‘Access’ in Online Learning

While reviewing Bates (2015) SECTIONS model (framework for making effective decisions about the choice and use of media for teaching and learning), I found myself nodding in agreement to his identification of the broad categories:

  • Students
  • Ease of use
  • Costs
  • Teaching functions
  • Interaction
  • Organizational issues
  • Networking
  • Security and privacy

I didn’t get very far before I hit a topic I have not given a lot of thought to in the past: ‘access’, under the Students category. Bates notes: ‘Of all the criteria in determining choice of technology, accessibility is perhaps the most discriminating.’ And it’s true: no matter how useful a particular medium or technology may be, if students can’t access it they can’t learn from it.

Two factors that may affect accessibility to online learning are convenient and affordable access and access for students with disabilities.

BCCampus Open Textbook Project

BCcampus: Checklist for Accessibility

The focus of many open textbook projects is to provide access to education at no cost. But what does access mean? If the materials are not accessible to each and every student,  they do not fulfill the mandate to deliver fully open textbooks.

The goal of BCCampus’s  Accessibility Toolkit is to provide the needed resources needed to each content creator, instructional designer, educational technologist, librarian, administrator, and teaching assistant to create a truly open and accessible textbook. As part of the toolkit, BCcampus provides a checklist to help professionals build in accessibility (see right).

Universal Design (UDL)

Online learning may not be accessible to students with learning or other disabilities. A set of standards and practices designed to address ‘universal’ needs has been developed. Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is the deliberate design of instruction to meet the needs of a diverse mix of learners. Universally designed courses attempt to meet all learners’ needs by incorporating multiple means of imparting information and flexible methods of assessing learning. It includes multiple means of engaging or tapping into learners’ interests. Universally designed courses are not designed with any one particular group of students with a disability in mind, but rather are designed to address the learning needs of a wide-ranging group (Brokop, F., 2008).