Aiding faculty in moving to online course delivery has been an exciting task. I am so impressed with the creativity and earnestness that I’ve seen as instructors are quickly adapting to new ways of teaching and interacting with their students. One concern that I wanted to share with you, that was recently raised in some of my meetings about this change, was that most of our students are currently in a huge transition as they move home and are finding it difficult to attend online class meetings due to needing to quickly pack their belongings and travel. Thus it is my suggestion that in the short-term, faculty provide learning experiences besides holding online course meetings, or in the least that they record any online meetings so students who are in transit can watch them later, on their own time. When the dust settles from the frenzy of this week it will certainly be important to hold synchronous online course meetings and virtual office hours to provide a classroom-like experience and to maintain that personal connection with our students. I also wanted to remind you that holding your class meetings on a platform that offers real-time captioning or a transcript of the meeting, is of value to all students and not just those with disabilities. Microsoft Teams offers live captioning and Zoom offers captioning on meeting recordings (note: both products are available for Chapman faculty).
While in this transition, I would like to share twenty simple things you can do to make your online course more accessible. I offer you this with the reminder that accessibility isn’t simply about giving students with documented accommodations extra time on an exam, it’s about ensuring that everyone on your class has a robust learning experience.
20 Tips, shared from University of Washington:
- Use clear, consistent layouts and organization schemes for presenting content.
- Structure headings (using heading style features built into the Learning Management System, Microsoft Word and PowerPoint, PDFs, etc.) and use built-in designs/layouts.
- Use descriptive wording for hyperlink text (e.g., rather than “click here”).
- Avoid using PDFs, especially those presented as images (i.e, the text cannot be copied); if a PDF is used, design it to be accessible or create an accessible alternative. Consider using accessibly designed HTML or Word documents.
- Provide concise text descriptions of content presented within images.
- Use large, bold fonts on uncluttered pages with plain backgrounds.
- Use color combinations that are high contrast and can be read by those who are colorblind.
- Make sure all content and navigation is accessible using the keyboard alone and choose IT tools that are accessible.
- Caption videos and transcribe audio content. (note: Teams and Zoom offer robo-captioning of online meetings)
- Assume students have a wide range of technology skills and provide options for gaining the technology skills needed for course participation.
- Present content in multiple ways (e.g., in a combination of text, video, audio, and/or image format).
- Address a wide range of language skills as you write content (e.g., spell acronyms, define terms, avoid or define jargon).
- Make instructions and expectations clear for activities, projects, and assigned reading.
- Make examples and assignments relevant to learners with a wide variety of interests and backgrounds.
- Offer outlines and other scaffolding tools to help students learn.
- Provide adequate opportunities to practice.
- Allow adequate time for activities, projects, and tests (e.g., give details of project assignments in the syllabus so that students can start working on them early).
- Provide feedback on project parts and offer corrective opportunities.
- Provide options for communicating and collaborating that are accessible to individuals with a variety of disabilities.
- Provide options for demonstrating learning (e.g., different types of test items, portfolios, presentations, discussions).