Accessibility Webinar: Making Blackboard Modules and Content Accessible for All

Blackboard Logo
Source: Blackboard, Inc.

On the 28th July 2016, Blackboard Accessibility Manager JoAnna Hunt led a webinar titled ‘Making Blackboard modules and content accessible for all’. This webinar was timely given the changes to the DSA allowance in the UK.

JoAnna highlighted how inclusive learning approaches benefit all students.  However, it was acknowledged that there are challenges outlined in building an inclusive classroom. One of these that we are addressing at CCCU includes a ‘knowledge and skills gap’ for staff and ‘ongoing support for staff.’ These challenges are currently being addressed at CCCU through a working group which is looking at the implications of the changes in DSA funding for students and staff. Look out for staff development workshops around developing an inclusive curriculum and a new tab in Blackboard containing a link to an Inclusive Learning and Teaching Blackboard site.

The diverse needs of learners were outlined in this webinar including Cognitive challenges, Visual Challenges, Physical Challenges and Hearing challenges and the impact of these different challenges was on student learning was outlined. As JoAnna states:

‘There is no one-size-fits-all answer. Inclusiveness does not mean all students doing the same thing the same way. It means enabling everyone to achieve the same goals.

There are things that can be done pedagogically to assist students using Blackboard (you may already be doing some of these)

  • Make the course outline available.
  • Define your learning outcomes.
  • Provide explicit instructions.
  • Include collaborative learning.
  • Use differentiated activities where appropriate in the curriculum.

In terms of content you put into Blackboard, the following checklist is useful:

  • Ensure images have alternative text – this means that visually impaired students using a screen reader know what the images are.
  • Limiting the use of animation to where it is critical to learning.
  • Ensure Microsoft Word and PowerPoint documents are properly structured.
  • Ensure PDF documents are accessible.
  • Ensure colour choices have proper contrast (e.g. dark text on a light background).
  • Do not use tables for formatting as these are read differently by screen readers (i.e. only use tables for data).

The aim of this webinar was to help staff think through their pedagogy and understand how they can make adjustments.

Blackboard has accessibility functionality the can be found on the Blackboard web pages.

The full version of this webinar is available on YouTube.


Welcome to the TEL @ CCCU blog

"Welcome Sign Mosaic in Warm Tones"
Welcome Sign Mosaic in Warm Tones” by Margaret Almon. Creative Commons licence CC BY-NC-ND

Welcome to the blog of the Learning Technology Team based at Canterbury Christ Church University. You can find out more information about the individual team members in the “About Us” section of the blog. Our various research and scholarly activities can be located in the “Publications” section if you wish to know more about what we get up to. We have recently launched an accompanying Twitter feed (@CCCUTEL) to support our social media engagement. Whilst individual team members have engaged in various social media platforms over the years either personally or professionally, it is the first time that the team have engaged with it collectively. So yes, we are a bit late coming to the party, but better late than never we say.

There were a number of reasons why we “arrived late to the party” and we were conscious that at some point we would need to engage with social media to support our students and staff, as well as raising the team’s profile in the wider Higher Education (HE) technology-enhanced learning (TEL) sector.

There is a tendency for people to jump into using social media because there is a perceived expectation that a) they should be using it,  and b) they do not want to feel “left out” in some way. There are some big, and important, questions that need to be asked when considering using social media: What?, Where?, When?, How? and Who? It is these questions that were our points of reference as we began to adopt a more considered approach in our engagement with social media as a team. Suffice to say, we will be using this blog and the associated Twitter feed in the following ways:

  • Case studies, both internal and external, on how learning technology is being used;
  • Evaluation of software and/or mobile apps that support learning, teaching, assessment or productivity;
  • Promotion of learning, teaching, assessment and technology events (both internal and external);
  • Reviews of events attended, books or articles read, etc. relating to learning technology;
  • Signposting to resources relating to our tools (both internal and external);
  • Promotion of any research, publications and presentations that we have undertaken;
  • Service updates of our learning technology systems;
  • Communication and feedback (both internal and external);
  • Profiles and/or contact details of the LTT.

We hope to bring something a little different to the party. See you there!