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.

Webinars – Bringing in the experts

"Philippe Legrain webinar" by John Fitzgibbon. All rights reserved.
“Philippe Legrain webinar” by John Fitzgibbon. All rights reserved.

Introduction

Dr. John Fitzgibbon, a senior lecture in politics at Canterbury Christ Church University (CCCU), has recently posted about his year long experience of running webinars as part of his teaching practice in political science.

What is a webinar?

A webinar is a live meeting that takes place over the web. It can consist of presentation, discussion, demonstration, or instructional session. Participants can view documents and applications via their computers, while shared audio allows for presentation and discussion.

Webinars can be an efficient way to transmit and share information. There is no transportation involved – so webinars can save time and money.

Using webinars for learning and teaching

JISC Digital Media offers some very sound advice on conducting a webinar, and suggest that webinars can be used for learning and teaching in the following ways (JISC, 2015):

  • Enhancement of limited teaching time by offering provision to a wider and more dispersed audience;
  • A flexible feature set that incorporates mixed media such as images, video, web and audio for use in presentation, discussion or support;
  • Supports remote teaching sessions;
  • Improves access to support for staff, students or your learning community via face-to-face settings (e.g. ‘drop-in’ or scheduled appointments);
  • Facilitates individual or group activity.
Dr. John Fitzgibbon, Senior Lecture in Politics
Dr. John Fitzgibbon, Senior Lecture in Politics

John’s experience

John tried out two forms of webinar, one that was hosted and organised by an external partner, and the other one was hosted and organised by John.

The external partner brought a wealth of experience in terms of the technology and their contacts and was able to edit and piece together the webinar to make a coherent narrative. As John notes, it “takes both time and technical training which most educators simply don’t have, to make the videos look somewhat professional” (Fitzgibbon, 2015). However, there is the potential drawback that your pedagogical goals for the class may not necessarily align with those of the external partner, which may lead to a lack of class interaction and control on the teacher’s part.

In the webinar organised and hosted by John, he used a combination of conference cam and Skype to deliver his session – the class were able to hear and see the main speaker with clarity. In this way, John was in total control of the topic of discussion and students had an opportunity to speak and ask questions of the webinar speaker, thus giving students access to experts in particular fields of scholarship and inquiry and ask questions on deeply complex contemporary issues.

What next?

Whilst John had used an external partner and Skype to run his webinar sessions, the University has software called Blackboard Collaborate which could be used to run webinars.

You can use Blackboard Collaborate, a tool integrated into Blackboard, to easily create your own webinars. If you would like to know more, contact your Faculty Learning Technologist and arrange for a chat.

References

Fitzgibbon, J. (2015). “Using Webinars in Political Science Education”. Politics & International Relations blog, 13.2.2015. Available at: https://canterburypolitics.wordpress.com/2015/02/13/using-webinars-in-political-science-education/ [Accessed 28.4.2015].

JISC. (2015). Webinars in Education. Bristol, England: Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC). Available at: http://www.jiscdigitalmedia.ac.uk/guide/webinars-in-education [Accessed 28.4.2015].