This recorded session was a FineFocus session in which we took a brief introductory look at Accessibility Standards. The topic is one that is becoming increasingly prominent as governments around the world set accessibility compliance standards for government websites.
We started with a poll and a whiteboard to find out where we were all coming from on Accessibility Standards and their application in an online/e-learning context. This revealed varying knowledge and so provided great opportunities for discussion as we continued through the session. We moved on to look at the sorts of things that we, both as individuals and in the context of meeting our students’ needs, felt made websites more accessible.The next part of the session was a brief look at the links and possible conflicts between Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and Accessibility Standards. We also took a very quick look, via App Share, at the guidelines that have been derived from the standards. I must admit that when I first looked at the guidelines I went into panic mode! I am reasonably tech savvy and I was totally daunted by the impossibility of making every piece of e-learning I develop totally compliant. I think that others in the session felt similarly – having had time to reflect my response is that I will do what is feasible and take baby steps. One of my main concerns is that this will all be too hard for the average practitioner who is only beginning their journey into developing online content and that the result will be a return to boring text only documents uploaded as documents and lacking interaction.
We also considered the impact on others (not falling in to defined equity groups) of changes made to meet the needs of specific equity groups. We compared some of the old Elluminate buttons/features with the new BbC ones that were developed through very close consultation with equity groups.
Finally we discussed some ways we might make a start on improving accessibility in our own practice – including checking foreground and background for colour contrast. Although it wasn’t one of those suggested I have made a change in my blog theme moving to a “responsive theme” ie one that is “mobile friendly” and adapts itself to the device type so that the text is readable without zooming. I made the change because fortuitously I saw this post by @suewaters – on “theedublogger” and it nudged me into making the change. I don’t like my new theme as much as the old one – I would probably have stayed with it forever given the opportunity, but I think it is good that I made the change!
We finished with a page of links, “takeaways” and feedback.
This was a really interesting session partly because we all came from very different amounts of prior knowledge which always gives rise to great discussions. Also our varied backgrounds enabled us to bring different perspectives – one of the best things as always for me was hearing/seeing the ideas and opinions of others in the group.
Our Next Webinar
Our next webinar will be an Edublogs “Serendipity” session on Thursday April 11th at 23:00 GMT/UTC (Afternoon/Evening USA) or Friday April 12th at 7am West Aus, mid morning Eastern States Aus depending on your timezone (check yours here) – in the usual BlackboardCollaborate room. This is one of our fortnightly unconference sessions where we invite you to bring along your “hot topics” and “burning issues”. We post these on the whiteboard and then choose the topic for discussion by poll.
In online PD on Friday (all welcome each Friday West Australian time 09:00 – Elluminate link) one of the potential topics was “what will the school of the future look like”. Someone instantly added “cloud computing” as part of the same question. This was a term I had heard but knew nothing about. Our topic for the day is chosen on a vote for the suggestions and this was not the one selected – we discussed “managing our information overloads” through a great demonstration by Sue Waters. However afterwards I felt I needed find out a bit about “cloud computing” so did a bit of exploring. I still don’t know much but I found that there were many cross links with my recent thoughts as a TAFE (Vocational Education and Training) Lecturer at a college with many distance/flexible and school based (on vocational courses) learners. I have been working cross-college to encourage lecturers to use online/e-learning. In our context the focus is on supporting, and delivering learning to, students who are unable (for whatever reason) to attend face-to-face, This has given me much food for thought regarding the wide variety of configurations and application in students’ home computers and the complexities of working with these in an online context – especially when demonstrating something in the virtual classroom when students don’t all hve the application you are demonstrating.
Through my Twitter stream I have contact with teachers in schools and universities in Western Australia (WA), the wider Australian context and also worldwide (particularly Canada and the USA). A major concept that keeps surfacing in my mind as a result of these interactions is a likely shape for learning in the future. I suspect that it is only a matter of time before schools, colleges and universities worldwide are aiming for the majority of their students to be working online from home for one or more days per week. The advantages of this are huge in infrastructure terms for educational institutions and also potentially in environmental terms for the planet. If we build our infrastrucutre and provide applications virtually “up in the clouds”
this may be one option for providing necessary applications for learners who don’t have them on computers at home. However I think that one of the major barriers to the “virtual campus” – for schools at least – will be the huge outcry from parents who will suddenly become responsible for their school age children for at least one extra day per week. This itself may have economic implications.
I live and work in a regional context – on a personal basis I can see no reason for driving 45 minutes each way to work to do all the admin and class preparation tasks I can do perfectly well from home.
Indeed many of these tasks I can do better or more easily from home as I do not have to contend with surrounding noise and interruptions from my colleagues in our large open office. Additionally I have better ie faster Internet access from home and do not have to waste time frequently contacting the IT department to unblock sites so that I can access them for learning resources. Because, as a college, we use virtual classroom delivery for our scattered students it is also feasible for me to deliver classes from home and I frequently do so as I have fewer connection issues from home.