- Web Conferencing
- Classroom Assessment Techniques
- Student Polling Devices
- Continuity of Instruction
- Flipped Classroom
- Online Discussions
- Peer Instruction
- Instructor-to-Student Interaction
- Online Accessibility
- Online Assessment
- Small-Group Work
- Student-to-Student Interaction
- Teaching Millennials
Eleven percent of undergraduates nationally reported having a disability in 2011-2012, according to the National Center for Education Statistics*. At RIT, the Disability Services Office reported over 700 students registered for academic accommodations in the 2015-2016 academic year. With the growth of online learning, unique access challenges present themselves to students with disabilities. Whereas a face-to-face class may present access challenges related to the physical classroom space, courses delivered either fully or partially online present access challenges related to how content and activities are provided through web-based resources and academic technology.
Teaching & Learning Services has compiled a number of best practices for faculty on formatting electronic documents and creating or selecting web-based materials for course use. This teaching element references expertise from a number of resources provided through RIT's Disability Services Office, the National Technical Institute for the Deaf, and several national centers and institutions leading the way in universal access and design. Suggested practices provided in these resources reflect the Section 508 Standards as well as the Web Content Accessibility Guildelines (WCAG). Ultimately, many of the practices provided in this resource can benefit all students.
*The National Center for Education. 11 Jan. 2015. https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=60
"Accessible means a person with a disability is afforded the opportunity to acquire the same information, engage in the same interactions, and enjoy the same services as a person without a disability in an equally effective and equally integrated manner, with substantially equivalent ease of use. The person with a disability must be able to obtain the information as fully, equally and independently as a person without a disability.” (Office of Civil Rights in the Resolution agreement with South Carolina Technical College System, 2/18/13)
Within the context of online teaching and learning, instructors can implement some best practices when creating course content to reduce potential barriers for students with disabilities and those using assistive technologies. Instructors can also foster communication early on so that students with disabilities are encouraged to inform them of any special needs and seek accommodations by working with the Disability Services Office and the instructor before the course gets fully underway.
There are some access considerations specific to online course delivery in which all or some content and interaction takes place through computer-mediated tools. The DO-IT Center on Accessible Distance Learning, based out of the University of Washington, provides several examples of access challenges students might face in an online learning course:
|Visual||A student who is blind or has low vision may rely on software that converts content from text to speech or that enlarges screen images. Online websites and documents with text and images that are not formatted properly will not work with these softwares. Another consideration is if live, text chats are planned, choosing a chat tool that is compatible with screen readers will be needed for a student to participate.|
A student who is deaf or hard of hearing may rely on captions and text transcriptions for audio and video content. This is the case for both recorded and real-time delivery. Impromptu audio or video recordings as a means for content delivery are not immediately accessible to students who must then wait for captioning to be added, after the fact. Ideally, pre-recorded materials are captioned through Media Services prior to being made available to students. In relation to sychronous interactions, unless the student is provided the schedule in advance for live, online activities they may not be able to arrange for a real-time captionist through Access Services in time for the sessions.
|Learning Disability||A student with a specific learning disability that impacts their ability to read, write, or process information may seek content in digital form to be read with screen readers or reading software programs. In some situations, they may also use speech-to-text software or screen-enlargement programs. Live, online interactions may be difficult to follow and participate in since there is less time to process information. Offering asynchronous methods of interaction can be a more accessible way for some students to participate in discussions or activities because there is more time to read and think through a response.|
|Mobile||A student with a limited range of mobility or no functional use of their hands may rely on alternative keyboards, speech inputs, and other devices to obtain access to online course materials, software, or internet-based navigational tools. Certain software programs may not be accessible if they do not have keyboard command alternatives. Some students may not have the fine motor skills needed to select small buttons. Or, students whose input methods are slow may not be able to participate as well in real-time chats or web conferencing.|
The Disability Services Office at RIT provides information on the types of disabiities of students they have served at RIT. Their website provides resources for faculty on suggested teaching and classroom practices as well as the kinds of academic accommodations DSO may help coordinate. RIT students seeking assistance through DSO bring their own unique experiences that help shape how both Disability Services and faculty can work with them to address their special needs and access considerations.
The National Center on Disability and Access to Education has developed a series of one-page, accessibility resources, also known as 'cheatsheets'. These step-by-step instructions on how to make Microsoft Office and Adobe Acrobat files accessible for assistive technologies are provided through the links, below. General information is also provided on how to create and look for accessible webpages. Both an HTML-version and a printable, PDF-version are available for each set of instructions. Each of the links, below, opens in a separate window.
|Microsoft Office Documents|
|Word 2013 (Windows)|
|Word 2007/10 (Windows)|
|Word 2011 (Mac)|
|PowerPoint 2013 (Windows)|
|PowerPoint 2007/10 (Windows)|
|PowerPoint 2011 (Mac)|
|Excel 2010/13 Windows & 2011 (Mac)|
|PDF Conversion in Word 2007/10 (Windows)|
|PDF Conversion in Word 2011 (Mac) - coming soon|
|Adobe Acrobat X|
|Adobe Acrobat XI|
|General Web Accessibility|
|Identifying Web Accessibility Issues|
|Creating Accessible Electronic Content|
Course Captioning at RIT
Media Services at RIT provides professional, free-of-charge, captioning and streaming for video or audio materials that faculty are creating or using for credit-bearing courses. In addition, Media Services can work with faculty to address captioning solutions for student projects, which may involve the use of video or audio content. The Media Services team also provides resources for how to self-caption materials should a quicker turn-around on captions be needed. All captioning requests can be submitted through a media request form.
Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT)
Teaching & Learning Services' Academic Technology team trains and supports faculty in using a wide range of academic technologies. They have also worked with faculty looking to explore and pilot tools beyond what is supported through Teaching & Learning Services. All of these technologies have documentation, known as the Voluntary Product Accessibilty Template, which outlines how accessible they are according to Section 508 Standards. Links to both the TLS-supported and vendor-supported technologies that Teaching & Learning Services has worked with are provided below. Teaching & Learning Services strives to help faculty create a successful course experience for them and their students. If you are a faculty member and encounter a student accessibility issue with one of the following TLS-supported or vendor-supported technologies please contact us.
|TLS-Supported Technologies||Vendor-Support Technologies|
|myCourses (D2L Brightspace)||SnagIt|
|RIT Wiki (Confluence)|
|RIT & NTID Departments & Resources|
|RIT Policy Statement||Suggested information to provide in your syllabus|
|Disability Services Office:||Academic accommodations for students with disabilities|
|Spectrum Support Program:||Support for students with autism spectrum disorders|
|NTID CAT||NTID Center on Access Technology|
|Class Act:||Best practices and strategies for teaching and working with deaf and hard of hearing students|
|DeafPlus:||Online resources for deaf and hard of hearing students with addiitonal disablities as well as for the faculty and staff who work with them|
|CAIR:||Center for Accessibility and Inclusion Research|
|10 Tips for Creating Accessible Online Content|
|Implementing Universal and Inclusive Design for Online Learning Accessibility|