Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Accessibility Issues in Online Education and Websites: Current Case Law and Resources

June 15, 2016 I've been asked to make a presentation (see slides below) to the Learning Technology Advisory Committee of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.  I've only got about 15 minutes, so the content is all in the first 10 slides.  There are relevant resources in the remaining ones, and the folks can access the full set here or on my SlideShare account.

Friday, June 03, 2016

CyberLearning 2016 and Accessibility

CyberLearning 2016 happens the first weekend in June, rescheduled from February when it was postponed because of a winter storm in DC.  I had already put together the slides and posted them here and on SlideShare.  You can find them in an earlier post.  

But, as has been the case with this issue, things change.  Not the basics of the case law, but there are new and different resources as the field discovers the importance of this issue.  And, because I do this, I have folks sending me resources, for which I'm grateful.

What that means is;

  1. if you find a new resource, please send me the information.  I'd rather have multiple folks telling me about something I already know, then risk missing something really great that I just hadn't seen.  and
  2. every time I post new slides they're different.  Not totally different.  The case law has been consistent over the past decade.  The difference is in the resources. 
Just this past week I was introduced to two new publications that look to be interesting.  The Book Industry Study Group has released the Quick Start Guide to Accessible Publishing.  And, there is Vendor Guide to Web Accessibility for Higher Education Customers prepared by the Committee on Institutional Cooperation.  Of course, I prefer the second, as it focuses on Web Accessibility and I have less involvement and interest in book publishing at the moment.

Here are the slides for my June 2016, CyberLearning 2016 presentation.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

TxDLA 2016 and Accessibility

I didn't post about the TxDLA Accessibility Certification Program because it filled up within 36 hours of being available.  This is the pilot offering.  It started a week ago as an online course, but becomes a hybrid next week with the participants attending the TxDLA 2016 Conference's Accessibility Pre-Conference Workshop.  Then, during the conference, participants are expected to attend a specified number of concurrent accessibility sessions.  The final component of the certificate program is a capstone project where participants put all their learning together.  I contributed to the initial legal module and will be doing  more on the legal issues at the pre-conference workshop.

I'm going to do some more on legal issues because of the Section 504/Section 508 confusion.  But that's confounded because there's a state statute that adopted Section 508 standards for all Texas websites.  So, while in other states, reference to Section 508 should only be the standard used to determine accessibility but not to cite as non-compliance, unless the source is a Federally funded site. And technically in Texas Section 508 shouldn't be cited, it should be Texas Section 206.70

Elsewhere on the conference agenda, I will be on an accessibility panel and have a session for Section 504 Coordinators.

The session The Section 504 Coordinator's Role in Accessible Online Learning is a new idea.  I think there will be few if any Coordinators at a TxDLA conference, but there might be folks who want to take information back to their Coordinator.  I used to do training for Title IX Coordinators, and while the content is different, the role of the Coordinator is similar.  I got the idea because in some of the OCR resolution agreements there are recommendations about professional development for the Section 504 Coordinator.  I'm planning on having a lot of discussion rather than presentation, but there will be some slides, which are included below.

Other TxDLA sessions I'm involved with include:

  • serving as Provocateur for a panel by UNT folks about their Amazing Instructor Support... for their accelerated online Master's Program in Education Leadership; 
  • holding a discussion with a professor from the UNT Education Leadership program about What Administrators Need to Know for Successful Online Education Programs; and 
  • a panel participant on Discussing Accessibility:Best Practices & Considerations for Online/Distance Education.


Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Professional experiences of online teachers in Wisconsin: Results from a survey about training and challenges

REL Midwest; Regional Educational Laboratory at American Institute for Research*, has released a report with the results for a survey about training and challenges for online teachers in Wisconsin.   They conducted a webinar this week to talk about the report, and in the webinar they included information from the use of the same survey data with Iowa Online teachers.  I attended and have to say there weren't any surprises.

The biggest concern/challenge expressed by the respondents was needing help to address student perseverance and engagement.

What was missing from the webinar presentation, and missing from the report itself is a description of the pedagogical approach used by the Wisconsin Virtual School and Iowa Online.  Without that information, the survey has little relevance to the field. There are substantial differences both programatically and instructionally between synchronous and asynchronous programs.  The failure to describe the programs shows a lack of understanding of online education on the part of the researchers.  In the webinar, I was able to ask for that description, but unless one is familiar with the two programs the program approaches are not well articulated in the report.

Here is my standard rant about researchers who want to study a single aspect of online learning, but don't put the results in a context. Typically they take their results and lay claim to the entire field of online learning.  The REL Midwest folks didn't do that, but they do imply the data, while being for Wisconsin might have broader implications. If they'd framed the Wisconsin Virtual School approach the applicability might have been better.

A couple of interesting items in the report.

On page 4 this statement:
69 percent reported participating in professional development before teaching online but after preservice education, and 31 percent reported that online instruction was covered during their preservice education  
On page 9 they say:
Wisconsin Virtual School requires teachers to participate in training before teaching online and offers multiple forms of ongoing professional development.
 But in the summary they say:
All Wisconsin Virtual School teachers reported participating in training or professional development related to online instruction either before or while teaching online, 
The framing of the question does not then make it clear if some teachers taught online before professional development or training to teach online.

 I have to admit surprise and somewhat disbelief that 31 percent of the teachers reported online instruction was covered during their pre-service education.  That figure seems high based on conversations with faculty and administrators of pre-service education.

I was interested to see the  focus of the training and professional development.
At least 50 percent of teachers reported participating in training or professional development in eight of the nine practice areas in the survey: technology (100 percent), professional practice (81 percent), facilitation (79 percent), online course customization (79 percent), digital etiquette (69 percent), assessment and data use (63 percent), online course development (56 percent), and classroom management or leadership (50 percent; figure 3). In contrast, 25 percent reported participating in training focused on supporting students with special needs. page 6
I would have liked to see some professional development on online pedagogy.  Because they apparently buy most of their courses they have bought  into the pedagogy of the course providers, But it wasn't until I questioned the presenters that I was able to get some information about where the courses came from.  The majority were from "8 major publishers".  When pushed a little more only half were identified.  I'm not sure what the reluctance was to reveal that, but, I suspect that some of the issues teachers are having is a result of the quality of the courses they are teaching from commercial vendors.

In 2007, Niki Davis and I wrote Professional Development for Virtual Schooling and Online Learning for NACOL. The significant difference is that reported 31 percent of teachers who reported their pre-service program prepared them to teach online.  There was very little of that happening in 2007.  I still don't see 31 percent of pre-service programs preparing students to teach online.  But note the latest version of the National  Educational Technology Plan does recommend pre-service education programs include preparation to teach online.

I'd like to hear from pre-service education programs that really do include preparation to teach in an online environment.

* If you don't know about the Regional Educational Laboratories in the US and you are: an educational researcher, teacher education faculty, school administrator, or graduate student in an educational program, you need to learn about them.