AccessCyberlearning 2.0 Synthesis and Design Workshop Overview

The AccessCyberlearning 2.0 Synthesis and Design Workshop aims to conduct exploratory research to inform the design of the next generation of digital learning environments for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) content.

Led by the DO-IT (Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology) Center—which has decades of expertise in designing welcoming, accessible, and usable websites, documents, videos, and digital learning activities—the AccessCyberlearning 2.0 Synthesis and Design Workshop answered four research questions that emerged from its current AccessCyberlearning project funded by the NSF Cyberlearning and Future Learning Technologies program of the Division of Information & Intelligent Systems (#DRL-1824540):

  1. What challenges do learners with different types of disabilities face in using current and emerging digital learning tools and engaging in online learning activities?
  2. How do current digital learning research and practices contribute to the marginalization of individuals with disabilities?
  3. 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?
  4. What specific actions can digital learning researchers, funding agencies, educators, and other stakeholders take to systematically address issues with respect to disabilities?

To address these questions, project staff engaged an interdisciplinary team in an online community of practice and a 2.5-day synthesis and design workshop to

  • synthesize and integrate existing research related to the accessibility of digital learning to students with a variety of disabilities;
  • produce a white paper which addresses the 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; and
  • develop 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.

Individuals with disabilities (including those who also identify as women or other minority status) inform all aspects of the project. Participants represent NSF-funded Cyberlearning projects as well as those that work to increase the participation of people with disabilities in STEM. Members of the project planning committee helped design the workshop and project products. The project evaluator has tracked activities and collect data on outputs (e.g., products, participants) and outcomes (e.g., changes made).

The white paper, a longer comprehensive paper, and a short guidelines brochure are all now published online.

Broader Impacts

The AccessCyberlearning 2.0 Synthesis and Design Workshop advanced knowledge relevant to improving the success of individuals with disabilities in digital learning and foster synergistic and lasting relationships among participants that will result in systemic changes toward inclusive digital learning. It ensured long-term impact by building from earlier projects, creating durable relationships among participants, and enhancing the research infrastructure by developing and disseminating transformational research and practice to enhance understanding and promote replication and impact for creating future digital learning opportunities that are welcoming and accessible to everyone, including students and instructors with disabilities. The ultimate outcomes were to broaden participation in STEM by including more people with disabilities and to improve these fields with their unique expertise and perspectives.

This work grows out of our AccessCyberlearning Conference project, which continues to run an online community of practice to discuss disability; design innovative learning technologies and teaching strategies that are welcoming to, accessible to, and usable by everyone, including people with disabilities; and ensure that Cyberlearning project materials (e.g., websites, videos, curriculum) and activities (e.g., meetings, presentations) are welcoming to, accessible to, and usable by all participants.