Inclusive learning and teaching environments course – week 1

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I had joined the Digital Accessibility course early this year. When I noticed the Inclusive Learning and Teaching Environment course, I joined it too. I found the topic of accessibility and inclusivity is very useful. It not only helps my work but also makes me see the design and use of technologies differently.

There are many sessions in this week. A lot of reading and reflection on inclusive teaching and learning environment and practice.

The first important learning for me is the concept of “inclusive teaching“, and the related terms including “reasonable adjustments“, “individual interventions“, and “accommodations“. These terms may be used in different contexts and in different countries, such as reasonable adjustments can happen in education, workplace, or society as long as it is people-related. For me in the educational context, these terms have the same aim that is to break barriers and provide opportunities for everyone to achieve their full potential. 

The second important learning for me is the differences between the Social model solution and the Medical model problem. I might have taken the Medical module in many situations which I thought I was doing disabled people a favour. Actually it “creates low expectations and leads to people losing independence, choice and control in their own lives” (from the Scope website). As an ESL speaker, I probably did not realise the language I have used too. The handy guides are Inclusive language: words to use and avoid when writing about disability and Planning for Inclusive Access in Wales Good Practice Guidance Toolkit.

The third important learning is the concept of “born accessible“, which means “in the context of inclusive design for learning and the benefits to students of providing multiple formats” (quote from the course). For me it is vital when we create a material, we should produce it in a right way, an inclusive way. Doing this is not easy as providing accessible multiple formats materials requires the creator to know each tool’s (the technology) features well. For example, knowing where to Add alt text to images in Microsoft Word or PowerPoint; any action that uses a mouse, can also be completed by a keyboard; add subtitles or captions to a video either when record it or after using an editor tool. As a first step, providing guidelines for the creating accessible materials is essential.

The most useful resources that I can use straightaway are below. There are more waiting for me to digest.


LER & Uses of technology using action research – Week 5

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I am catching up the Week 5, which is about the strategies and techniques of creating a dissemination and publication plan.

Why disseminate? For me, it’s to share it and let people who are relevant to the area to recognise the research, and further to get feedback. Do you want to conduct a study that only yourself knows?

There are many channels to help disseminate a research study, however crucially it needs to be clear who are the audience and what the writing aims for. I have learnt to think about how to dissemination by considering (1) different modes of communication (e.g., texts, speech, visual, sound, etc.). There is a very useful resource of different modalities developed by UCL. (2) Different methods and platforms (e.g., conference, seminars, internal or external events, journals, report, social media, blogs, wikis, SlideShare etc.). I have used social media like blogs and tweets and workshops, but haven’t used TweetChat and Storify much. I would like to explore these more.

I particularly like the ‘engaged dissemination’ session as I haven’t had engaged participants in my investigation design and the writing a lot. I didn’t ask myself if the participants can be co-author or involve in the design of the project conduction. This will be my main concerned part in conducting a research study. There is a very useful suggestion from the Unit 4:

“People are generally more receptive to ideas and research findings if they have some ownership and engagement during the project, rather than just being presented with a ‘cold’ report at the end.”

I was glad to have the opportunity to see the SALT project led by the Teesside University. It’s a great example of developing innovative educational approach through encouraging student partnership to make real impact.  I’m also happy to notice the Know it Wall website sponsored by JISC, which is a platform for top universities to present on-going research to the public.

Through the activities such as TweetChat, Reflecting on case study, Reading recommended articles, and Writing my own dissemination plan in this week, I see that action research can be a very powerful methodology in my work as it involves a process that is thoughtful and focusing on the improvement that we want to enact through the study.

What and How to Teach with Video – Week 2-4

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In week 2, I learnt pedagogically Effective Design for video, which is the essential knowledge in order to achieve the potential of the pedagogic roles. The Week 3 and Week 4 are design exercises. As I was late to register this course, I did this exercise without a peer group.

The Design Principles includes 30 principles defined in 8 categories (Hook, Signpost, Cognitive Engagement, Constructive Learning, Sensitise, Elucidate, Reinforce and Consolidate). This framework is based on the educators ideas at the BBC Open University Production Centre.

As Jack has said that “It’s often necessary to complement video with discussion, printed guidance, practice, formative evaluation”, I can see this course is designed in such way. I really like Jack’s demonstration in each video. In each unit, he provides learning materials underneath the video. In the video, he explains the concepts with examples and used colours to highlight the principles he was talking. His presentation alongside the content does help learners to follow and understand better. For example, the explanation about “control pace” and “word-image synergy” helps me a lot. As when I made a webcast, I spoke slowly because I knew users can change the play speed themselves, but I didn’t think wording and how can I say it in different ways to make the indicate syntax, or where should I pause longer or short due to indicate a new topic, etc.

I like the exercises about which pedagogic roles overlap with the design principles too. The difficult ones for me are:

  • “Concertise/Activate their knowledge” overlaps with “visual representation/analogy/metaphor” and “illustrating concepts”;
  • “Control pace, depth, breath” overlaps with “composite images”, “modelling”, and “condensing time” , and
  • “Maximise cognitive clarity” overlaps with “animated diagrams”.

It’s not easy to remember all 30 design principles and 33 pedagogic roles. However, it’s easy to remember some of the video clips that Jack used to explain the concepts. I will definitely consider what I learnt from this course, and apply the principles that I think the most beneficial for learners when I prepare to deliver video content.

Thanks for Jack Koumi run this open course. Jack Koumi’s latest publications:

At last, I have to say that I found that navigating a course on EMMA isn’t easy. I missed a few assignments, and later I realised that I can go to the course – My Dashboard to view all units and assignments/quizzes linearly, so I can see which section I have missed.  Also the Unit sections should have a number like 1.1 to help learners to browser. Meanwhile, I wouldn’t notice Jack’s blog if I didn’t read his comment in a discussion. He has summarised assignment answers and key notes in his blog, which is very important.

Digital accessibility course – week 4

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This week is about making web content accessible.

Although I am familiar with HTML in my work, I have to check my knowledge again by reviewing the Web Content Accessibility Guideline (WCAG2.0) and the Web Accessibility Tutorials. I am glad to read the difference between WCAG1.0 and WCAG2.0 too. I realised that I still make mistakes when using “alt” to describe image.

The WCAG2.0 provides 12 guidelines and 4 principles for creating accessible web content. As more and more multimedia resources added into our e-learning system, I noticed the guideline 1.2 “Time-based Media: Provide alternatives for time-based media”. It’s very useful and can help us to reduce accessible barriers when creating the online resources.

With WAI-ARIA, developers can make advanced web applications accessible and usable to people with disabilities. Reading the Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines (ATAG), I started to think if Xerte Online Toolkit (1) has made the authoring tool itself accessible, and (2) helps authors produce accessible content.

There are 3 levels of conformance:

  • Level A (lowest): It is the minimum level of conformance, which means the web page satisfies all the Level A Success Criteria, or a conforming alternate version is provided.
  • Level AA: The Web page satisfies all the Level A and Level AA Success Criteria, or a Level AA conforming alternate version is provided.
  • Level AAA (highest): The Web page satisfies all the Level A, Level AA and Level AAA Success Criteria, or a Level AAA conforming alternate version is provided.

The important thing to know is that WCAG2.0 does not cover all accessibility problems, therefore conducting conformance checking of WCAG2.0 does not prove your website support accessibility to everyone.

The best way of testing a website accessibility is to combine the conformance testing and user testing as both ways have pros and cons.

Conformance testing includes two types testing below. However, it does not involve real users, but user testing may be time consuming, expensive and having difficulties to find suitable real users.

  • automatic testing, which is using programming to test. You can use WAVE and AChecker.
  • manual testing, which is experts inspection.

Through an example of improvement of a web site by applying the WCAG 2.0, I see the differences between applying WCAG2.0 and not applying it. It’s a good way to make us think about the online resources that we have developed, and what we can do.

Similar to previous weeks, I learnt some useful resources:

Digital accessibility course – week 2

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I enjoyed learning new and practical things in week two.

I add two things of the course design which have given me good experience.

  • It provides exercises and quiz in the section which are designed timely and not lengthy.
  • People’s comments provide extra useful resources.

Technology can be very helpful. Human can design and create assistive technology to compensate for limitations relative to mobility and speech. I suppose this is “When God closes a door, He always opens a window.” Having a disability does not exclude people from discovering and pursuing their passions in life. The incredible examples are:

I have started to aware many technologies I never heard of. I listed some below. I thought I would be able to use these technologies easily, but actually it’s complex, especially I had to try them in some way that I don’t usually do. For instance, I tried the NVDA on Windows 10. I closed my eyes, and only used the keyboard to work out what a webpage looks like by listening to what the software tells me. It’s no success I could follow and find the information easily. Listening to the robot voice made me tired and annoyed too. The exercises let me see how technologies/documents/webpages have been designed without thinking of accessibility. Online resource creators (including me) can easily forget the accessibility guidelines.

The most import point of this week is learning how to make document accessible. Here are things I learnt particularly and I have started to apply them in my own document creation from this week.

  • I never noticed that there is an “Insert captions” feature for an image in MS-Word. I often create an caption under the figure/image myself.
  • Between Decorative image, Informative image, and Functional image, I felt I haven’t used the “alt” tag in the functional images properly most of time. The W3C Web Accessibility Initiative tutorial is really helpful.
  • Using”alt” tag for Group of images
  • A mistake – using style (e.g, bold enlarged text) instead of proper headings
  • A mistake – putting blank lines between paragraphs rather than setting the “space before/after” attribute for paragraphs
  • The accessibility guideline provided in the course is very useful for auditing a document for accessibility.

Digital accessibility course – week 1

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I registered the “Digital Accessibility: Enabling Participation in the Information Society” online course, which started on 6th February.

With my previous experience of a software engineer, I knew that the good or bad of an application is largely related to how much the designers/programmers know their users. I took an “Interaction Design” course as a part of my degree many many years ago. I learnt how our own brain illusion can affect our understanding and designs. Although in my work I haven’t been involved in creating/developing products/applications any more, I see many examples of learning content delivered without thoughtful design and users complaining about the difficulty and inconvenience when use a system (including myself!). I hope through this course, I refresh my knowledge; learn this topic systematically, especially considering the disabled/elderly users, which I may not have enough knowledge of; and start to improve my practices.

This is my first MOOC experience. Because it doesn’t have a blog area in the course, I decide to write down my experience here.

First, I noticed the course itself is a good example regarding to digital accessibility. I list some.

  • It clearly presents online communication etiquette and content copyright.
  • It provides transcript for each audio/video clip. The transcript is easy to read and searchable. I can access to it at any time.
  • It provides a glossary (downloadable) which helps us to check the vocabularies used in the course.
  • The comments field supports editing and spelling check, which is very useful to avoid typos.
  • I can check my comments and progress quickly.
  • Video materials are downloadable.
  • Audio materials can be set to play with different speed.

Second, the most mind-opening statements for me are:

  • Professor Mike Wald said “Everybody can think of themselves as only temporarily not having a disability, because at some point in their life as they get older, they will have some sort of disability.
  • “… disability is caused by the way society is organised, rather than by a person’s impairment or difference. … An impairment is defined as long-term limitation of a person’s physical, mental or sensory function.” from Scope
  • The term ‘Usability’ is normally used to refer to the actual use of the technology by a particular target group of users and contexts (e.g. including whether they find it easy to learn to use). The term ‘Accessibility’ is normally used to refer to the use of the technology by everyone rather than just a specific group of users (e.g. including whether blind people can also use the technology).”  from section 1.6.
  • Up to one in seven people in Europe may have speech, language and literacy difficulties at some time in their lives.” from section 1.15.
  • As Neil Milliken said that “everyone in an organisation should have some knowledge of the issues that affect one in five of the population”. I think I never even asked myself what is the issue?

Third, the new knowledge that I knew little about:

  • I realised how little knowledge I have about the UK law/legislation. I learnt that “…only Accessibility has actual legislation making it illegal to disadvantage a disabled person through an inaccessible product or service.” In the UK, it’s the Disability Equality Act (2010).
  • Everyone can influence their organisation. However, to be able to do so, it needs a hub and spoke, effectively, and champions. More importantly, it needs an executive sponsor who is higher-up enough to support companions.
  • Subtitles and captions are different. I now know why Blackboard Collaborate product uses the term ‘captions’.
  • Seeing the examples of people who have dyslexia, hearing impairment, deaf, visual impairment, and cerebral palsy, and the discussions about the challenges they face daily, I appreciate what I have. I started to see more of people’s needs and learn the existing technologies that they are using but I haven’t heard of.

Fourth, the course opens many resources to us. I am starting to think how much work I have been involved in has met the Accessibility standard, and how many of our current web resources follow the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0. The new tools/resources that I can immediately use in my practice are:

Finally, I list a few inconvenient points.

  • The learning resource links are not opened in a new window/tab. When click on a link, it opens in the same window, which if you are typing some comments and click on a link accidentally, you will lose the unpublished comments. You need to type again.
  • It does not support ‘searching’ in the course.
  • It suggests that 3 hours/week studying time are needed. In fact, I have spent much more time on learning course materials, reading people’s comments, posting comments, and digesting what I learned in this week. Is it because I haven’t been a student for too long? I guess if the learner has already had the background knowledge, they can learn much quicker than I did, but still 3 hours/week seems impossible.

Don’t ignore the web design concepts in your interactive materials

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Nowadays many web-based tools are designed easy-to-use. Users can quickly deliver content through webpages. However, we notice that people may not consider the web design elements when they create interactive teaching materials online.

Questions we often come across are like below. It’s hard for people to know everything of web design and their user experience. So I list some quick resources that may help you to design online materials better.

  • I want to use an image on the page, but where can I get good free images?

There are massive image resources on the Internet. However finding a suitable image from a reliable resource and using the image legally are the key. The UK Intellectual Property Office has published an Intellectual property – guidance: Copyright notices. Before you searching images, read it first. Below are useful resources for you.

  • Why does the image look differently on other people’s machine from mine?

Your audiences view the page using different mobiles, tablets and browsers. Different web browsers that are created by different companies may not display web pages the same way. Thus, make sure you have tried on different devices if possible and make sure your webpages are cross-browser compatibility. Using some of the recommended tools to check your webpages.

  • What highlight colour on the page should I use if I want call people’s attention?

Think about what theme colours you have on your webpage. Who are the audience? Does the page or image on the page contain red/green colours combination that may affect colour blind users? Do you have more than three key colours on the page? What do you want to highlight, for instance texts or a specific area. Is it possible to call user’s attention without to use highlight colours? Ask random audience to have a look at your webpage and see how they respond to it.

Using some of the resources to improve your pages.

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