- 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 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 have a responsibility to create course content in a way that removes 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 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.
RIT's Accessibilty Resources wiki provides links to step-by-step instructions on how to make Microsoft Office files, Google files, PDFs, and myCourses pages accessible. Additionally, RIT has access to the Ally tool in myCourses for checking the accessibility of course content and providing training on improving the 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.
Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT)
Teaching & Learning Services' Academic Technology team trains and supports faculty in using a wide range of academic technologies. All of RIT's supported technologies must have a Voluntary Product Accessibilty Template (VPAT) or similar documentation, which outlines how accessible they are according to accessibility standards. Links to accessibility information for supported technologies are provided below. Note that some vendors do post the VPAT publically so more general accessibility information about a tool may be linked 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.
|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|