Online Learning Accessibility – Practical Tips for Inclusivity
If there’s a single universal fact about learning, it’s that there’s not a one-size fits all approach to it. Learners come in various shapes and sizes, each with different profiles and personal traits. Yet, as learning professionals, we should strive to provide each of them an equal opportunity to learning experiences. We should recognise that people learn differently – to some it may seem more difficult than others – and design learning accordingly. To facilitate that in the digital space, here are a few quick tips on improving your online learning accessibility.
Online Learning Accessibility Guidelines
For starters, for learning professionals who wish to remain inclusive, there are two general frameworks that you should be aware of. The first is the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) which should provide useful even for technology developers. The second important framework is the Universal Design for Learning (UDL). At times, these might feel dated, but there are a lot of good information there. As is common with learning difficulties in general, it’s hard to understand them without practical examples. These frameworks help in that.
For now, let’s focus a bit more on the 3-fold division of the UDL and what it should mean in practice.
Online learning accessibility tip #1: Provide multiple means of representation
Providing multiple means of representation means to give learner different ways of acquiring knowledge and engaging with the learning materials. While nowadays video is one of the more prevalent formats in corporate learning, it may not be suited for everyone. Moreover, whole lot of traditional learning materials come in text format (handbooks, manuals etc.) – again not suitable for everyone. To really provide all your learners with an equal opportunity to succeed, you should strive to provide the resources in as diverse set of formats as possible, e.g. audio, visual, text.
To put online learning accessibility into practice, you might consider the following easy implementations:
- Providing text transcripts of videos or multimedia
- Embedding subtitles on videos
- For long text content, enabling the possibility of listening to an audio version (easy, free and quick to do with text-to-speech tools)
Online learning accessibility tip #2: Provide multiple means of expression
While it’s important to provide equal access to information, it’s equally important to facilitate equal assessment! Wherever there’s learning, there’s usually some type of assessment involved. While in general you should consider more formative assessment methods, these principles apply across the board. Firstly, it’s important to provide varied means of assessment: simple text-based multiple choice questions might be limiting for many. Secondly, it’s important to enable activities different from “final exams” where the learners can use their strengths to demonstrate their learning.
To facilitate online learning accessibility for assessment, here’s a few easy things you can do:
- Instead of text-based quizzes, incorporate more visual methods like drag-and-drops, flashcards and simulations.
- Enable users to demonstrate their knowledge in various forms: writing, audio/video recordings or through their daily tasks.
- Try to provide alternatives to “exam-based” assessment, such as journals, reflections and portfolios.
Online learning accessibility tip #3: Provide multiple means of engagement
While there are countless formats for learning content, engagement isn’t only limited to that. Rather, in terms of accessibility, engagement refers more to the ways of finding, accessing and consuming learning resources. You should promote autonomy and individual choice by letting your audience engage with learning when it best suits them. Group activities can also help to increase engagement. Whichever deliver formats you choose, always strive for high-context and relevant experiences.
Here are a few easy to implement tips on providing multiple means of engagement:
- Use omnichannel learning to provide a unified experience and increased ease of access across different platforms
- Use social learning and group activities to build social presence and consequently increase engagement
- Create a safe learning environment and a modern learning culture where learners don’t fear making mistakes
- Provide access to instructor even in case of online learning experiences for personalised guidance and assistance
Overall, we should pay much more attention to inclusivity and accessibility in both offline and online learning. Ultimately, it’s really all about finding ways to help our talent reach their full potential the fastest and providing various of ways of getting there.
If you wish to provide better corporate digital learning experiences or need a helping hand in developing or auditing your online learning accessibility, we are happy to give you a hand. Just drop us a note here.