EDTECH 501 – Tech Trends: File Accessibility in LMS Sites

According to The Horizon Report (2014), “An increasing number of universities are incorporating online environments into courses of all kinds, which is making the content more dynamic, flexible, and accessible to a larger number of students.” (p. 10). Reading this reminded me that online and blended learning is here to stay. One method the University of Washington is using to promote online and blended learning is through its use of Learning Management sites (LMS). LMS sites are a one-stop shop for several classroom tools like announcements, quizzes, modules, assignments, grading and distribution of required readings.

This year, I have become more conscious to the amount of files that are distributed through LMS sites and how accessible (or inaccessible) they may be. Thus, a data collection project was born. After professors have added me as an observer to their LMS site, I downloaded files and had my team assist me in evaluating these files for accessibility.

For this specific assignment, I decided to create an infographic, using Infogr.am, summarizing the data. What the data tells me that most of the time, the files distributed (as they are with no modifications by my office) are usable by students with learning disabilities; however, they are NOT useable by students who are blind.

Because infographics are notoriously inaccessible (much of the meaning is communicated through visual modes), I included a text only version. I learned a great deal about how to create data in a simple, understandable and pleasing manner. I had data from Winter 2014 and Spring 2014 but could not identify a coherent way to organize data from both quarters, so I purposefully omitted Winter 2014. I liked the simplicity of the Infogr.am tool and am planning to share this infographic in my presentation at the Accessing Higher Ground conference in November 2014.

Link to Krista’s Infographic regarding File Accessibility in LMS Sites at the UW
Text version of Krista’s Infographic regarding File Accessibility in LMS Sites at the UW below:

File Accessibility at the University of Washington

UW uses a Learning Management System called Canvas as part of online and blended learning experience. Professors most commonly use Canvas to distribute required files to students.

58 classes that were evaluated in Spring 2014

2,003 files that professors distributed through 58 LMS sites in Spring 2014

34,492 pages distributed in Spring 2014

Disability Resources for Students obtains access to these LMS sites to evaluate the accessibility of files for students with disabilities.

Types of files distributed through LMS sites in Spring 2014 at UW

In Spring 2014

# of pdfs 1,476

# of word docs 298

# of powerpoints 209

# of excel 19

# of txt 1

But are these files useable by students with disabilities? -Said by Disability Resources for Students

Students with learning disabilities need a text-based version of the article, where the text can be highlighted. This type of file can be read by computer software.

Students who are blind also need a text-based version of the article, where the text can be highlighted. Additionally, files need to be structured in a way that screen reading technology can navigate through the document. Identifying headings, figures, images and graphics is extremely important to the screen reader user.

# pdfs useable for student with learning disabilities (as originally given) in Spring 2014

# pdfs distributed 1467

# pdfs useable 1132

# pdfs not useable 344

# pdfs useable for blind students (as originally given)

# pdfs distributed 1467

# pdfs useable 67

# pdfs not useable 1030

# pdfs partially useable 373

How do we help faculty to distribute accessible files? -Said by Disability Resources for Students

To be continued…

End of infographic

References

Johnson, L., Adams Becker, S., Estrada, V., Freeman, A. (2014). NMC Horizon Report: 2014 Higher Education Edition. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium.