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Equitable Access to Digital & Print Learning

Equitable access to digital and print learning materials and technologies may vary greatly among our students and may impact student success. In order to promote an inclusive and equitable learning environment for our students, this technology adoption guide provides considerations and recommendations for content and technology choices for when faculty are designing their remote/distance learning courses.

Resources

Accessibility Guidelines for Remote Learning during COVID-19

All Student Accommodations Remain In Effect

  • Regardless of course format or platform, under federal law, all students with disabilities must have equal access to their courses.
  • If you have questions regarding how an accommodation would apply in the online setting, please contact your Accessibility/Disability Service Office and provide the best way to contact you. A staff person will then contact you to discuss.
  • US Department of Education – Office of Civil Rights COVID-19 Fact Sheet

Faculty Responsibilities with Regards to ADA/504

  • Under federal law, faculty are responsible for making their courses and course content accessible. Please see tips below for assistance on creating accessible content.
  • Faculty should continue to regularly communicate with all students to ensure that they have access to the materials and inquire if any students have concerns regarding how material is being presented.

Accessibility Tips for Online Teaching

  • Extended time for exams and assignments will need to be addressed by faculty with online platforms. To add additional time, please review: Test Availability Exceptions.
  • Use the Accessibility Checker within MS Word and PowerPoint to produce accessible documents. To do this, go to File – Check for Issues – Check Accessibility.
  • Use text description on all images, high contrasting colors, uncluttered slides, bold font, plain backgrounds, especially within the Blackboard text editor. For additional information, visit Getting Started with Alt Text.
  • Utilize the Blackboard Ally accessibility tools for checking your content and providing alternate formats for your students.
    • Blackboard Ally has a “meter icon” noting the level of accessibility. The goal is to have all green icons. Documents that are not accessible will have a red meter and an “A” with a downward arrow will be at the far left.
    • To remediate the document, click the downward arrow for an alternative document. Please keep in mind that it may not be possible to remediate all documents.
    • Please be mindful of accessibility when selecting documents.
  • Check in frequently with all students on barriers and challenges
  • Guidelines and tips for making web content accessible:

Considerations

Be aware of how your students have responded to technology use in the classroom so far as you plan for online strategies. 

  • Are all students able to engage equally in all platforms?
  • Do you have a student who has been unable to perform current assignments due to limitations in ability to work with technology?
  • Do you have students in your class with visual, hearing, mobility issues, public speaking anxiety, time management issues that might limit use of specific platforms that you are considering?

If and When Classes Resume (Before or After Extended Closing) Student may require additional accommodations

  • Who are immunocompromised/medically compromised.
  • Who are quarantined.
  • Who have increased caretaking responsibilities.

Technology Adoption Considerations

Equitable access to digital and print learning materials and technologies may vary greatly among our students and may impact student success. In order to promote an inclusive and equitable learning environment for our students, this technology adoption guide provides considerations and recommendations for content and technology choices for when faculty are designing their remote/distance learning courses.

Considerations

  • Access to current and dedicated technology:
    Many students must share technology with spouses, siblings, and/or children if they even have access to the proper technology. Many students only have access to cell phones with limited minute plans.
  • Access to proper peripherals like webcams and microphones:
    Some students do not have access to core components for synchronous meetings like webcams and microphones. For the students that do, they may not have the technical competencies to properly configure or troubleshoot audio/video issues.  
  • Internet connectivity:
    Many students depended on campus libraries for not only technology access, but also for internet access. With shelter-in-place rules in effect, students may not be able to take advantage of public hotspots. Those with in-home internet access may have reduced bandwidth due to increased usage within the home or across the network.
  • Technical Support:
    With shelter-in-place, most staff and organizations are working remotely with some reduced capacity. Technical Support from the institution or from the vendor may not be as comprehensive in this current situation.
  • Learning Curve:
    Students taking multiple courses may be exposed to various learning technologies with limited training and support. Students may be facing core technology access and competency challenges in addition to mastering a new learning platform.

Recommendations 

  1. Consider using standard learning tools across the degree program/department
  2. Consider providing advanced notice to students for any non-standard technology/platform use
  3. Consider the technical requirements for the technology being adopted
  4. Consider the Training Resources available online for students for the technology being adopted
  5. Consider the availability of Technical Support provided for the technology. Consider local resources available as well as vendor resources.
  6. Consider the Accessibility of the adopted technology/platform/content
    1. When uploading documents, make sure to include an accessible file.
    2. Scanned documents should be OCR-friendly (avoid images and handwritten notes)
    3. Consider audio/visual elements to support text-based assignments
    4. Video content must contain Closed Captioning
  7. Consider the ability to record content for review after synchronous lectures
    1. Consider Closed Captioning functionality for any recorded sessions
    2. Include transcriptions for recorded videos/lectures
    3. Consider Microsoft Teams for synchronous sessions
      1. Teams provides real-time captioning
      2. Teams provides automated captioning for recordings
      3. Teams allows students to request transcripts of the meeting session
  8. Consider data privacy (FERPA/PII) for any adopted technology/platform
  9. Consider the student costs, if any, of any adopted technology/platform
  10. Consider providing multiple links/paths to key content for students unfamiliar with the learning environment
    1. Consider direct links to content/informational items within announcements or assignments
  11. Consider a student-facing statement regarding inclusion and equity (see Appendix for example)

Additional Links

General Information

Self-Assessment Tools

Accessibility Introduction

How-Tos

Tools

Training

Online Learning Strategies

Technology Basics

Microsoft Teams