eLearning has made education much more accessible for many, but there is still more to be done. eLearning allows learners to pace themselves at a rate which suits them and to study from their own home or other remote location which suits their needs. The digital learning sector is growing rapidly, with the UK’s EdTech sector growing by 72% in 2020 according to research by recruitment company Robert Walters. The more education heads online, the more we need to do to ensure it is accessible to all.
Sadly, the NUS found that 27% of students enrolled at UK university were unable to access online learning during COVID-19 and many of these were disabled student. More should be done to make eLearning accessible, and the Equality Act 2010 makes it law. Here we’re looking at some practical ways eLearning can be made more accessible.
Design with Audio-visual in Mind
Learners with disabilities, and many others in fact, may prefer an audio or visual version of a written course. When you need to provide visuals such as image and videos then you need to ensure your content is fully compatible with assistive technology such as screen readers and this can be done by including captions, providing transcripts, and using language which is appropriate, clear and concise.
Subtitles as Standard
All video or audio content should come with subtitles included and prior to this kind of content, you should also provide an introduction explaining how the learner can interact or engage with it. Subtitles are essential for all multimedia content, and this gives more people the chance to enjoy the course and gain the same full experience from the content provided.
Screen reading technology relies upon manually inputted information from course providers and content creators. For example, for screen readers to describe an image, the image needs a caption or an alt-text (or both) so the software can effectively describe the content for the learner. Any graphic which is integral to the course should be captioned.
Consider your Colour Contrast
Contrast is extremely important for people with visual disabilities, as it can hamper their ability to read and see the text. Contrast should be high and you may also consider a larger text size for inclusivity and accessibility purposes. Placing text over busy or multicoloured backgrounds can be difficult to read and make the course information impossible to grasp for some learners.
Plan your Course Interactions and Instructions
Not all kinds of course interaction and function are accessible to all learners. You may want to use a “drag and drop” interaction but this requires a level of mouse usage which all learners may not have. Instead, find simple and easier to access alternatives and fit your content to these easier methods so all learners can be included.
Similarly instructions within your course may be ambiguous and difficult for some learners. Words like “click” once again imply a learner is using a mouse and this isn’t always the case. Rather than “click here” opt for instructions such as “select this link to find out more about the topic”. This makes things clearer for learners and the technology they use.
Accessibility should be a consideration for all content creators and eLearning providers. A few small changes can make a course much more accessible and attract a wider range of learners.