WBU and Accessibility

 

What does it mean to have your classroom and content accessible?  Think easy to approach, or reach.  Easy to use, or engage. It also refers to our students with disabilities being able to acquire the same information and engage in the same interactions within the same time frame as those without disabilities. Don’t think you have students with disabilities?  Think again.  Whether they are declared or not,  15-20% of their students in any given class may have a disability.

Structure of Courses

On a recent exit survey, our students told us they like using Blackboard and find it easy to use BUT they find the lack of consistency between courses, in our course organization and navigation, confusing.  For example, some instructors place the assignments within the weekly lesson, some place them in an assignment folder, some don’t place them at all…they list it in the syllabus.  Our menus are as varied as our instructors, some tall, some short, some colorful, some complicated.  I have always believed in instructor’s  ‘free choice’ in how they place their content in the classroom, but our students are requesting a bit less variety.  Universal Design for Learning is a set of guidelines that points to an architectural framework for creation and organization of learning materials. Individuality for your course, with some common structure for your students is the goal. The Virtual Council will be addressing this issue in the fall. Your school has a representative.  Make sure you get in on the conversation.

Accessing Materials

Another component of accessibility involves barriers that students encounter in our classrooms.  We need to be more aware, more sensitive to students who may be very intelligent but have some disability (physical, psychological, developmental) that makes working in the classroom more of a challenge than it is for students without disabilities. A file that won’t open or can’t be read by a screen reader; video that won’t play or is not captioned; text that varies in size, color, and contrast are common issues. But what about the student for whom English is a second language, a student with dyslexia, a student who has had a traumatic brain injury and processes learning differently – what is our responsibility to them?  The law says we must accommodate them.  But what it really involves is a change of thought, a change of heart, a desire to help others learn, for us to truly live our profession.  At WBU, we are committed to educate students in an academically challenging, learning-focused and distinctively Christian environment.  We are inclusive and caring with quality courses. We need to learn to use tools and resources to create a learning environment that provides for all students.  Is this easy? Somewhat. The hardest part is to break old habits and accept some change. We need to develop a culture that does not just see a set of rules, but sees the objectives of the rules as a basis for our cultural values, ensuring equality in an enriched learning environment so our students have professional success and can provide service to God and humankind.

This change needs to happen.  We hope to make it gradual without too much stress, but  need your help and your support.  We need your ideas and cooperation.  The changes will require a bit more of your time in the classroom set up, but won’t be difficult.  We will also start to include training, and EDI components to help you create that accessible classroom both online and f2f.

To start getting acquainted with some accessibility ideas and techniques, please see the tutorials posted in the WBUOnline Toolbox under Recommended Tutorials.

Have a great summer term and God Bless

Trish

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”  Romans 12:2

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