Holistic approaches to e-learning accessibility

ALT-J Association for Learning Technology journal 03/2006; 14(1). DOI: 10.1080/09687760500479860
Source: OAI


The importance of accessibility to digital e‐learning resources is widely acknowledged. The World Wide Web Consortium Web Accessibility Initiative has played a leading role in promoting the importance of accessibility and developing guidelines that can help when developing accessible web resources. The accessibility of e‐learning resources provides additional challenges. While it is important to consider the technical and resource related aspects of e‐learning when designing and developing resources for students with disabilities, there is a need to consider pedagogic and contextual issues as well. A holistic framework is therefore proposed and described, which in addition to accessibility issues takes into account learner needs, learning outcomes, local factors, infrastructure, usability and quality assurance. The practical application and implementation of this framework is discussed and illustrated through the use of examples and case studies.

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Available from: Brian Kelly,
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    • "Based on previous considerations, a need emerges for a system able to exploit transcoding strategies for the automatic production of SCORM-compliant LOs, encoded as synchronized multimedia presentations [Salomoni et al. 2006]. During the adaptation of contents, the system should take into account user tastes, physical capabilities, and also the device's technical characteristics. In this section , we present our solution to this issue. From a logical point of view, three different phases characterize the adaptation of multimedia presentations (see Figure 12"
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    ABSTRACT: The large diffusion of e-learning technologies represents a great opportunity for underserved segments of population. This is particularly true for people with disabilities for whom digital barriers should be overstepped with the aim of reengaging them back into society to education. In essence, before a mass of learners can be engaged in a collective educational process, each single member should be put in the position to enjoy accessible and customized educational experiences, regardless of the wide diversity of their personal characteristics and technological equipment. To respond to this demand, we developed LOT (Learning Object Transcoder), a distributed PHP-based service-oriented system designed to deliver flexible and customized educational services for a multitude of learners, each with his/her own diverse preferences and needs. The main novelty of LOT amounts to a broking service able to manage the transcoding activities needed to convert multimedia digital material into the form which better fits a given student profile. Transcoding activities are performed based on the use of Web service technologies. Experimental results gathered from several field trials with LOT (available online at∼lot/) have confirmed the viability of our approach.
    ACM Transactions on Internet Technology 02/2008; 8. DOI:10.1145/1323651.1323655 · 0.77 Impact Factor
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    • "(Zaharias, 2005; Adams 2007a), others point out potential conflicts in including accessibility guidelines alongside usability ones, e.g. (Phipps and Kelly, 2006). This may be due, in part, for a focus of accessibility concerns on the lowest level of design , namely standards for coding in a programming language on in a mark-up language such as HTML or XHTML. "

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    ABSTRACT: The wide use of e-technologies represents a great opportunity for underserved segments of the population, especially with the aim of reintegrating excluded individuals back into society through education. This is particularly true for people with different types of disabilities who may have difficulties while attending traditional on-site learning programs that are typically based on printed learning resources. The creation and provision of accessible e-learning contents may therefore become a key factor in enabling people with different access needs to enjoy quality learning experiences and services. Another e-learning challenge is represented by m-learning (which stands for mobile learning), which is emerging as a consequence of mobile terminals diffusion and provides the opportunity to browse didactical materials everywhere, outside places that are traditionally devoted to education. Both such situations share the need to access materials in limited conditions and collide with the growing use of rich media in didactical contents, which are designed to be enjoyed without any restriction. Nowadays, Web-based teaching makes great use of multimedia technologies, ranging from Flash animations to prerecorded video-lectures. Rich media in e-learning can offer significant potential in enhancing the learning environment, through helping to increase access to education, enhance the learning experience and support multiple learning styles. Moreover, they can often be used to improve the structure of Web-based courses. These highly variegated and structured contents may significantly improve the quality and the effectiveness of educational activities for learners. For example, rich media contents allow us to describe complex concepts and process flows. Audio and video elements may be utilized to add a “human touch” to distance-learning courses. Finally, real lectures may be recorded and distributed to integrate or enrich on line materials. A confirmation of the advantages of these approaches can be seen in the exponential growth of video-lecture availability on the net, due to the ease of recording and delivering activities which take place in a traditional classroom. Furthermore, the wide use of assistive technologies for learners with disabilities injects new life into e-learning systems. E-learning allows distance and flexible educational activities, thus helping disabled learners to access resources which would otherwise present significant barriers for them. For instance, students with visual impairments have difficulties in reading traditional visual materials, deaf learners have trouble in following traditional (spoken) lectures, people with motion disabilities have problems in attending on-site programs. As already mentioned, the use of wireless technologies and pervasive computing may really enhance the educational learner experience by offering mobile e-learning services that can be accessed by handheld devices. This new paradigm of educational content distribution maximizes the benefits for learners since it enables users to overcome constraints imposed by the surrounding environment. While certainly helpful for users without disabilities, we believe that the use of newmobile technologies may also become a fundamental tool for impaired learners, since it frees them from sitting in front of a PC. In this way, educational activities can be enjoyed by all the users, without hindrance, thus increasing the social inclusion of non-typical learners. While the provision of fully accessible and portable video-lectures may be extremely useful for students, it is widely recognized that structuring and managing rich media contents for mobile learning services are complex and expensive tasks. Indeed, major difficulties originate from the basic need to provide a textual equivalent for each media resource composing a rich media Learning Object (LO). Moreover, tests need to be carried out to establish whether a given LO is fully accessible to all kinds of learners. Unfortunately, both these tasks are truly time-consuming processes, depending on the type of contents the teacher is writing and on the authoring tool he/she is using. Due to these difficulties, online LOs are often distributed as partially accessible or totally inaccessible content. Bearing this in mind, this thesis aims to discuss the key issues of a system we have developed to deliver accessible, customized or nomadic learning experiences to learners with different access needs and skills. To reduce the risk of excluding users with particular access capabilities, our system exploits Learning Objects (LOs) which are dynamically adapted and transcoded based on the specific needs of non-typical users and on the barriers that they can encounter in the environment. The basic idea is to dynamically adapt contents, by selecting them from a set of media resources packaged in SCORM-compliant LOs and stored in a self-adapting format. The system schedules and orchestrates a set of transcoding processes based on specific learner needs, so as to produce a customized LO that can be fully enjoyed by any (impaired or mobile) student.
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