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.