How to Design 508 Compliant eLearning Courses

May 25th, 2017 By Rohini Oberoi comment
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Statistically, over 285 million people worldwide are visually impaired, do you design eLearning that they can take?

Designing eLearning for all

With eLearning, most learners can overcome the barriers of time and space and access learning electronically. But have you ever thought about learners who do not have access?

Statistically, over 285 million people worldwide are visually impaired, and between one to nine percent of the population have movement-related disorders. The traditional use of a website or eLearning course is often difficult or impossible for these specially-abled groups.

As learning experience designers, it is essential that our eLearning courses are easily accessible for all learner groups. And If you are going to make eLearning courses for all, it is important that you understand the big picture of 508 compliance.

There are a number of government acts around the world to ensure specially-abled people have equal access to websites and learning materials, and one such act is the US government’s Section 508. Section 508 outlines the minimum levels of accessibility for people with physical, sensory, or cognitive disabilities.

If you are planning to design a Section 508 compliant course, here are a few questions that need to be answered:

1. Are all the visual parts of your course accessible?

While designing, and creating a 508-compliant course, it is important to provide text under images. Alt text ensures that the images are accessible to ocular learners. The screen reader will read the alt text aloud for the given images, which will help learners to know what images are included in your eLearning course. The rule of thumb is to provide an equivalent alt text or long description for every image, graphic, hyperlink, and button used in the course.

Consider playing around with the font size and color contrast. Most browsers do not allow e-Learning developers to accommodate larger text, which makes resizing font even more difficult. On the other hand, picking up a stronger color contrasts makes it easier for color blind learners to view your content.

2. Is the audio accessible?

When designing a course, provide a text transcript for audio files. Using a text transcript makes information easily accessible to learners with hearing impairments. Always provide captioning and transcripts of the course audio and the course descriptions of any video.

Closed captioning aids learners to read the audio portion of your video if they can’t hear it. This ensures the learner doesn’t miss any information that’s presented in the audio form in your e-Learning course.

All explanations of links added to your course must make sense when read out. Also, keep in mind to add instructional text both in the audio and the screen.

3. Are there ways to make the course navigation easier?

Course navigation determines the fate of an eLearning module and mobility issues can make handling the mouse difficult for some learners. Alternatively, make use of the keyboard. Use the keyboard for text entry and navigation. Build short-cuts to make it easier for the learner to remember how to perform a function. Using shortcut keys for navigation such as “Pause” and “Play” can reduce learner fatigue (Usually the “tab” key is used for navigation by specially-abled learners).

Navigation can be simplified by providing an easy to navigate Table of Contents. Alternatively, avoid the use of drop-down menus as screen readers will interpret them as a single object. You can also make use of skip navigation as it allows learners to save time by skipping the audio read by the screen reader. Finally, avoid adding multiple clicks and links to access content.

4. What elements can be used?

When picking elements for your eLearning course, choose wisely. Sparingly make use of tables as they are difficult to interpret. Screen reader’s make it difficult for the users to locate a cell that is referred by the screen reader and mapping it with corresponding column headings and row names.

Always summarize charts and graphs to help the learners know the content discussed. While building interactives, keep in mind that specially-abled learners require more time to complete the assigned tasks. Give the learners adequate time to complete these activities.

5. Which tools can be used?

Choosing the right tool that promotes accessibility can be a great challenge. Articulate Storyline, Adobe Captivate, and Lectora are all excellent choices for creating Section 508 courses as these tools use assistive technology.

Storyline works best for creating alt tags for images and text. While Lectora provides better options for synchronized captioning for multimedia elements. It also works well to remove redundant navigation items in the screen reader.

Avoid the use of Flash when designing accessible learning solutions, as screen readers have difficulty navigating Flash objects.

How can the Right LMS help?

Picking up the right LMS is important as specially-abled learners take extra time to complete online assessments. Therefore, always pick up an LMS such as GnosisConnect LMS which allows you to extend the time to complete an assessment. This will ensure that you save both time and money by conducting a single assessment for different types of learners.

Once you have figured out the answers to all these questions. You will be able to build a universally accessible and 508 compliant module.

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