Changes to curriculum don’t just happen out of nowhere – they come from faculty members thinking about what to teach and searching for new and innovative ways to engage students in the learning process. Instructors often encounter barriers to curricular change, including:
- not enough time,
- no room for additional topics in the class,
- lack of space for more classes in the curriculum, and
- insufficient expertise to teach a particular topic, like accessibility.
These barriers can prove daunting for one faculty member to overcome. However, by working as a team, members can challenge and encourage each other to implement change. For example, the University of Washington hired three lecturers to teach INFO 340, a course on client-side web development. The instructors participated together in web accessibility training and strategized about how they could include the information in their courses. Ultimately, one instructor took the lead on adding accessibility content to the course, including a lecture on accessible HTML and an Accessibility Challenge in which students must add accessibility markup to an existing web page and create their own accessible web page from scratch.
The additional content not only incorporated information about accessibility, but also served to make the lesson on markup more compelling. The instructor who added the content committed to teaching the new markup lesson over the summer. The new lesson worked well and was engaging for students. Based on this trial, all of the instructors implemented the accessibility content in subsequent sections of the course. The director of the undergraduate program championed the change throughout the process by arranging the training and checking in with instructors throughout. In just the first year, over 200 web developers were trained in web accessibility basics.
The UW INFO 340 course is a promising practice for including accessibility in the computing curriculum. You can facilitate similar change by:
- identifying a champion (whether this is you or someone else in your department),
- surveying your landscape for incentives and capacity for change,
- creating sufficient incentives and capacity,
- finding the person most motivated to change and managing their change, and
- repeating these steps as necessary.
There should also be some long term thought to including accessibility, and adding scheduled time to check that the efforts put forward are not forgotten or waylaid.
For more information about this topic, consult the Including Accessibility in Information School Classes replication package and the Teach Access section of the AccessComputing website.