Accessibility in Digital Learning Increasingly Complex
- By Dian Schaffhauser
The Online Learning Consortium (OLC) has introduced a series of reports to keep people in education up-to-date on the latest developments in the field of digital learning. The first report covers accessibility and addresses both K-12 and higher education. The series is being produced by OLC's Research Center for Digital Learning & Leadership.
The initial report addresses four broad areas tied to accessibility:
- The national laws governing disability and access and how they apply to online courses;
- What legal cases exist to guide online course design and delivery in various educational settings;
- The issues that emerge regarding online course access that might be unique to higher ed or to K-12, and which ones might be shared; and
- What support online course designers need to generate accessible courses for learners across the education life span (from K-12 to higher education).
"As our first OLC Outlook report explains, accessibility in K-12 and higher education is becoming an increasingly complex terrain to traverse as schools increase online materials and instructional delivery options," said Jill Buban, senior director of research and innovation for OLC, in a prepared statement. "This report examines the critical terms, legal precedents, and other considerations for course designers, instructors, and administrators as they work to improve the educational experiences of learners with disabilities."
As the first report concluded, college and K-12 considerations come into play at multiple levels: institutional, department, program and course for higher ed; and federal, state, district, school and classroom for K-12. But at no level has there been a sufficient push for increasing accessibility to "stave off complaints, legal actions, and high attrition rates for students with disabilities."
Next up will be an examination of instructional design (expected this month), followed by leadership in August, business models in September, learning sciences in October and workforce development in November.
All reports in the OLC Outlook series will be available in the OLC Research Center for Digital Learning & Leadership (registration required).
Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.