In your online course development process, do you take specific steps aimed at addressing accessibility? How do you ensure that the course is accessible to students with a wide range of differing abilities?
General Standard 8 of the Quality Matters Rubric expects that “course design should reflect a commitment to accessibility so that all learners can access all course content and activities and to usability, so that all learners can easily navigate and interact with course components.” (Quality Matters ™ Higher Education Rubric Workbook, 2014).
Why Standard 8?
Several federal laws support the rights of individuals with disabilities. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) supports students with disabilities and is the foundational piece of legislation for ensuring equal access to programs and services in higher education. Sections 504 and 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 are also pertinent. Section 504 states that institutions are required to provide equal access to programs and services receiving federal funding, while Section 508 requires that federal websites have minimum benchmarks for website accessibility.
What Do These Laws Mean for CSC Online-Sakai Courses?
Because CSC is a public institution which receives federal funding, the online courses CSC provides to students are required to comply with these laws and ensure that course materials are accessible. The major portion of content created in CSC Sakai-Online course sites is generally accessible. However, materials developed using external applications such as Microsoft Word documents, Adobe PDFs, and multimedia may not be accessible for all students.
Incorporating accessible design enhances the learning experience for all students, not just students with disabilities. For example, selecting a font which is easy to read on a computer and mobile devices makes content more accessible for students with visual impairments, but it also provides all learners with content that is easier to read. Similarly, providing transcripts and captions for videos allows hearing impaired students to access content. However, providing multiple ways to engage with course activities and instructional materials provides an enhanced learning experience for all students.
This Accessibility Basics Handout provides guidelines for improving the accessibility and usability of your online course as per QM General Standard 8.
Are you taking specific measures to develop online course environments for students with different abilities? Post a comment below and let us know!
Quality Matters™ Higher Education Rubric Workbook (5th ed.). (2014). Annapolis, MD: MarylandOnline, Inc.