Course Design for Students with Disabilities. Jossey-Bass. Retrieved January 14, 2012, from Ebook Library.
From Coombs book, I recalled three concepts that we should build into our thinking about instruction and design (pages 13-14) “Effective Communication, Timeliness of Delivery, and Undue Burden.” The heart of his message is that building these priorities into our planning is cheaper and easier than retrofitting or remodeling.
I like using Audacity and SoundCloud to deliver some instructional content, and that is well, and good except it excludes a deaf or hard-of-hearing-person. Accordingly, if I remember to create a pdf transcription along with my audio (and I work from a script so not a hardship) then I have built effective communication in at the outset, and that addresses the timeliness of delivery, as well. By anticipating this possible use, I have eliminated criticism regarding reasonable accommodation and reduced the burden on myself.
Another important source of information and insight comes from the W3C (International World Wide Web Consortium). Specifically, their policies on Web Accessibility are beneficial for teachers and designers. One interesting pressure on us increasingly as we seek to extend our delivery of online education internationally is our obligation to laws in other countries. Closer to hand, however, is just good practices in search engine optimization and basic web accessibility standards. Coombs offers four principles to help us organize our thinking (page 16):
“Perceivable” speaks to text and non-text alternatives, captions, and image alt tags also contribute. As well design principles that remember contrast, font, and size aid in making content perceivable are necessary. Keyboard accessibility, the pacing of video to permit subtitles to be read, and assistive navigation all contribute to improved operability. Understandability along with design elements like font and layout, also, might include paying attention to reading level analysis. Using the screen reading tools and staying current in that area, as well, can contribute to a “robust” or at least more thoughtful approach to design and instruction. I think one of the most important elements of this is not taking my abilities for granted. Certainly, as I age, I understand more about vision and sound as my sight and hearing change. Perhaps a key here is becoming learner-centered rather than self-centered in either the designer or instructor roles. However, it takes both learners and facilitators to create an online learning experience, and so I think there are obligations on the learner’s side, Coombs identifies:
- Up-to-Date Technology
- Skill in Using Adaptive Technology
- Doing Good Work
as responsibilities of the learner (page 29-30). I am glad to see someone addressing responsibilities of the learner. My experience in rural Alaska further complicates the tension between facilitator-learner interactions. Our communities are relatively poor, our educational resources uneven, our internet access is expensive and slow, and our definitions of “good work” vary widely. And yet we know that online learning is incredibly important for our future and the continued existence of these rural communities.