Topic 5: Measures to Promote Equity and Accessibility

Accessibility and equity are crucial for e-learning. The term accessibility refers to making courses and materials accessible to individuals with varying abilities and needs. Equity refers to fairness, inclusion, and respect for diversity and differences among learners in online courses.

Here are some tips for promoting accessibility and equity:

  1. Know your learners: Gather information about learners’ backgrounds, learning styles, accessibility needs, and distance learning needs, using for example questionnaires (e.g., Google Forms). Ask about their access to high-speed internet or technology like cameras for livestreaming.
  2. When access is a problem, offer options or flexibility: Ask students what they need to do to better participate in class or submit work. Keep in mind that students with weak internet connections may stream data over cellular networks. This may result in problems as the time limit may pass before they complete all assignments. It is also critical to use mobile-friendly and accessible materials. Compared to other formats, PDFs work better on mobile phones. In addition, offer students who do not have laptops an alternative way to complete their assignments. For example, you can receive a picture of a handwritten essay.
  3. Provide both synchronous and asynchronous learning options: Synchronous classes allow faculty and students to interact in real time, whereas asynchronous classes let students access materials at their convenience. As students can access asynchronous courses on their own schedule, many technical issues can be reduced or avoided. It provides flexibility, relieves stress, and encourages participation. Synchronous online interactions are helpful for preparing topics, creating a social presence among members and planning tasks that need real-time feedback. Balance both synchronous and asynchronous tools and course materials.
  4. Apply universal design principles: UDL (Universal Design for Learning) was developed by neuroscientists in the 1990s to make products and environments that are accessible and usable regardless of a person’s abilities, disabilities, or other characteristics. This can be accomplished by delivering content in several ways, such as reading text (such as e-books or interactive timelines), listening to audio (podcasts or audio clips), viewing videos (live action or animations), or viewing images (infographics or photos). For multimedia elements, captions and transcripts must be provided to assist students with hearing impairments – or students who are in noisy environments or do not have headphones – as well as students with slow internet connections. Some tools generate captions. Automatic captioning is available on Google Slides and YouTube. Live captions aren’t available on Zoom, but they’re available when you record and watch later. Make sure all images and videos have descriptions.
  5. Monitor and evaluate your online course: Monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness and impact of your online course will help you ensure it is accessible and equitable for all learners. Learners can provide feedback through surveys, polls, or interviews.

(Hamraie, 2020;  Hicks, Brulé, & Dombrowski, 2020; Page, 2020; Top Hat, 2020).