Integrate Web Accessibility Enhance Quality of e-Learning Poonsri Vate-U-Lan College of Internet Distance Education, Assumption University (firstname.lastname@example.org) barriers for people who live in rural areaABSTRACT and have less opportunity to access knowledge in the traditional mode becauseThe potential of e-Learning relies on many of limited facilities or political and securityfactors such as the readiness of Internet difficulties in the three provinces of theconnectivity and accessibility of on-line southern part of Thailand. Thus, thecontent. E-Learning opportunities need to be Integration of web accessibility in electronicextended for all, thus it seems necessary that learning material will surely offer a betterthe web administrator, instructional opportunity not only for normal studentsdesigner and e-Learning producer should but also for students with special needs inlearn, develop and disseminate web Thailand.accessibility design rules for all electroniclearning material. This paper will present Keywordsthe current opportunities that students with e-Learning, e-Learning production,disabilities have in accessing e-Learning in a Instructional Designer, Learning Managementselected developing country, namely System (LMS), Moodle, students withThailand, where assistive technology is still disabilities, students with special need,limited. The study has collected information Internet-based survey, Thailand, webwhich described different projects accessibilityimplemented to support students withdisabilities: list of existing resources for 1) INTRODUCTIONuniversity students with disabilities, thepolicies and plans of both the government “Do the job right the first time.” is an ideal toand private sectors in Thailand for defect prevention and upgrade the quality ofsupporting students with disabilities. It also product (Crosby & Weiss, 2010). Higherincludes a report on the responses of web education institutions where e-Learning alreadyadministrators who have created e-Learning adopted into the system were very muchopportunities in secondary schools and concerned about quality of e-Learning.universities in Thailand for these students. Integrate web accessibility to e-LearningIn theory web accessibility needs to be definitely added value of education. The termsintroduced and improved, especially of ‘quality through e-Learning’ referred toregarding e-Learning; however in practice, potential of e-Learning which was able tothere is no research studying web increase educational opportunities for allaccessibility for disabled students and actual (Ehlers, Goertz, Hildebrandt, & Pawlowski,planning and practice available in Thailand. 2005). Accessibility of e-Learning contents orThe Thai Government is promoting many in the other words, on-line course material wasprojects to encourage people to access the an important aspect of e-Learning quality (theInternet which means including people with Swedish National Agency for Higherdisabilities. It is very obvious that assistive Education, 2008). The reason for this was thetechnology is in high demand in Thailand; concept of web accessibility itself thatthe reasons for this are that computer emphasized on the equal right of people totechnology and the Internet will play an access to all available on-line information. Theimportant role for improving and enhancing web accessibility procedure focused about howquality of education for students with to create, design and develop web sites thatdisabilities in developing countries like usable by all people, which included peopleThailand. Distance education can reduce with disabilities. Therefore, it seems necessary
that the web administrator, instructional ‘disability’ covers an interaction between healthdesigner and e-Learning producer should learn, conditions and the environment in thedevelop and disseminate web accessibility multidimensional concept. It includesdesign rules for all electronic learning impairment of mind or body structure/functionsmaterials. which cause limitation in activities, a restriction in participation such as involvement in lifeIn theory web accessibility needs to be situations such as work, social interaction andintroduced and improved, especially regarding education, and the affected person’s physicale-Learning; however in practice, there was no and social environment.research studying web accessibility for disabledstudents and actual planning and practice Web accessibility has been introduced to be aavailable in Thailand. The Thai Government is standard across nations (Thompson,promoting e-Learning projects to offer variety Burgstahler, Moore, Gunderson, & Hoyt,options to educate people through the Internet 2007), thus it was necessary to implicate to be awhich means including students with standard of e-Learning. The statistic indicateddisabilities. The number of Thai Internet users less than 15 per cent of people were born withwho were seeking e-Learning courses was their disability, later in life there are hundredsincreasing dramatically. Thailand Cyber of different kinds of disabilities (Weir, 2010).University, is an organization who response to The numbers of people with learningprovide on-line education for higher education disabilities were increasing by many reasons.in Thailand, have more than 44,318 members The form of learning disability can be derivedapplied to participate in on-line courses in July from characters of students which categorized2008. Two years later, in July 2010, the into 3Ds groups (Robson, 2007): “A/numbers of members has been increased 64.5 Disabilities” refers to disabilities orper cent per year approximately, as recorded impairments viewed in medical terms asthat there were 101,574 members applied organic disorders of students attributable to(Thailand Cyber University, 2008, 2010). organic pathologies, “B/Difficulties” refers toInterestingly, there was none of a study to behavioral or emotional disorders, or specificrecord about how many Thai people with difficulties of students in learning and “C/disabilities access to e-Learning and what kind Disadvantages” refers to disadvantages arisingdisabilities. Thus, the Integration of web primarily from socio-economic, cultural, and/oraccessibility in electronic learning material will linguistic factors of students.surely offer a better opportunity not only fornormal students but also for students with Situation of assistive technology in Thailandspecial needs in Thailand. was similar to other developing countries; there were both web accessibility policy and assistiveThis paper will present the current technology support projects. Ministry ofopportunities that students with disabilities Information and Communication Technologyhave in accessing e-learning in a selected Thailand (2008) for example, conducted ‘Webdeveloping country, namely Thailand, where Accessibility Contest’ as a part of ICTassistive technology was still limited. It Equitable Society Project which introduced andincludes a report on the responses of web encouraged web masters to concerned webadministrators who have created e-Learning accessibility. There was also an annual contestopportunities in secondary schools and for innovative technologies and applications foruniversities in Thailand for these students. people with disabilities in Thailand (NECTEC, 2008). Disabilities rights have been provisioned2) LITERATURE REVIEWS on the section 55 of Thailand’s formerThe consequence of web accessibility occurred constitution; however, most people withby the fact that all people include people with disabilities did not yet have full benefits fromdisability, have equal right to access to all kinds the law (Anantho, 2007). Education has beenof information. According to the Australian concerned as one of top five social risks amongInstitute of Health and Welfare (2010) Thai people with disabilities since most people
with disabilities were undereducated, especially (2008a), is the main department of the Thaithe blind (Anantho, 2007). A strong need for Government that aims to serve basic educationbetter opportunity in education from Thai to people with disabilities and tailored specialpeople with disability reflected from a better needs to fit individuals. This office providedjob required a better education (Anantho, 169 special education schools and centers that2007). In Thailand, people with disabilities can be categorized into three groups: specialwere limited of job opportunities, health care, education schools (43 schools in 35 provinces),and adaptive equipments (Simchareon, 2005). special education centers (76 centers) andThere were only 20.39 per cent of people with Suksasongkhro Schools for disadvantagesdisabilities employed after completed degrees students (50 schools in 42 provinces) (Bureauin vocational education (Mahidol University, of Special Education Administration, 2008a).1998 cited in Simchareon, 2005). This bureau provided only two reports on Key Performance Indicator of Students Quality; 43The evidences of students with disability in special education schools and 50Thailand according to the Office of the Basic Suksasongkhro Schools but special educationEducation Commission, Ministry of Education centers (76 centers). According to Bureau ofof Thailand (2006) report, there were 3,023 Special Education Administration (2008b), instudents in K-12 who were people with 2006 only 36.8 per cent (111 students) ofdisabilities. Students with disabilities in students with disabilities in 43 specialThailand included nine groups of disabilities: education schools were enrolled in postmotor disabilities, blind or vision impairments, secondary education in Thailand. Thus,deaf or hard of hearing, attention deficit approximately three fifths (63.2% or 191) ofhyperactivity disorders, autistic disorder, students with disabilities in 43 specialcognitive disabilities, verbal and linguistics education schools were neither continue theirdisabilities, mental retardation and multiple education nor working. On the contrary, indisabilities (Office of the Basic Education 2006 almost nine tenths or 87.8 per cent (2,194Commission: Ministry of Education of students) of students in 50 SuksasongkhroThailand, 2007). In Thailand, hill tribe students Schools were enrolled in post secondaryhave been categorized into one of student group education in Thailand (Bureau of Specialwho had limited opportunities. Students with Education Administration, 2008c). Thus onlylimited opportunities in Thailand included 11 12.2 per cent (304 students) in 50kinds: youth forced to work, youth in sexual Suksasongkhro Schools were neither continuebusiness, abandoned youth, youth in detention their education nor working (Bureau of Specialcenter, homeless youth, youth who affected Education Administration, 2008c). Accordingfrom AIDS, hill tribes youth, youth who was to this information, approximately three fifthsmistreat, poor youth, youth who was addict to or more than half of students under the servicedrugs and others (Office of the Basic Education of Bureau of Special Education AdministrationCommission: Ministry of Education of continued study in Thai education system.Thailand, 2007). The Office of the Basic Therefore, the demand of integrate webEducation Commission, Ministry of Education accessibility into e-Learning will be obviouslyof Thailand (2006) reported only 513 students benefit to students with special need since theyin K-12 who were hill tribes. There was none were in the education system.of report, paper or study of how many hill tribestudents were enrolled in post secondary The Commission on Higher Education ofeducation in Thailand. However, in practice, it Thailand became aware of importance and rightmight be only few or none of students with of people with disabilities in higher educationlimited opportunities in Thailand pass through levels since they need to have opportunities forthe post secondary education level since the education and facilities. In 2007, the firstdemand of work force in agriculture field. survey that gathering data regarding to support and develop service systems to serve studentsBureau of Special Education Administration with disabilities in higher education had beenwithin Ministry of Education in Thailand conducted; this was to prepare necessary
information for institutes in Thailand to (Vate-U-Lan, 2007).improve education quality. According to the In summary, web accessibility is the globalCommission on Higher Education of Thailand standard which extended its scope to cover e-(2007), there were 1,928 university students Learning. In Thailand, there werewith disabilities, male 60.3 per cent and female approximately three fifths of students with39.7 per cent. These data were derived from special need enrolled into the formal education187 higher education institutes under the system. Moreover, 65 per cent of universities injurisdiction of the Commission on Higher Thailand had students with disabilities but onlyEducation of Thailand. Approximately three a small portion or one tenth of university hadfifths (61.50% or 115 institutes) of institutes in some responsible units for service theseThailand participated to the survey. The students.summary of this report were 64.35 per cent ofhigher education institutes in Thailand had 3) RESEARCH METHODOLOGYuniversity students with disabilities. Themajority of institutes in Thailand who Web administrators for e-Learning might be theparticipated in this survey also disclosed that most importation sectors who respond to createapproximately seven tenths (68.75%) had none and provide accessible e-Learning. Thus theadministrative center responded to serve pioneer project using an on-line questionnaireuniversity students with disabilities. which investigate situation of the usage of webRemarkably, only one tenth of universities accessibility features for e-Learning inincluded services for students with disabilities Thailand has been conducted. The objective ofin Student Affairs, Disability Support Service this survey was to investigate opinion of e-Office and Office of Educational Services Learning web administrator in Thailand about(10.72, 9.82 and 9.82 % respectively). The the usage of web accessibility. This currentCommission on Higher Education of Thailand survey gathered data via on-line questionnaireindicated nine types of disabilities as same as in Thai. It was conducted during DecemberOffice of the Basic Education Commission, 2007- February 2008. The invitation employMinistry of Education of Thailand which differ for this survey was a message posted on webfrom general kinds of disabilities that can affect sites where e-Learning web administrators visitaccess to on-line information. The university regularly such as the resources web sites instudents with motor disabilities were the open source of learning management systems,biggest group (28.3 %) followed by blind or thai.moodle.net and similar on-linevision impairments (17%), deaf or hard of communities such as Thai educationalhearing (15.1%), attention deficit hyperactivity technologist web sites.disorders (10.7%), autistic disorder (10.3%),cognitive disabilities (9%), verbal and 4) RESULT AND DISCUSSIONlinguistics disabilities (4.4%), mentalretardation (3.3%) and multiple disabilities Participant’s profiles, there were 118(2.1%) respectively. participated, 58.5 per cent were female and 41.5 per cent were male. Majority or sevene-Learning opportunity need to be opened for tenths of the participants were weball, thus web administrator, instructional administrators for e-Learning who work indesigner and e-Learning production officers Bangkok, only three tenths lived in othershould educate, consider and perform web provinces (72.9% and 27.1% respectively).accessibility design rules for all electronic Similarly, majority or seven tenths (72%) of thelearning material. In theory web accessibility participants were working in higher educationneed to be implemented especially in e- institutions, only three tenths (28%) ofLearning section, however in practice, there is participants working in a school level.only few studies start to focus about situationsof web accessibility in Thailand. Even though, The questionnaire included questions regardingthe biggest groups or about seven tenths of to the usage of Learning Management SystemInternet users in Thailand were in institutions (LMS) of Thai Internet-based instructional
designers and web administrators of Figure 1: Current situation of Webinstitutions. LMS is an on-line application Accessibilitymanagement system which plays a role as a The future directions of web accessibility of e-simulation of on-line virtual environment for Learning in Thailand still not clear as shown inon-line learners. LMS comprises of wide range Figure 2. This is because slightly more thanof systems that provides access to Internet- half of the web administrators working for e-based learning facilities such as deliver the Learning projects (55.9%) indicated that theylearning materials, track and report results of will use features of web accessibility in LMS inon-line learning activities and communicate the future. However, 43.2 per cent indicate notamong learning communities. Typically, LMS sure to use it and less than one per cent (0.8%)is an on-line learning space constructed by web indicate will not use it. The influences of webadministrators for students and teachers use in administrator who indicated not sure about theacademic purposes (Education Resources, usage of web accessibility on their work might2006; Massachusetts Institute of Technology affect situation of e-Learning contents toOpen Knowledge Initiative, 2009; Ostyn educate people with special need.Consulting, 2007). The demographic Will not useinformation of this survey found that half of 1%participants (51%) have experiences in usingLMS approximately one-three years. About twofifths (37.3%) of participants have experiencesin using LMS less than one year. The last group Not sureabout one fifth (19.5%) of participants have 43% Will useexperiences in using LMS more than three 56%years. Thus, it might be assumed that majorityof participants have involved in productprocess of e-Learning sufficiently. Majority(54.2%) of participants indicated as MOODLEusers, one fourth (25.4%) of participants usedBlackboard and only few (5.1%) used ATutor. Figure 2: Future situation of web accessibilityAll the rest, which about one fifth ofparticipants were using other kinds of LMS. The participants have been asked to describeThe key finding of this survey is revealing in about their experiences regarding to webFigure 1, majority of participants did not know accessibility. Majority (61.9%) stated clearlyabout web accessibility (67%). Only three that they lack of knowledge of webtenths indicated that knew about web accessibility. Almost half (48.3%) stated that itaccessibility. Less than one fifth stated used is very interesting but their lack of knowledge.web accessibility before. Remarkably, more About two fifths (39%) stated lack of timethan four fifths (83.1%) stated never used web spend to learn what is web accessibility. 34.7accessibility before. per cent indicated lack of understanding of web accessibility. About 16 per cent of participants indicated rationales that why they ignore web Use web accessibility accessibility such as only few students were 3% students with disabilities and misunderstood that applied web accessibility rule in the on-line projects required more time than usual. Almost Know web 12 per cent stated that they lack of motivation accessibility 30% to use it. Less than one tenth (8.5%) understood that web accessibility was complex. Interesting that only few per cent (3.4%) thought web Do not know web accessibility was meaningless. Participants accessibility who indicated their own reasons were quite 67% positive for example ‘it is very interesting to learn more but depending on time consuming
and opportunity’.The survey also included questions asked what 5) CONCLUSIONwill be the possible way to deliver knowledgeon web accessibility for e-Learning to web In conclusion, integrate web accessibilityadministrator. Referring to Table 1, the most implementation will surely enhance quality ofinteresting option was a training follow by on- e-Learning and benefit to students withline self learning and onsite training plus help disabilities not only in Thailand but also othercenter (34.7, 33.9 and 21.2 % respectively). developing countries where similar situationLess than one tenth (8.5%) preferred to attend occurred. However, many projects andseminar and workshop. These reasons reflected supported policies might not enough since it isthat web accessibility knowledge in Thailand still in the early stage and lack of reliable data.was need and it should be provided in the Additionally, features of people withblended mode which included both traditional disabilities, types of disability and the usage oftraining and on-line training. web accessibility for e-Learning in Thailand were not clear. This paper has been reported anTable 1: Delivery web accessibility method on-line survey result of Thai web administratorOptions Percentage who working for e-Learning projects. TheA training 34.7 finding indicated that knowledge of e-LearningOn-line self learning 33.9 production teams which included webOnsite training plus help center 21.2Seminar and workshop 8.5 administrators, instructional designers affect directly to integrate web accessibility toAll web administrators have been asked to enhance the quality of e-Learning. Theindicate the factors that most influence to use distribution of web accessibility training inweb accessibility guideline to produce e- both traditional and on-line method was theLearning projects in future. This question was a most important need to be considered. Thefive-scale-rating. It has been found that the connection between knowledge and attitudes ofmost influence factors was a moral support e-Learning production teams will play thetoward students with special need since society significant role to expand better qualify of e-should not ignore students with disability (3.8 Learning.out of 5), and follow by commercial concernsince it will extend more opportunity (3.6 out REFERENCESof 5). Then, the last influence was legal issuewith punishment (2.9 out of 5).The last question on the survey was the open-ended question. The answer of the open-endedquestion can be categorized into three maingroups;• There is a high demand of training in web accessibility for e-Learning• Students with disabilities have a right equal to all• On-line information of web accessibility should be developed and distributed.This should be implied that web accessibilityfor e-Learning was needed and should getsupport from both public and private sectors inThailand. The implementation will be veryuseful to students with disability in Thailand.