Ashanti Morgan

Making Online Content More Accessible: Simple Techniques to Support All Learners Online

With the growing demand for blended and online content, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with considerations such as what type of content to include, identifying new websites or technical applications to introduce, and ensuring that the course design meets the needs of all learners.

The sheer nature of working at a distance increases the need to create opportunities for learner engagement and decrease ambiguity in communicating information. Thankfully, there are a number of different solutions that incorporate audio and/or video components that assist with humanizing the look and feel of your course. Introducing this type of media into course design means ensuring that all learners are able to access auditory resources.

One of the advantages of taking a blended or online course, especially for learners with specific needs, is the infinite number of times you can playback or review a concept until it’s mastered. For learners with special needs, diverse and/or preferred learning styles, English language learners (ELL), or English as a second language (ESL) students, incorporating transcripts, subtitles, closed captioning, etc. to audio and/or visual content in a course is invaluable. Faculty have also found that learners without special needs find having these resources embedded in the course a bonus.

In the following, I’ve detailed a number of simple solutions and shared resources that you can use when prepping your course to be more accessible.

Getting Started

As you start developing content such as a narrated lecture, audio/video introduction, module recap, etc., it’s common to begin with some form of an outline. Why not take it a step further by adding your script, talking points, etc. in a format that can be easily converted into transcript? On certain websites or technology applications, having a transcript file is all that you’ll need to get started.

In the table below, I’ve created an example of a transcript format that could be used for a narrated lecture or audio/video resource in your course.

Slide # Time code (if applicable) Transcript
1 0:00 – 0:10 Welcome to the course.In this module, you will learn the importance of creating transcripts or talking points at the outset of lecture development.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the alternative text (alt text) feature available on websites and in learning management systems. The alt text feature is a great way to provide a description of an image if the image doesn’t appear on the website.

Strategically Selecting Websites that are Accessible: What are your options?

Detailed below are some accessible-friendly resources used in online course development. This is not meant to be an inclusive list, but rather a good place to start if you’re developing a course from scratch, or planning to revise an existing course.

You’ll find that once you start vetting resources, many websites and applications have features like subtitles, closed captioning, etc. that can seamlessly be incorporated into your course. (Happy researching!)

TedTalk (subtitles, transcripts, multiple languages)

If you use websites like TedTalk, you’ll find that beneath each video, there’s an “interactive transcript” option that enables learners to turn on subtitles and the transcript. This feature is automated and synchronized with the speaker’s presentation. Check out the use of this feature in the sample: TedTalk.

YouTube

YouTube has a number of incredibly helpful resources that range from managing and adding captioning, to outsourcing options.

VoiceThread

Whether you’re creating captions or viewing them, VoiceThread offers suggestion on how to get started in the link below:

PowerPoint

If you narrate PowerPoint presentations, the resources in the link below enable you to add captions, annotations, or subtitles to your presentation.

Camtasia

If you plan to incorporate audio components into a lecture, Camtasia is a commonly used resource.

Caption it Yourself

This website is full of valuable information. You’ll find a number of resources that are free or fee-based that support users who want to add captioning options.

Additional resources: Video translation and captioning outsourcing

Ashanti Morgan

About Ashanti Morgan

Ashanti Morgan is a Senior Instructional Technology Consultant and Program Manager for the Global Learning Experience (GLE) initiative at DePaul University. She also teaches computer productivity courses online as an adjunct professor in DePaul's School for New Learning. Ashanti has been working in the instructional design industry for over a decade in a variety of sectors including higher education, K-12, and non-profit. In her current role at DePaul, she manages faculty training, strategic planning, and global course development for the GLE program, an initiative that exposes students to intercultural exchanges while collaborating virtually with students abroad. She also provides instructional design expertise to faculty in a variety of disciplines across the university. Ashanti earned her master’s degree in Instructional Technology from Northern Illinois University. She also obtained her bachelor’s degree in Organizational & Corporate Communication from Northern Illinois University.

One thought on “Making Online Content More Accessible: Simple Techniques to Support All Learners Online

  1. I am an instructional design student at Walden University. I am in the very beginnings of my coursework as I am currently enrolled in my second course. I found your post to be very insightful. As I consider creating future courses and web content for a wide audience of learners, many of whom may have special learning needs and requirements, I must consider many of the points identified in your post.

    When I took my first course on web design, I was introduced to Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (www.w3.org/TR/WCAG20 and the Web Accessibility Initiative (www.w3.org/WAI), which helps to ensure that sites are accessible to all users including individuals with physical, visual, hearing or cognitive disabilities.

    After reading your blog post, I wondered whether similar guidelines existed for instructional design courses and content. After a small bit of research I came across an article from an issue of edweek.org:
    http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2011/08/24/01edtech-disabilities.h31.html

    It offered additional strategies for designing instruction for individuals with specialized learning needs. One strategy included the option to have text read to the student.

    In another article, Online Course Designs: Are Special Needs Being Met? (American Journal of Distance Education, Volume 21,Issue 2 2007), recommendations for increasing accessibilities were made. Some suggestion include:

    • Providing text equivalents for all visual elements
    • Providing equivalent alternatives for moving images.
    • Increasing the availability of audio elements
    • When timing requirements exists students should have the
    option to increase or remove the timing.

    In thinking of support for all students online, my mind went to the teaching of diverse populations. It is my goal to be a part of a global education movement, so it is important to be cognizant of instructional design as it applies to the various cultures of the world.

    I would be very interested in your thoughts and expertise on the subject culturally responsive design.

    S. Elyce Lloyd

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