Creating more accessible content for online learning

Murtaza Afzali (Blackboard Ally Coordinator)

Dr Emma Hyde (Associate Professor of Diagnostic Imaging/ Head of Diagnostic Imaging, Operating Department Practice & Osteopathy)

Overview of the context of the project/procedure:

The College of HPSC is committed to ensuring all our resources are fully inclusive and professional, and compliant with the Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) (No. 2) Accessibility Regulations 2018. As part of the commitment to continual improvement of the student experience, the Discipline of Diagnostic Imaging, Operating Department Practice & Osteopathy is seeking to standardise processes including PowerPoint design.

The main issues that were being dealt with were, missing alternative text on slides, contrast issues with the contents background, usage of old images and logos on slides and issue with accessibility checks on generic templates distributed across university.

The approach taken:

In this project, we have created templates that are accessible and put the instructions on templates to help academics create content aligned to accessibility standards. The creation of these new templates were made in collaboration with senior lecturer Tim Howell from the College of Health, Psychology and Social Care and the Design and Marketing team.

We also created a template for lecturers to enable standardisation and consistency, so all students have clear expectations and uniformity. E.g., this includes standard slides about the module and lecturer, learning outcomes/session content, follow up reading/asynchronous tasks, reference list etc.

What were the steps and processes that had to be put in place to implement this approach?

A couple of key steps were taken first, we contacted the Marketing and Design team to merge the accessibility standards with marketing and branding guidance. Afterwards, we designed the academic content templates based on newly uploaded images related to a specific college. There are two main types of templates: one, guidance on creating standard content which includes the following key suggestion for lectures:

a. Opening slide to include module code, title and session number and indicative theme

b. Slide to include explicit session learning outcomes and private study tasks

c. Slide to include links to assessment and sector competencies and opportunity to review learning / ask questions

d. Reference list slide

e. Thank you slide to include contact details of lecturer

Second, is the generic template accessibility checked. Based on these two templates lecturers can create more standardised content with a high accessibility score.

What worked well?

These new templates have been welcomed by programme leaders and as well as lecturers and students.

“Thank you so much for this- it is extremely helpful” Osteopathy Programme Leader – Marie Cook

Are there any challenges or limitations to this approach?

One of the main challenges in the process of making the current and future contents more accessible is the old content which is not accessibility check There are loads of files including .ppts and .docx that needs to be updated and ally checked. To fix this issue the Blackboard Ally Coordinator works with programme leads and lecturers. However, this would be solved in the future as the new templates will be fully accessible, updated and designed based on the need to not only be accessible but also show uniformity and consistency within the discipline.

The other issue regarding the accessibility of .pdf and other documents that are not easy to edit. This challenge has put forward by many programme leads and lecturers, however, one solution is to use the original source/link as hyperlinks if the document has originated from another source, such as pieces of literature/national guidelines.

What have you learnt from undertaking this approach? Is there anything you would do differently next time?

There are two main learning points:

– First, creating accessible content aligned to the University of Derby branding and standards.

– Second, converting the old files to a more accessible format.

The Blackboard Ally coordinator has tried to solve both issues differently. The first issue is the main responsibility of Blackboard Ally coordinator while the second issue required the lecturers and module leaders to be educated creating updated content. Therefore, the Blackboard Ally Guidance is created to guide the lecturers to create more accessible content.

Advice for others:

The main advice for lecturers while creating accessible content would be:

  • Please upload your PowerPoints as PPTX so they can be used by students for note taking and Blackboard conversion to another downloadable format.
  • If you are unable to obtain an accessible version of a file (for example a pdf from a 3rd party) Where possible upload a hyperlink to the original document on a website. Alternatively add via Blackboard Ally add a library reference.
  • Make sure to not use any old Logos such as TEF logo in your slides as they are expired and are not being used.
  • While adding any image/shape or icon make sure you add Alt text for each, you can also mark the object as Decorative if it is for decorative purposes.
  • While formatting the word documents please use the heading tools when formatting the document. This improves accessibility.

Links to literature surrounding this: