Presented by: Dan Allen, Michel Miller
MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) are being hailed by many in the higher education community as the next important development in online education. In particular, they are touted for their potential to make education available to populations who would otherwise not have an opportunity: students who are economically, geographically, and politically disadvantaged. And as with other online programs, when best practices are followed, they also have the potential for providing access to students with disabilities.
In this presentation, we will discuss how following accessibility best practices also bring down barriers for other disadvantaged populations that MOOCs might serve. For example, captioned video not only accommodates the student who has a hearing disability, but also the student whose first language is not English, or the student who cannot afford speakers. Furthermore, accessible content is often more practical to manage and is more adaptable to multiple purposes. An accessible Word document, for example, can easily be turned into an accessible PDF, or copied and pasted into a Learning Management System (LMS) for text that is not only more accessible, but also more searchable.
These techniques are not the exclusive domain of programmers or Instructional technology specialists; anyone -- faculty, instructional designers, and anyone else involved in the management of online content -- can master these "low-hanging fruit" best practices.
Finally, we will emphasize the importance of incorporating accessibility now into our community's ongoing discussion of what MOOCs are, and how best to design and implement them. Accessibility, when considered from the beginning, becomes organic to the process. When it is relegated to an afterthought, the solutions tend to be far less effective, far less eloquent, and far less useful to our larger population of students.