Thursday, November 30, 2006

Making e-Learning Accessible

Texas has a new law that requires all government web sites to be accessible. We believe that this law also applies to online education provided by state governments. This really isn't new. The laws have been on the US Government books for a long time. But, it sometimes take a while for these things to trickle down.

I'm intersted in this because it's been a concern of mine for a long time. I wrote the first Special Needs policy for the Virtual High School when we first got it going. I've been talking about equity and access for years.

The virtual schools have begun to pay attention to the issue, but most of them don't have policies about course design to insure accessibility. Public organizations should have been thinking about the access issues for a long time, but some haven't, or don't thoroghly understand the issues. It's not a single issue, there are a number of them.

There are many resources on the web to help. Here are just a few of my favorites:

Watchfire is a free service that will provide an accessibility report on any single web page entered on the site.

The National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM) has a variety of resources including MAGpie which is a free tool for adding captioning and audio descriptions to rich media.

Rose & Smith Associates

We've started a formal consulting business, Rose & Smith Associates. We (my partner Alese Smith, and I) have been consulting with organizations on e-learning for a number of years. We thought it was time to formalize the pactice and formally take advantage of each others expertise.

helped pioneer the first national virtual high school, defining online community-building and national online standards. She is an accomplished online curriculum and course designer/developer, and consults with universities and learning institutions to develop and offer professional development programs that teach the philosophies and skills for successfully transforming face-to-face courses to the online venue. She is co-author of Essential Elements
which has been used as a text for online course development in a number of college programs.

Recently we have co-authored a chapter for a book ISTE will publish this summer. The title for the book What Works in K-12 Online Eduction and our chapter is What works in K-12 Online Discussions.