Accessibility is defined as making something (such as a lecture in a course) usable to as many people as possible. In many contexts, this refers to ensuring a specific environment is accessible for individuals with disabilities (i.e., making a room wheelchair accessible). In the Universal Design for Learning Framework, educators consider practices that facilitate learning for all students by providing multiple methods for presenting course materials and multiple ways for students to engage in the course (“About Universal Design for Learning,” 2020).
Accessibility is a critical consideration in the Hybrid NUflex learning environment, where students with different learning needs are also accessing the class in different ways—some participate in-person and others attend class remotely. Additionally, accessibility extends beyond addressing documented disabilities. Accessibility can also apply to students who are not learning in their primary language or are encountering a specific type of lecture style for the first time (i.e., a student who is new to the discipline).
Some technical considerations to promote accessibility during lectures are:
- If screen sharing slides via Zoom, consider advising students to use side-by-side mode so the slides and speaker do not overlap on the screen. The slides and speaker view can also be resized by the participant.
- Consider using captioning when giving a lecture. Microsoft PowerPoint, Google Slides, and Microsoft Teams have this capability.
- Slides look different when viewing them from a projector in the classroom compared to a laptop screen. Provide a local version of slides on Canvas before class sessions so that font size, screen resolution, or internet connectivity will not prevent access. Number slides so they can be referenced by you and your students.
- Consider strategies for accessibility design.
While captioning and ensuring access to slides allows students to see and hear incoming visual and auditory input, this may not be enough. These components only ensure students perceive the presented information. For efficient comprehension, students also need to attend to this information during the lecture.
Some considerations to leverage student attention are:
- Minimize the amount of text on slides (see Figure 1 above). Use a combination of text and visual components to present information (Sung & Mayer, 2012). This can create helpful redundancy that caters to different learners (i.e., color contrast might be a facilitatory cue for some, while others may find spatial cues more helpful).
- Present information incrementally in order to direct students where to attend to as the instructor speaks. This can also provide a visual cue when transitioning or switching topics. Additionally, incremental presentation can help the instructor set the pace and naturally slow down, which can increase the accuracy of built-in captioning.
- Chunk lectures into smaller segments. During real-time class sessions, incorporate pauses to solicit questions and/or take breaks. For lectures that students watch in-between class sessions, be creative with video length! Consider creating sets of 3- to 5-minute videos that students can watch at their own pace. If you are asking students to watch longer lectures after they were recorded in a live session, provide timestamps for each topic covered and recommend places for students to pause and resume.
Northeastern Accessibility Resources:
About Universal Design for Learning. (2020, September 25). Retrieved September 29, 2020, from http://www.cast.org/impact/universal-design-for-learning-udl
Sung, E., & Mayer, R. E. (2012). When graphics improve liking but not learning from online lessons. Computers in Human Behavior, 28(5), 1618-1625.