Real Connections: Making Distance Learning Accessible to Everyone

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[Narrator] It's been going on for generations: teachers and students communicating long distance. From mailboxes to Macs, it's a time-honored way of connecting.
[Mike] I got to go at my own pace.
[Matthew] One of them was an advanced science course.
[Mike] I was able to finish the course in, like, record time.
[Matthew] And then I've also taken an English course over the Internet.
[Mike] And it was really good.
[Narrator] Mike took distance learning classes while he did other things, like summer camp and a boat trip with his family. And that's the beauty of distance learning: it makes educational opportunities available anywhere, anytime, to anyone.
[Veronika] With distance learning classes, I'd be able to go to work and still earn credits at school, and do my work on my own time.
[Tynesha] If I could work from home, that'd be a lot easier.
[Narrator] The point of distance learning is to give access to more students, which has always included those with time or distance limitations. For people with disabilities, the way that information and content is delivered is critical to success.
[Sara] Distance learning actually utilizes various modes of delivery, and each one of those modes needs to be accessible for students with a variety of disabilities.
[Narrator] That goes for instructors with disabilities, too. Making a course accessible to qualified individuals is required by the Americans with Disabilities Act. This is Cliff, a young man signed up for a distance learning class. This is his instructor, Sheryl. She's planning the resources for her class, including a website, class discussions using email, some printed information, and a little video as well. What she doesn't know is that Cliff is blind.
[Sheryl] He's blind?
[Cliff] Yep.
[Sara] What instructors need to think about ahead of time is universal design. And they need to think about that while they're planning their course, so that they're ready for students who may arrive with a variety of disabilities. And it's a lot easier to do that during the planning stage, rather than waiting till a student with a disability shows up at your class.
[Narrator] For Cliff, there are a number of challenges in accessing Sheryl's course.
[Cliff] I can't read standard print; I can't see graphics on a website; and, sometimes on video, it's hard to understand exactly what's going on if it's very visual.
[Narrator] Other students may have disabilities such as mobility impairments, learning disabilities, hearing impairments, or speech impairments.
[Student] I will have a note taker.
[Narrator] People with disabilities may use specialized hardware and software for their computers, such as screen readers, alternative keyboards, and speech input. But even with this adaptive technology, accessing course materials can be difficult.
[Stephanie] A lot of times, people don't describe pictures; that would be a good thing to do when you're thinking of designing a Web page.
[Sara] When you're developing a distance learning course, you're trying to make all the activities and all the course content accessible to a student with disabilities. And when you do that type of planning, you're not only making it accessible for the student with a disability, but you're actually making it more accessible for all the students.
[Narrator] Okay, back to Cliff ... and Sheryl. They're going to help us walk you through some strategies for accessibility. or with specific learning disabilities, standard print just doesn't work.
[Cliff] I can't read it, okay?
[Narrator] Print can be converted into Braille, large print, or electronic formats.
[Cliff] Electronic format works best for me, because with my screen reading software, I'm ready to go.
[Computer] Space I S S space E [Narrator] Screen reading software reads aloud text that appears on the screen, such as in email or on a Web page. Electronic access also works very well for people whose learning disabilities make it difficult for them to read. to send a bio to the whole group.
[Narrator] Many email applications are fully accessible to people with disabilities, so email is an accessible choice for delivering a syllabus or other course materials. Students can use email to turn in their assignments and tests as well.
[Cliff] Email works great because, if you have a disability, you already have the technology to access the information; so the teacher doesn't have to change anything. to communicate electronically at the same time. Although this works for Cliff, real-time chatting can present access challenges for many screen reader users. Or, someone with a learning disability, who takes a long time to compose his thoughts, might not be able to participate fully. This would also be true for someone whose input method is slow.
[Sara] If you're planning to use synchronous communication online, where people are talking live, you might need to make it optional; or you could offer an equivalent, alternative assignment for the student with a disability. about how I can read it. For instance, my screen reader can't read graphics.
[Narrator] Web pages should conform to accessibility standards, such as the W3C's Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. For example, images should include alternate text for screen-reader users.
[Computer] Tab. A researcher reaches into a sealed box to manipulate a small square of solar cells.
[Narrator] And make sure all features accessible by a mouse also work without a mouse. Test this by navigating through a Web page using only a keyboard.
[Sara] If a test fails to access the material that you need for content, then you need to rethink your design.
[Narrator] Keep page layouts simple, clear, and consistent. This will help students with low vision or learning disabilities. Use HTML headings to clearly communicate the structure of the page and use navigation choices that do not rely on color alone, since some students may be unable to perceive color. are software applications often used to deliver courses online. Most are Web-based, so are subject to the same accessibility issues as other websites. Even if a learning management system is accessible, an online course using it can still be inaccessible if the instructor fails to use accessible course materials. in distance learning courses.
[Cliff] Video's okay sometimes. I can usually understand what they're, what's going on just by listening. But depending on if they're demonstrating something, or if it's too visual, I may not quite grasp the whole idea.
[Descriptive audio track] On the computer chalkboard, happy faces dot the screen.
[Narrator] A separate audio track to describe actions or graphics works well for people with visual impairments. Captioning makes audio content accessible for people with hearing impairments.
[Sara] The cheapest and easiest solution is to find video that already has captioning or audio description. But sometimes that's not possible, and you have to make your own adjustments.
[Narrator] Text transcripts for videos can be read by a screen reader using a Braille display for people who are deaf-blind. Transcripts also provide access for people who have technical limitations.
[Computer] A-M-U-N [Narrator] And for any user, text-based captions make it easy to locate specific information at a later time. to work with an instructor who's somewhere else. They can use video or, possibly, audio only.
[Sara] The problem with this is that it's a scheduling problem for everyone. A lot of people take distance learning classes because their schedules are tight or they already have conflicts. Another issue is accessibility for a student who may be deaf or has a speech impairment. he wants know, what should I look for in regards to accessibility resources?
[Narrator] Web conferencing incorporates live interaction and data sharing over the Internet. It might include a video or audio chat; a text chat; a slide show, or a whiteboard.
[Instructor, Web conference] Here we have a building with lots of steps,and we want to somehow get into this building.
[Narrator] When purchasing or subscribing to a Web conferencing system, many of the Web and video accessibility questions apply, such as whether the system supports captioning, screen readers, and keyboard navigation.
[Narrator] Electronic documents can present accessibility challenges similar to those of Web pages. For example, images require alternate text, and HTML headings and sub-headings need to be marked up as such. of a distance learning course is similar to teleconferencing, in that it requires students to meet at a shared location. Some of the same difficulties apply. If you do use this option, however, be sure the facility is wheelchair accessible. Consider class space, restrooms, and parking. The instructor needs to speak clearly, facing the class, for those who lip read. An interpreter must be provided for students who are deaf. And if any visual materials are used, the instructor should describe them aloud for students with visual impairments. in making your distance learning course accessible is to be proactive. Don't wait until someone with a disability enrolls to figure it out; consider accessibility issues from the start. your distance learning class will be accessible to any student who enrolls and any instructor who is hired to teach it. It's the right thing to do, reduces legal risk, and creates a better learning environment for everyone.
[Cliff] Distance learning is a good option for a lot of people. Classes can be made accessible and should be made accessible. It's not that hard to do. 00:11:32,696 --> 00:11:34,676 [Narrator] By applying universal design, 00:10:32,496 --> 00:10:33,416 [Narrator] The important thing 00:09:54,766 --> 00:09:56,426 [Narrator] On-site instruction that's part 00:08:53,546 --> 00:08:54,816 [Instructor, Web conference] Another question from Matthew, 00:08:25,906 --> 00:08:28,456 [Narrator] Teleconferencing puts together small groups of people 00:07:19,576 --> 00:07:23,086 [Narrator] DVD, televised, or online videos may be included 00:06:47,826 --> 00:06:50,676 [Narrator] Learning management systems, or LMS, 00:05:41,136 --> 00:05:44,126 [Cliff] Web pages work well, as long as the designer thinks 00:05:01,366 --> 00:05:04,016 [Narrator] In some courses, participants might be required 00:04:29,266 --> 00:04:30,916 [Computer] To get started, I'd like each of you 00:03:48,056 --> 00:03:49,796 [Narrator] For students with visual impairments 00:01:40,626 --> 00:01:43,716 [Narrator] Now, let's look at a typical, real-life situation. 00:00:20,096 --> 00:00:22,816 [Matthew] I've taken two distance learning classes.