The strengths and virtues of the International Review of Research in Distance and Open Learning (IRRODL) have been extolled previously in my ramblings. It’s still churning out relevant and useful articles, reviews and comments on a regular basis, under the fine tutelage of Terry Anderson.
The May 2010 (Vol. 11, No. 2) has a really nice article (strictly speaking, a ‘Technical Note’) for all you Moodle addicts out there: ‘Universal instructional design principles for Moodle‘. Essentially, Tanya Elias takes a set of design principles and uses them to assess the accessibility of an online course. In doing so, she alerts us to a range of features that can enhance accessibility, and offers a “series of recommendations to improve the accessibility of online DE to learners with diverse abilities, disabilities, and needs.”
The Universal Instructional Design principles upon which the investigation were based are: equitable use; flexible use; simple and intuitive; perceptible information; tolerance for error; low physical and technical effort; community of learners and support; and instructional climate.
With a simple and appropriate approach, the investigator sought to establish what tools were available in Moodle to implement these principles, and test the extent to which the tools were being applied. The main point is not so much what she found, but the tools and approaches that are identified and recommended for incorporation into your online course.
For example, does your course encourage equitable use by providing a translator? Is the information perceptible through the incorporation of screen/cursor magnifiers?
The recommendations are sensible and compelling. For example, a trap into which many fall is to over-complicate the interface, even adding to already available options. The recommendation is the opposite, exhorting us to “Simplify the interface. The Moodle interface could be simplified by offering a series of buttons that link learners directly to the following: 1) the current week of study, 2) new discussion posts, and 3) the last log-off place. No scrolling would be required. From this simple interface, students could quickly and easily navigate course sites using organisational options in available Moodle modules to simplify access to content via collapsible menus and tabs. Finding information in course sites could also be improved by using enhanced search features. Although searchable discussion forums are a standard feature in Moodle, searchable course content is not comprehensive. Such improvements would be beneficial to those with sensory disabilities and attention and memory problems, as well as to distracted, busy adult learners generally.”
And there’s more much more! So, find the time to peruse this excellent piece of work, and use it to improve the accessibility of your course. Your students will thank you.