Introduction and Module Outline
This module has been designed in response to the move to online teaching and learning in the wake of COVID-19. While many excellent training sessions and resources have been compiled to support educators in navigating this change in delivery format, there has been an expressed need for an accessibility-focused training module: One that contextualizes issues of accessibility in online learning, provides an accessibility framework for application to online teaching practice, shares disabled student experiences, and collects related resources into one centralized location.
To address these needs, this module is organized into three sections:
- Designing an accessible online learning environment
- Creating and selecting accessible course content
- Fostering welcoming and engaging online social interactions
We focus on three significant dimensions of the online learning experience (the learning environment, course content and the social context of learning) that can each have an impact on course design, delivery, engagement with students, and assessment throughout the temporal life of a course. By considering these dimensions from the outset, you can proactively mediate potential barriers to accessibility at the stages of design and content creation, thereby reducing the need for individual accommodations that can be onerous for both the student and the instructor. Although some responsive adaptations for particular individuals may still be required, as it is impossible to anticipate the unique needs of every learner, adopting a forward-thinking accessibility mindset allows you to be better prepared to react to emerging needs throughout the process of course facilitation.
The module addresses teaching online, but you may notice that much of the content is equally applicable to the in-person teaching environment – particularly since many courses already had blended (i.e. technology-enabled) elements before the rapid and widespread shift to online learning precipitated by the COVID-19 pandemic. It is our hope, then, that you apply what you learn through the module not only in the current moment, but in your teaching practice more generally.
By the end of this module, you should be able to:
- Identify and describe several barriers that students with disabilities may experience in online learning;
- Apply accessible education principles of Flexibility, Alignment, Variety and Explicitness to develop a strategy for mediating these barriers to enhance access for all; and
- Minimize the need for individual accommodations by considering accessibility from the outset of course design.