Online Delivery and Evaluation
Technology affords us unprecedented opportunities when it comes to offering multiple means of representation, expression and engagement. Online delivery and evaluation in particular is becoming increasingly popular and offers widened access to many.
This video discusses some of the subtle ways in which technology can be integrated in online teaching.
Simple IT gadgets such as mobile devices can be integrated into delivery and evaluation with astonishing outcomes.
Devices in Higher Education
IT is literally transforming the idea of being connected. How is it transforming Higher Education teaching?
McGill is not a Distance Ed institution but some courses at McGill are already offered online. Here is a conversation with a McGill instructor who has the experience of offering online delivery and evaluation.
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For more information, check out these useful links:
- Considerations for Online Accessibility - from Durham College
- WCAG 2.0 (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines)
- Quebec Government Standards for Web Accessibility
Considerations for Online Accessibility
Here are some helpful tips and resources if you are trying to build accessible online content for your classes.
Accessibility Considerations for Microsoft Word Documents
Consider the structure of your document. Remember these points when trying to determine the best structure for your document:
- Your structure should convey meaning.
- It should be used to enhance document navigation
- It is best to create structure using the built in "styles" rather than through manual formatting. This allows screen readers to properly recognize the difference between the headings of your document and the rest of the text.
- Your strucure should be transferable to other document types. Meaning, if a user wishes to export your word document as a PDF (or any other kind of file type), the structure of your document showed be maintained.
Images and Tables in Word
Images are are made by using the "alt" tags. This stands for Alternative text. It is this text that a screen reader will read when it encounters your image. The content of your image should be clearly described by your alt tags when possible. Most screen readers will only read about 160 characters, so also make sure that your alt tags do not contain unnecessary information. You can alt tags to images in your Word document by using the format picture option and then navigating to the "Web" tab.
Tables should be created using templates and should not be drawn manually. And it is very important to include column and row headers so that screen readers can make sense of the data in your table. This is often don automatically if you use the template tables.
Posting the Document to WebCT
So you've created a document that you want to upload to WebCT, what is the best way to do this? There are actually a few options here, but some work better than others. The first step is to choose the best format to save it as, here are some of your options.
- Word Document - You can save your new document as a simple Word Document (.doc or .docx). This is not the most recommended option however. Although it is simple, unless you have carefully constuctered your document with proper accessibility considerations in mind, it is likely that many of your structuring choices will not be recognized by users trying to access your content using a screen reader.
- Webpage - You can save your new document as a webpage. But as with saving as a word document, this is not recommended. Depending on how you've structured your document, this can often result in poor quality webcode and modifying this type can be difficult unless you have proffeciency in using html code.
- Filtered HTML - Saving your document as filtered HTML is a better option. Using this option will lead to better results with improved structuring. It also ensures that the alt codes you've added to your images can be read by a screen reader.
Microsoft Accessibility Wizard
This is a tool we highly recommend. It is a plug in created by the University of Illinois that works directly in Microsoft Word. Not only will it allow you tol output tables that are fully accessible, but will also examine the content of your document for accessibility issues and will prompt you for information to repair them. You can find out more about it here: Microsoft Accessibility Wizard
Accessibility Considerations for PowerPoint
Here are some things to keep in mind if you are working with PowerPoint documents:
- Colour Contrast - Use high colour contrast between foreground and background.
- Font Size and Style - The Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) reccommends Arial 16. It is also recommended that you avoid curly fonts.
- Backgrounds - Use pastels and avoid busy patterns
- Spacing - Avoid cluttered displays as they are confusing
- Images - Again, include "alt" tags so screen readers will be able to convey the meaning of an image.
- Layout - Use templates for slide layout and avoid using text boxes and tables because unless you've taken the time to properly calibrate these to be accessible, a screen reader wil not recognize them properly.
- Audio - Include a transcript of amy audio portions for all students, especially those with hearing disabilities and learning disabilities.
Posting the Presentation to WebCT
As with word documents, here are some things to keep in mind when your are saving your PowerPoint before you upload it to WebCT.
- Webpage - As with Word documents, saving your PowerPoint as a webpage is not reccommended. Again, this is because it will often result in unclear and confusing HTML code.
- Microsoft Accessibility Wizard - If you use this tool, it will allow you to save your PowerPoint as an accessible web page and it will convert images, tables, diagrams and charts into accessible HTML. Find out more here: Microsoft Accessibility Wizard
- LecShare - This a software tool that is used walk authors through the process of making their PowerPoint accessible. It will prompt you for missing alternative text (alt tags), as well as the need information to make charts and tables accessible. Find out more here: LecShare
Accessibility Considerations for PDFs
PDFs are one of the most common file formats, but these can sometime pose a problem for those who use assitive technologies. PDFs come in three basic types:
- Unstructured - these are the least accesible PDFs, they lack the underlying structure that are essential for screen reading software and will often result in confusing output.
- Structured - These will contain the underlying structure that outline reading order which allows screen readers to navigate the document in a way that makes sense. A structured PDF is certainly better than an unstructured one, but there is one more PDF type that allows an even greater level of accssibility.
- Tagged - This is the best possible type of PDF. Tagged PDFs not only contain the neccasry structure outlines to work with screen readers, but it also stores all the alt tags for images, tables, charts and spreadsheets.
It is best to create PDFs from Word and PowerPoint documents which were constructed using built in style templates and contain tags for all images, charts and graphs. In other words, it is much easier to create an accessible document from the beginning then it is to try to make inaccessible PDFs more accessible. Also, make sure you don't save your PDF with unneccessarily restrictive security settings. Here are some issues to consider when using security settings:
- Password protecting your document will prevent some screen readers from accessing the text, even if you've taken time to ensure all the accessibilty features have been included.
- Allow for copying and priniting of your document to ensure for full access fopr screen readers.
- Enable the "text access for screen reader devices for the visually impaired" option.
Accessibility Considerations for Web Design and Multimedia
Here are some things to keep in mind if you are working with web design or other multimedia content.
- Use alt tags to insert descriptions of images which will be read by screen readers.
- Use column and row headers in the appropriate cells when inserting tables.
- Turn on accessibility features when using Dreamweaver and you will receive prompts to address accessibility.
- Audio needs an accompanying transcript for accessibility.
- Transcription is a value to students without a disability as reviewing can be done quickly and efficiently as well as the ability to mark up the document for study purposes.
- Multimedia presentations require synchronized captioning to ensure accessibility for the deaf/hard of hearing