UW Accessibility Efforts in Distance Learning Recognized by Sloan-C

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Promising Practice: Making Distance Learning Courses Accessible to Students with Disabilities

The Sloan Consortium (Sloan-C) is a consortium of institutions and organizations committed to quality online education. To help make quality education online part of everyday life, accessible and affordable for anyone, anywhere, at any time, Sloan-C shares effective practices. Sloan-C seeks to recognize practices with the following characteristics:

  • Replicability - the practice can be implemented in a variety of learning environments
  • Potential impact - the practice would advance the field if many adopted it
  • Supporting documentation - the practice is supported with evidence of effectiveness
  • Scope - the practice explains its relationship with other quality elements

These Sloan-C principles, known as the pillars or elements of quality, are drawn from the familiar principles of continuous quality improvement (CQI). CQI cultures use feedback from customers, partners and employees to continuously improve products and processes. This is also applied to higher education; the quality goal is scaling education to achieve capacity access through attention to learning effectiveness, affordability for learners and providers, and faculty and student satisfaction.

A practice at the University of Washington was selected for inclusion as an effective practice in the Sloan-C collection. The practice is a collaboration of DO-IT (Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking and Technology), C&C Client Services, the UW Access Technology Lab, and the UW Distance Learning Program that has resulted in improved accessibility of UW online courses by taking proactive efforts (universal design) as well as providing effective reactive measures (accommodation).

Key activities of the practice at the UW include working with the UW Educational Technology Group to promote accessible tools and course materials; providing stand-alone accessibility presentations; integrating accessibility into mainstream web and other technology courses; supporting a campus web accessibility website; and participating in the "Accessibleweb" discussion list and monthly meetings. In recognition of the success of collaborative efforts in designing courses that are accessible to everyone, the UW Distance Learning program recently received the "BizTech Accessibility Award" for its efforts in designing courses that are accessible to everyone.

For more information about the UW practice, consult Practice: Making Distance Courses Accessible to Students with Disabilities in the Access area of the Sloan-C Effective Practices website.