Informing the Design of Cyberlearning: A Promising Practice in Promoting Diversity in Cyberlearning
The AccessCyberlearning 2.0 Synthesis and Design Workshop, a project funded by the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Cyberlearning and Future Learning Technologies program of the Division of Information and Intelligent Systems (#1824450), aims to inform the design of the next generation of digital learning environments for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) content.
According to the Center for Innovative Research in Cyberlearning (CIRCL), which works with projects in the NSF Cyberlearning Program and cyberlearning-themed projects across NSF to support, synergize, and amplify their efforts, “cyberlearning is the use of new technology to create effective new learning experiences that were never possible or practical before.” The largest application area of cyberlearning is arguably online learning, but any combination of technology and learning fits within its definition (e.g., students and faculty using a 3D printer in a campus Makerspace).
During a 2.5 day capacity building institute (CBI) participants shared their diverse perspectives and expertise as they explored:
- What challenges do learners with different types of disabilities face in using current and emerging digital learning tools and engaging in online learning activities?
- How do current digital learning research and practices contribute to the marginalization of individuals with disabilities?
- What advances in digital learning design are required to support multi-modal learning and engagement that is fully accessible to and usable by students with disabilities?
- What specific actions can digital learning researchers, funding agencies, educators, and other stakeholders take to systematically address issues with respect to disabilities?
The following project products were developed to inform the next generation of cyberlearning technologies and instruction regarding the creation of accessible and welcoming online learning tools and experiences.
- The AccessCyberlearning 2.0 Capacity Building Institute (2019) proceedings, which includes summaries of presentations, panels, and discussion outcomes.
- A white paper, Accessible Cyberlearning: A Community Report of the Current State and Recommendations for the Future, which addresses the AccessCyberlearning research questions and contributes to the development of forward-looking, highly adaptable, distributed, collaborative digital environments that can personalize learning for diverse learners that include individuals with disabilities with potential applications across multiple and varying (a) domains of knowledge, (b) learning contexts, and (c) time spans.
- A more comprehensive document, Designing Accessible Cyberlearning: Current State and Pathway Forward, which supports the findings reported in the white paper.
- The Guidelines for Cyberlearning Researchers publication summarizes guidelines for how researchers can address disability/accessibility-related issues with respect to (a) designing and testing new technologies, (b) analyzing and reporting outcomes, and (c) designing project activities and resources.
- An AccessCyberlearning website with resources that includes publications, a literature collection, and a searchable AccessCyberlearnig Knowledge Base with more than 230 Q&A’s, Case Studies, and Promising Practices aimed at improving the experiences of learners with diverse characteristics, including disabilities, in digital learning.
The AccessCyberlearning 2.0 Synthesis and Design Workshop is a promising practice in bringing together cyberlearning researchers, technology developers, instructors, and other leaders in the field to share ideas and expertise, synthesize current knowledge, and inform those that design, fund, and use the next generation of cyberlearning technologies and instruction about how to create welcoming and accessible digital learning tools and experiences. More inclusive products and instruction will ensure that individuals with disabilities will benefit from all that cyberlearning offers and contribute to future developments in the field.
Additional information and resources related to the accessibility of cyberlearning projects can be found on the AccessCyberlearning website.