Shaping the Future of Cyberlearning: A Promising Practice for Promoting Accessibility in Cyberlearning Projects

AccessCyberlearning, funded by the National Science Foundation under grant #IIS-1550477, works with current and future cyberlearning researchers, technology developers, and instructors to inform their research with what is known about student differences/disabilities; design innovative learning technologies and teaching strategies that are welcoming to, accessible to, and usable by everyone, including people with disabilities; and ensure that project materials and activities  are welcoming to, accessible to, and usable by all participants.

Activities are designed to engage cyberlearning (otherwise called online learning) projects in ways that explore how current knowledge and studies about people with disabilities can inform cyberlearning research, learning technology development, teaching strategies, and outreach. The goal is to promote high quality online learning opportunities that are welcoming to, accessible to, and usable by the broadest audience, including students and instructors with disabilities.

To this end, AccessCyberlearning hosted a Capacity Building Institute (CBI) which brought together cyberlearning researchers, technology developers, and instructors to discuss recruitment and access challenges, share expertise and successful practices, develop collaborations, create resources, and identify systemic change initiatives.

Topics presented and discussed during the two and a half day event included:

  • access issues often faced by students and instructors with disabilities in online learning offerings:
  • approaches to access – accommodations and universal design;
  • web accessibility;
  • document accessibility;
  • maximizing the engagement of all students;
  • student perspectives on needs, research, and tools;
  • design of accessible online tools;
  • accessible instructional practices; and
  • promising practices that promote the design of online learning that is accessible to everyone.

In small working groups, participants responded to the following questions:

  • What challenges does your project face related to accessibility to individuals with disabilities?
  • What steps will you take to overcome these accessibility barriers?
  • How can your project design cyberlearning products and pedagogy accessible to people with disabilities?
  • How can we continue to work together to promote universally designed cyberlearning?

Detailed summaries of presentations, panels, and discussion outcomes can be found in the Proceedings of the AccessCyberlearning Capacity Building Institute (CBI).

The AccessCyberlearning CBI is a promising practice in bringing cyberlearning researchers, technology developers, and instructors together to foster a deeper understanding of the importance of incorporation of accessibility and universal design into existing and future cyberlearning projects. Additional information including brochures and videos related to the accessibility of cyberlearning projects can be found on the AccessCyberlearning website.