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H810 Accessible Online Learning is over! I submitted the H810 EMA last week with a big sigh of relief. This blog post is reflection what this module covered and what I learnt.Overview of the module Funnily enough this turned out to be one of the more conventional modules I have studied this far on the MA ODE. Conventional in the sense that it appeared to be the most structured and focussed one with a clear pathway through the content, with set out reading matter and activities that looked at models of disability in society including theoretical approaches and about what accessibility means in different contexts. The first Tutor Marked Assignment required students to write an essay setting out their particular context and the challenges of accessible learning and supporting disabled students in this context. My chosen context was supporting students with dyslexia at university. I chose dyslexia because as a writing skills tutor, I wanted to be more aware of the needs of students who struggle with reading and writing. The next part of the module zoned in to more practical matters culminating the creation of an accessible resource. Evaluating this resource along with another student’s formed the basis of the second Tutor Marked Assignment, exploring the ways in which course material can be made accessible and what this means. I found this section to be the most difficult and time-consuming as I had to get to grips with creating a resource. Although I converted an existing learning module I can already created in Powerpoint, I used e-learning authoring tool Xerte Online Toolkits (XOT) to create this accessible resource. I was very impressed with the features of XOT but it took some time to fully understand how to use it. XOT is something I would like to use in my own practice, and I want to investigate installing it on a server and creating support modules for the training I do. The last part of the module was heavy on reading as it required reading through the set text by Jane Seale, looking at all the different perspectives of the different people involved in providing accessible online learning (such as learning technologists, content authors, instructors, senior managers) and considering the broader picture of institutional change and transformation. This phase also involved looking at theoretical perspectives to online accessibility by analysing online accessibility through various frameworks including Activity Theory and Communities of Practice. The EMA was a 6000 word essay focussing on three issues relevant to my chosen context that influenced the availability of online accessible learning requiring an analysis of how the issues conflicted and contradicted each other and ended with a reflection on how the module has impacted on my personal practice. Reflection at the end of the module Prior to starting this module, I had a fairly technical view of online accessibility. I believed that accessibility could be achieved by careful and clever programming, coding and production of electronic course materials so that disabled people could access the materials using assistive technologies or by producing alternative formats. I thought the module would focus on how to achieve this. While this approach is part of producing accessible online learning, H810 expanded my understanding of accessibility in learning and teaching. Recognising how the various models of disability such as the medical model and social model influence policy and behaviour was illuminating as was an understanding that accessibility isn’t only about a making course materials technically accessible. In fact, it became clear that it’s very difficult to make a single resource accessible to the full range of disabilities. I also considered how universal design for learning (UDL) approaches to course design can effectively build in accessibility and choices for a large number of students (including disabled students) without the need for subsequent adaptations, although total accessibility is probably unrealistic. I also appreciated how digital media and online tools can open up learning opportunities to disabled students. Apart from the advantages of flexible asynchronous online learning for students with mobility impairments, the delivery of course materials in multiple and adapted formats enabled dyslexic and visually impaired students opportunities to participate and access teaching and learning. In the (near) future, it is possible that technology will be able to serve up content and activities to students that is adapted on the fly.
One regret I have is that I didn’t blog more on this module. I was quite happy posting on the tutor group forums, but for some reason I didn’t manage to blog. I hope to remedy that as I start my final module H817 Openess and Innovation in Elearning.