Where To Begin With Accessible E-Learning?

Where To Begin With Accessible E-Learning?

When it comes to designing accessible learning, there are inherent challenges associated with it.  The onus lies on learning designers to bridge the gap and build instructionally sound courses that meet the criteria for accessible e-learning.

For learning designers, there are two ways to incorporate accessibility in e-learning courses:

  1. Include accessibility features while designing the course
  2. Fit accessibility features in the course, once the design and development are done

The second option calls for costly rework and the use of extra time and effort. Apart from this, adding accessibility features post course development will not effectively create accessibility for everyone; certain accessibility criteria are likely to be left out.

The best option is to include accessibility elements during the e-learning design and development stages so that a truly accessible e-learning course is created which will cater to every type of learner. As a learning designer, what steps should you follow to meet this challenge? This blog will help you with the answers.

As a first step, know more about accessible e-learning:

  • Analyze the online user experience of people with disabilities
  • Understand their frustrations when they cannot access or use an e-learning course

This gives an insight into what they will need to access the course.

Realizing the need to include accessibility and actually implementing it are 2 different aspects; this will happen only if you plan ahead. Before the course is developed, as a designer, think of what the e-learning course will cover and its appearance (theme, color, fonts) and how it will be used. This will help you plan for including accessibility features.

Before starting the design process, you will need to speak to the project manager to ensure he understands the importance of accessibility. If not, you will have to:

  • Advise the client or your team on the legal requirements for accessibility
  • Review the guidelines of your client or your own organization
  • Decide on the tools and the delivery platforms
  • Develop accessible templates
  • Include an accessibility parameter in the review process

It will help if you are using a systemic instructional design approach and have accessibility in mind. To make things simple, let us take the basic ADDIE model which we know is an acronym for Analyze, Design, Develop, Implement, and Evaluate. Let us see how you can include accessibility in each step of this process so that you bring out a course that is accessible in the true sense of the word.

In the analyze phase, you will decide who will be taking the course, what will be included in it, and where the course will be implemented. When you are aware of these aspects, you can move to the design part where you will decide on the instructional strategies and how they should be developed, the content outline, the objectives and the assessment strategies.

Integrating accessibility in these steps will be possible if you have good knowledge of accessibility, the technological features available for developing and hosting the course.

In the development stage that includes writing storyboards, consider the words that will be used, how to present links, design the navigation, use graphics and colors, all while keeping accessibility in mind. This will help you give appropriate directions to graphic designers and developers.

Once you have completed the development phase, the next step is the implementation phase where you will have to conduct a pilot test and make the final updates. This should include an accessibility test and you can use assistive technologies or live testers to review the course for accessibility. In the evaluation phase, gather feedback on the user experience of the course.

When you integrate accessibility in all stages of the course design process, you can avoid hiccups in the development stage and the consequent costs. Planning for accessibility right at the beginning will work to your advantage. If accessibility has to be truly integrated in the e-learning course, the process should start in the design stage. Do you agree?  Share your comments.