Preparing digital content for a diverse learner group
Okay good morning, I'm Roisin from the Department of Technology Enhanced Learning. Many thanks for coming along this morning. The recording of this session will be available after and you can access this on our YouTube channel as well along with other training and resources there. I'll follow up with an email with all the details and for those who were in the session on Monday I'll be sending out that information this morning as well.
What we're looking at today is creating teaching and learning content for a diverse learner group so we're looking at creating accessible content and providing an inclusive learning environment for our students regardless of their abilities, their backgrounds, their primary language, any short-term injury or illnesses, any caring responsibilities, their location, the list goes on and on. So why do we need inclusive teaching and learning content? Digital accessibility is a legal requirement in Ireland, this legislation is based on the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines so specifically WCAG 2.1 AA which is the standard for accessible digital content. So these guidelines were developed by the Worldwide Web Consortium, the W3C, which develops International standards for design and development on the web.
Now we're a little bit behind the UK on our digital accessibility here but there are ways that we can make a big impact in the short term as well for our students. So I'm going through a few different items in this session - I'm going to give some tips and ideas on how to make files and documents more accessible, on how to make the online environment, using Canvas and Zoom as examples, a bit more inclusive. There's lots of ways that this can be done, these are just some, and I'll provide some resources at the end as well and we'll make these available after with the recording link. So the first thing we're going to look at is documents. Many of these use the example of Microsoft Word in this particular session but it's applicable in most of the document editors or word processors which tend to have much of the same options available. So you'll also see as we go through this that these elements
we discuss here are also applicable when creating content directly in Canvas as well, s we'll be looking at that a little bit later on and I can I can mention it then. So the first thing I guess is to look at the basics and to try to be mindful of the common accessibility issues so these are the issues that are listed in the WCAG 2.1 standards. So the first one we're looking at is document structure, the idea here is using heading styles to structure your document. This also relates to the formatting tools generally within your word processor or content editor so make use of these formatting options like lists as well. It all helps to ensure that the document is readable by screen readers but also improves the chance of it translating well to another file format or if opening the document in another tool like moving from Microsoft Word to Google Docs or saving as a PDF, things like that. So correct use of headings is is one of the the main things and not skipping heading levels so for example moving from heading 2 directly to heading 4 for instance.
It can also help when students are scanning documents that they're able to find the information they need just like the way a table of contents would work as well. So you can do a quick check of your document structure using the navigation pane in Word, it's a small check box that you can click on there in the view area and that brings up this document structure over here on the left and it really helps to see if the document that you've created has a logical structure and students will be able to click into any of those links to get quick access to any of the points there within the document. Colour is another important consideration so there's a couple of things that you'll need to to consider here if you want to use say coloured font or for example if you're using text on top of a background color there's lots of free tools that can help find a good contrast and there's some browser extensions that you can add and some quite light applications you could download as well that will help. From an accessibility compliance perspective the contrast ratio should be at least 4.5 to 1 or above so you can see here in this screenshot
there's a box here showing the contrast ratio there as 21 to 1. So this tool in the screenshot is the TPGI Colour Contrast Checker, there's also one from webAIM, the Colour Contrast Checker there as well but they're quite useful for helping to ensure sufficient contrast in your content for any of your users to improve readability for them. In terms of imagery, one very common issue is a lack of alternative or alt text for images. So you've probably come across this already, anywhere you have an icon a photo, a graph, any visual element there should be descriptive text attached to it to describe the image to a screen reader. So it's a very literal description that's needed but also something that's short and concise. So they recommend roughly 140 characters or less, so basically the length of a tweet back in the day I suppose. The screenshot in this slide shows
the alt text editor in Powerpoint. Now this is able to also auto-generate alt text which you can try as an example. I have another example later on in this of that auto generated content. But you generally need to edit this from what auto generated and add a bit more to provide an accurate description for your users. So this is particularly helpful for screen readers so you can see when you click on the icon up there in the image formatting ribbon that it will show, it'll just pop up a very simple form and you just put in your description there and I'll talk about the the decorative image shortly as well there. And then down below is the generate alt text for me. Another very common one is the use of links within your document, so again also very relevant for adding content online in Canvas or on web pages. So it's generally recommended to replace the long URL that you might have for your website or your document with some meaningful text for the links.
So when you add a URL using the link formatting options in Word, for example, you can add text that will be visible for that link. So advice here is to avoid using 'click here' for any links as it's not very clear for screen readers or other sort of text to speech software. The example here shows, in the screenshot on the slide, shows two examples. So in the example on
top you have a screen reader would read the entire URL out to the user, so it can be quite long and a bit difficult to identify the links you might need. The example at the bottom on the other hand is more user friendly then, so using the title of the paper as the link text or title. Another common issue with links is having broken or invalid links within your text but the accessibility checkers, whether it's in Word or on Canvas, are quite useful for picking these up as they can be very hard to spot yourself when you're looking through a document and they often are located in white space after text or anything like that or if you've maybe made some edits there might be one that that sort of lingers there. Another one here that can be a bit difficult to accomplish actually is to use simple language. So trying to use clear and consistent words throughout your content as this helps to reduce any possible sources of ambiguity. So this can be quite important for students with different educational backgrounds, students for whom English isn't their first language, students with cognitive disabilities. So trying to avoid
using overly technical terms that maybe haven't been introduced yet or perhaps considering adding a definition or a glossary to your document or to your course. Basically by keeping the language simple you're ensuring that things can be quickly scanned and understood by your learners. The last one here is related to using tables in your content. So the main advice related to tables that you'll see in the guidelines and in accessibility checker results is to ensure that you identify table headers. So again, this helps screen readers to make sense of the information in a table but it can just help to make tables clear regardless. So things to avoid with tables are using invisible tables - so tables would often be used as a kind of a quick way of laying out content in a document or online making sure things stay where you put them, where the table borders then would be hidden. Another thing to avoid is things
like nested tables, so tables within tables, as they can be difficult to to comprehend the relationships between the content that's in there. Merged cells as well, for the same reason, so if you think about trying to read the information in a table line by line or row by row I should say, if a merged cell is in there it can disrupt the flow of the information. I just wanted to show this image here. So this is an acronym that can be quite useful for reminding yourself of the common issues when creating content. It's a mnemonic I should say really. So this was developed by the Worcestershire County Council, and covers a lot of the the key issues to be aware of. Perhaps the U there is a little bit of a stretch but nonetheless it might be useful to bear in mind when you're creating your content.
For some of the items like structure or links there in that diagram there's a couple of points that could be considered like you know what we were talking about with the colour contrast and there's also issues in terms of using colour to highlight text within a document as well. So all of these are under each of the of the categories there. The last point here for this section is to make use of available tools and technologies. So, accessibility checkers are built into most text editors or word processors and they can be very beneficial to run a scan of your document before you finalise it. They generally also offer guidance on the particular issues so you don't have to go searching for the information elsewhere and you can kind of get it all in one place.
Some examples of these are the accessibility checkers in Word and in Adobe for PowerPoint and PDF. You have a few accessibility tools in Canvas as well like the inbuilt Canvas Accessibility Checker or the new UDOIT integration that checks for accessibility issues on a module level. Then you have the file conversion software Sensus Access that's available on the library website here in MTU thanks to the library and the DSS office. So this is where staff and students can convert files to formats that are more useful to them and maybe more accessible as well.
So next, I'm just going to go through a couple of points that are specific to media, so video or imagery that you might be using in your module or sharing on Canvas. Again, these are related to the WCAG standards that I mentioned earlier. So the main point about media is to provide multiple options for accessing the content.
So we mentioned alt text, it's things like offering text alternatives to your video content. So one of the most important is to include closed captions for video content whether live or on-demand content, so that's recorded content that people will be accessing afterwards. So this is not only important for students with hearing impairments but also for students who might be viewing content while commuting or might be in a busy environment when they're viewing it, maybe non-native speakers, it's a wide range of reasons to use captions. Many
video platforms like YouTube and Vimeo offer auto-generated captions which have varying levels of accuracy depending on a number of factors but viewers can select the language for captions as well and captions can also be edited as well afterwards for recordings. Another important one is including transcripts for recorded content so this is whether it's video or audio, animation, screen recording like a software demo, any media like that. So there are transcription services that can be used online, so these are automated ones usually like the auto generated captions or you can use tools that let you type while playing the content and you're going to create your own transcript there. Another way that can speed up the adding of transcripts is if you have a script that you used for recording content, so this can be added and edited to form the accompanying transcript. So the screenshot shows an example of how this transcript is minimised but can still be easily accessed if needed so you're not overloading your student with too much information. Here's the alt text for images again so this screenshot is an example of what I had mentioned previously about the auto generated text feature in PowerPoint. So if the image is decorative,
so this means that it's not important for the students to be able to understand or to access it, you can mark it as such so the screen reader knows that it can skip over it. If you do mark it as decorative you should remove the alt text in this instance as well. And the final one here related to media is the use of thumbnails. So this is just a small addition that can be made to a piece of video or of animation that can have a great kind of visual impact and can also help to guide students to the content that they're looking for. So if you're using a video hosting platform like YouTube or Vimeo you get an option to choose a thumbnail by scrubbing through the video to to get a good still frame to represent the content to use or else you can also upload an image of your choosing. So the screenshot here is just an example of the TEL
YouTube channel, which makes use of the thumbnail feature as well. It just kind of helps in terms of consistency of your media as well and just, it's a small change that can make a big impact. Okay so moving on now to looking at facilitating inclusion in the online environment. So things to consider here are options for accessibility in live sessions as well as for recordings. So here recordings can mean a recording of a live class or perhaps it's some video content you recorded and wanted to share with your students, like a software demo, a screen recording of a process, things like that. I'm specifically talking here about Zoom in the following slides as it's available to students through Canvas. There are some accessibility options
in Teams as well like captions and transcripts, of course, but I won't go into detail on those. The first one here is captions. So it's possible to enable closed captions for live sessions, there's an option at the bottom of the bar if you're a host or a co-host for a session you'll be able to turn these on. There's also a nice feature as well where you can can allocate a manual captioner, so you can assign somebody in the session to manually create captions for it, it just makes this maybe a little bit more accurate. You can also
change the the language of the captions as well so that's quite a useful feature. The next option as well is the spotlight option, so this is available within your live session. So you can use this spotlight to keep a participant video visible at all times. So some or one example anyway of how that could be used would be if you have a sign language interpreter in your class for a particular student you can spotlight that user, for their video, for the whole session so it's visible for all participants for that session. It's also possible to pin a participant's
video as well for the same reason, so it can be quite effective to be able to do that. Another option here as well that can be used for accessibility is the focus mode. So if you turn on the focus mode in a session it helps to remove distractions for students so you're basically only highlighting the the video feed of the presenter and you won't see, even if students have their cameras on, the students won't be able to see each other's [video feeds] so it just helps to - as the name goes - focus student attention to the the content at hand. Another item there is the recording transcript. You get a transcript for any of your Zoom recordings which is really quite useful.
One thing to remember though is to review and edit your auto-generated transcripts, it helps to improve the accuracy and the clarity of the content that's there. It's quite easy to do, when you go into your Zoom recordings you'll be able to click on the recording and the transcript will show up. When you click on the actual text of the transcript you will get - you can see in the screenshot here - you'll get two options. One is a little pencil
icon and the other is a highlighter one. The pencil icon will let you edit your transcript and it'll save it then attached to your recording and then the highlighter option will help you just to highlight aspects of the video which I'll discuss now. So recording highlights, this lets you to mark important points of a lecture or create chapters, for want of a better word, so you can decide from your recording what are key areas that your students might want to revisit. Maybe it might help if they're scanning through
the recording to get to the key information as quick as possible, so you're able to do that down here under the play bar and it lets you drag around and rearrange your highlights here. This will also show up in your transcript where the actual text will be highlighted as well. As you saw on the previous slide you're also able to do it within the text of the transcript itself so there's just a couple of options there.
The last thing as well is to offer audio-only recordings. This is an option as well in Zoom where you have your video recording, your transcript but you can also have an audio-only recording. So this is just a useful feature to have available for students. As I mentioned previously maybe you have students who revise their content on the bus while they're commuting, maybe you have students who just prefer their audio recording, they can pop it on and go for a walk and catch up with any of the content that they want to revisit. So there's
just a few options there in terms of trying to make your content as accessible as possible. The final section I'm going to look at now is Canvas and again this is just covering ways of making your online learning environment as inclusive as possible using small changes. So the first thing that we we would always recommend is being able to guide students to the learning content. There's a number of ways that you can do this in Canvas.
The first option, and these are all just options, I do appreciate how busy everybody is and how overwhelming some of this might seem. But maybe some small changes might be useful for you. So it's possible to use home pages within Canvas, so this can sort of help you to guide your users and also manage expectations. Sometimes, depending on what you want to put into your home page, if you want to use one at all, it would be possible to reuse this paragraph in your other modules particularly if you keep it sort of general to what you expect from your students or what your students should expect from you. So things like guiding them to additional module information like in the syllabus, guiding them to the resources or to the place where you will be putting up your resources like the units, indicating to them that any important updates will be through the announcements feature so make sure that they have their notifications activated. So you can see how this might be something that could
be a reusable paragraph and kind of save you time but still be quite effective for your students. One thing with all of this is keep it simple. You can, if you like of course, put in nice decorative buttons and everything like that but sometimes it can be quite effective to just use something quite simple. You can see very text-based buttons down the bottom just trying to guide students to the information that they might be looking for. A big thing with guiding students as well to the information is to try to do it in a number of ways. So within the text and then also maybe guiding them to the navigation menu that's always there in Canvas. As well,
just making sure that you're making it easy for the students to actually access the content. The next option which I just mentioned was the syllabus tool. So this can help to provide quite module specific information and focus students attention to key details, key dates even. So this is just a very drafty example but the module syllabus it's like
a nice overview of the module sometimes so we'll have a module summary where you would have upcoming meetings, upcoming assignments would all be listed here. Any marks that you might have made available to your students within Canvas would be shown on the right if you don't do this through Canvas, that's okay as well and that would just be empty. You have your module calendar as well up on the right and you still have access to your module navigation on the left as well so it can just be a handy way of adding, as I said, module specific information. But maybe some parts of it might be reusable as well for your own benefit. The next option as well, and this is something that we would generally recommend during our Canvas training, is to to make use of the units within Canvas. So things to make this a little bit clearer for students is to use headings, text headings, within the Canvas units to add structure, to add some consistency. Use meaningful titles
for these headings but also for your slides or any of your files that you're adding. So you can add, you can upload your files, but you can also edit the title that is displayed on your units and it's putting in the meaningful text for your links that's within your content, it just helps to guide your students and to basically show a little bit more information about what is where it should be. The other option as well is to edit your module navigation. So again this is looking at providing multiple ways of guiding users to your content but you can also remove any redundant links from the navigation. So by default, the template that goes out to the academic modules
we've edited to remove some of the lesser used tools but it's always available to staff to be able to edit it to their liking. For example, if you were not using pages in your module or you want to guide students a different way like you want them to use the units but you still want to use pages maybe you want to remove other items like quizzes say you don't have quizzes you just have assignments within your module it can just help to change up the navigation there and that can be done within your settings in your Canvas module. Another tip is to review your content so this is making use of the tools available in Canvas to check for accessibility issues but also there's a feature called validate links in content which can be quite useful, particularly if you were copying any course content from one module to another, maybe the previous academic year. If you run this tool it will basically go through all the links in your content and it'll highlight things that maybe won't be accessible to your students. Maybe they're linking back to a previous module, maybe they're linking to a page that is invalid now and you can go into this tool and you can click on the page and it'll show you a little bit more information about it and you can update the link there as well. So it can be quite useful in that respect. So one of the reasons that, so you can see at the top there it says links to other modules in this resource may not be accessible by the students in this module.
So that generally kind of points to the fact that maybe it's linking to content that's unpublished and so if a student clicks on it they're going to get an error message that they can't access it. So little little things like that can be handy. So the final thing um I want to just cover in terms of Canvas was ways of fostering a sense of community and supporting collaboration within your Canvas module and one way of doing that is through groups within Canvas. And the way that this can be supported is through the actual collaborative spaces that are available to groups of students Canvas. So when you create groups and you allocate students to these groups they have access to this dedicated space where they can collaborate, they can have conversations using the discussions tool, they can share ideas and all these kinds of things so it's a nice way to just foster that collaboration within your modules. This was the final thing really just in terms of a few tips to remember would be to stay consistent in terms of your navigation, the language that you use in your module, the expectations that maybe you have for yourself and your students. If possible, simplify the structure and the design,
again it's a time saver but you know sometimes just even putting in a welcome message and a few different links within content can really make a big difference for the students. Use plain, jargon-free language. And make use of the student view feature within Canvas, it sounds a little bit basic but it can really help in terms of trying to see what the student sees and how the student might access the information.
Another one of those mnemonics that I wanted to share here, just because it's a little bit more related to the online environment, is this one called THRIVES from Queen's University Belfast. So again it's very like the SCULPT one but it includes things like recordings and here for examine it's looking at the accessibility checkers and bits and pieces like that. So it also mentions font as well, so using sans serif font because it's better for readability. So that's just another resource, just if it's of use to you
as a sort of a reminder of some of these improvements that can be made. So finally, just resources and further information there. These are sort of student-facing resources that might be handy. All students are enrolled on an assessment practice module on Canvas so
this is another way of trying to make the online environment more inclusive by giving students the space to upload their assignments, to practice submitting things, practice submitting quizzes and try to get used to these features if they're not as as used to Canvas as other students. Another resource there, and I can provide links to all these as well, this is just a list of some of the accessibility tools that can be used for different learning activities, so reading, note-taking, writing. Some of the features that are available within Canvas for students as well so it might be handy for them just as a kind of a quick access guide. And the final thing then is, as always, we've got our updated Tel knowledgebase so this also includes information on assessment accommodations in Canvas so that's something I didn't cover here today but it's something that is applicable for the target audience of these diverse learners. Further support as always is available by emailing us at edtech at mtu.ie. I just want to point out before I finish another couple of resources. So there's a link there to
the WCAG guidelines, just if anybody isn't aware of them or wants a little bit more information on them. This is a quick reference guide if you looked at the original you'd see why it's a quick reference guide it's a little bit overwhelming, it's a little bit kind of difficult to see the information which is why I was keen to share those other tools, the SCULPT and THRIVES mnemonics. Another tool, or another resource I wanted to share with you as well, and I'll be sending this out after this session. So before the summer we had a visiting researcher from the University of Alcala who gave a session on accessibility features in Word and PowerPoint, so I'll send the link to that and there's slides and a recording for anyone who who missed it. So it showed some examples of the issues related to accessibility within Word and PowerPoint so it might be useful for you. Finally, information on SenusAccess, that great file conversion tool from the library site, so that's available on the library site.
DSS supports, assistive technologies available for staff and students, so information on that is available through the DSS office and the assistive Technologies office. That's everything from me, if there's any questions do feel free to add them. If anything occurs to you afterwards don't hesitate to contact us at edtech at mtu.ie and as I said I'll be sending out the resources for this so the recording and any of the links as well afterwards so you've always the opportunity as well to ask questions when I do that. Okay, so we'll finish up there. Thanks so much for your time and we have some more training sessions going on for the next couple of days as well if anybody is interested. Thanks so much, take care, bye.