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Embedding Accessibility And Usability Considerations Into E Learning Research


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Embedding Accessibility And Usability Considerations Into E Learning Research

  1. 1. Embedding accessibility and usability considerations into eLearning research and development projects Martyn Cooper – Institute of Educational Technology [email_address]
  2. 2. Overview <ul><li>Introduction & Rationale </li></ul><ul><li>Definitions of accessibility and usability and their interrelation </li></ul><ul><li>Evaluation Methodologies </li></ul><ul><li>Brief case studies of past and present projects </li></ul><ul><li>Recommendations </li></ul>
  3. 3. Introduction & Rationale <ul><li>The OU currently has 175,751 active students; 9776 declare a disability (5.56%) </li></ul><ul><li>The OU has a commitment to: widening access to higher education; providing high-quality, interactive educational materials that meet students’ needs and operating within the mission of “ openness to all ” </li></ul><ul><li>Therefore the University is committed to making its on-line educational content and student services accessible to disabled students and usable by all </li></ul><ul><li>… but the scale of this presents a challenge </li></ul>
  4. 4. Definitions of accessibility and usability and their interrelation <ul><li>Usability </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“Usability is the extent to which a system can be used by specified users to achieve specified goals with effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction in a specified context of use” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Usability, in an eLearning context, can thus be defined as the effectiveness, efficiency, and satisfaction with which users can achieve specified learning (or learning related) goals </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Some regard usability as synonymous with &quot;ease of use&quot; </li></ul></ul>
  5. 5. Definitions of accessibility and usability and their interrelation, cont… <ul><li>Accessibility </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The IMS Accessibility SIG defined Accessibility, in an eLearning context, as the ability of the learning environment to adjust to the needs of all learners. Accessibility is thus determined by the flexibility of the eLearning system or learning resource to meet the needs and preferences of all users. These needs and preferences may arise from: </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>their environment (e.g. working in a noisy environment) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>the tools they use (e.g. assistive technologies such as screen-readers, voice recognition tools, or alternative keyboards, etc.) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>or, a disability in the conventional sense </li></ul></ul></ul>
  6. 6. The link between accessibility and usability <ul><li>Accessibility and usability are intrinsically linked </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The lower the level of accessibility of a resource for an individual the less usable it will be for them </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Conversely, improved accessibility for disabled users promotes usability for all </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Usability should play an important role in accessibility testing </li></ul></ul>
  7. 7. The rationale and the challenge of embedding accessibility and usability in eLearning projects <ul><li>Most projects developing technologies in education wish to see their approaches adopted in teaching and learning practice beyond the term of the project </li></ul><ul><li>Adequately addressing accessibility and usability in their developments enhances the possibility of achieving this </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Anti-discrimination legislation </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Accessibility and usability impact directly on the pedagogical effectiveness </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>It is invariably the case that addressing accessibility/usability in the development phase is far more cost effective than any retrospective response </li></ul></ul><ul><li>The main challenge in accessibility is responding to the diversity of the ways different users interact with a computer environment </li></ul>
  8. 8. Evaluation Methodologies <ul><li>Evaluation is key to any research and development effort </li></ul><ul><li>When planning any evaluation it is important that the aims for that method are clearly articulated </li></ul><ul><ul><li>These aims will directly impact on the selection and detailed design of methods </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Expert evaluation methodologies </li></ul><ul><li>End-user evaluations methodologies </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Interviews, questionnaires and surveys </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Observational evaluations </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Involving disabled people in research and evaluation </li></ul>
  9. 9. Brief case study – Lyceum <ul><li>Lyceum is a synchronous groupware communication tool that was developed by the OU and subsequently used widely in course delivery (it is currently being replaced) </li></ul><ul><li>It began life as a research project within the OU’s Knowledge Media Institute ( 1995 to 1998) </li></ul><ul><li>Handed over to LTS in 1999 </li></ul><ul><li>Lyceum is a supreme example of an eLearning research and development project that becomes widely adopted in teaching and learning practice </li></ul><ul><li>The original Lyceum research and development effort paid no regard to accessibility issues. </li></ul><ul><li>The unfortunate consequence was that considerable re-engineering had to be done when it was handed over for mainstream use </li></ul>
  10. 10. Brief case study – OpenMark-S <ul><li>OpenMark-S was an internal OU project that further developed an approach to making on-line formative and summative assessments available to students. It moved the approach from a previous client based version to a server based version </li></ul><ul><li>The OpenMark-S project has made accessibility a high priority and conducted evaluations of prototypes with disabled students. </li></ul><ul><li>An important lesson from this project was that when there is a plan to upgrade generally, it is a good opportunity to address what may have been accessibility deficits in the previous versions </li></ul><ul><li>The project was also an exemplar of close working between developers and evaluators </li></ul>
  11. 11. Brief case study – DiVA <ul><li>DiVA, the D igital Vi deo A pplications research project, ran from 2000-2004. The project investigated the use of digital video within various academic contexts </li></ul><ul><li>DiVA was a good example of a project that included research into the needs of disabled students from the outset </li></ul><ul><ul><li>It explored how best to present transcripts, especially for people with a hearing impairment, alongside video material </li></ul></ul><ul><li>A key lesson to be drawn from this project is that it is advantageous to formulate some specific research questions relating to the needs of disabled students from the outset </li></ul>
  12. 12. Brief case study – OU-VLE (Moodle) <ul><li>The OU-VLE Development Programme identified accessibility as a key issue and the presenter was charged with responsibility for this </li></ul><ul><li>Moodle is an Open Source (OS) community development and the OU are investing considerable resources and effort in that community. There are advantages and disadvantages in addressing the accessibility agenda in an OS context as opposed to a propriety one </li></ul><ul><li>A team at the OU produced a Accessibility Specification for Moodle The OU then commissioned developers at to undertake the software changes necessary to meet most of the high priority issues identified in the specification </li></ul>
  13. 13. Current status accessibility in OU-VLE <ul><li>The OU-VLE is a highly complex set of interrelated projects </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Addressing accessibility across these has required action at the strategic level, project level and right down to the fine detail of the developments </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Steady progress is being made on making Moodle more accessible, although more work needed has been identified </li></ul><ul><li>Aspects of the VLE are not currently as usable as they might be, which is an issue for all students, but particularly affects students with disabilities </li></ul><ul><li>Usability studies have shown that some interfaces are not sufficiently intuitive </li></ul><ul><li>There is a lack of consistency across the different component websites which have very different interaction styles </li></ul><ul><li>It is recognised that we need more student testing, on a more regular basis, in a more timely fashion in order to ensure that we have a fully accessible and usable VLE </li></ul><ul><li>A key challenge is how we now integrate development work and evaluations as the OU VLE in mainstreamed into LTS </li></ul>
  14. 14. Brief case study – EU4ALL <ul><li>The EU4ALLproject (European Unified Approach for Accessible Lifelong Learning) started in October 2006. This is a major, 4 year project with overall funding of €10.5 million (€1.18 million allocated to OU) </li></ul><ul><li>The project addresses systemic issues in providing access for disabled learners to Lifelong Learning </li></ul><ul><li>The aim of EU4ALL is to improve the efficiency and efficacy of implementing systems for Lifelong Learning by developing an open service architecture for ALL </li></ul>
  15. 15. Lessons to be drawn from the EU4ALL project <ul><li>There is a need to integrate usability and accessibility work across requirements capture, specification, design, development, and validation. In large scale projects such as EU4ALL this means integrating this work in the planning stage between many of the sub-projects. This is a challenge in project design and subsequently project management </li></ul><ul><li>EU4ALL is addressing accessibility at a systems level rather than just the interface level </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Designing end-user evaluations that can contribute early to the iterative development of these is challenging </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>This follows from the fact that many technical issues need to be address to make these systems work before a meaningful user experience can be created for evaluation </li></ul></ul></ul>
  16. 16. Recommendations <ul><li>Project Proposals </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Clearly state the rationale for usability and accessibility - This usually strongly supports the overall case for the project </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Give consideration to how accessibility and usability work is resourced </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Formulate initial outline research questions that include investigation of usability for all and accessibility for disabled students </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Project Design </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Accessibility and usability criteria need to be built into the specification </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Accessibility and usability experts need to be brought in at this stage </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>If a use-case based approach for arriving at a specification is adopted then use cases should be developed that include disabled people as “actors” </li></ul></ul>
  17. 17. Recommendations cont … <ul><li>Development </li></ul><ul><ul><li>If integrating with 3rd party software, its accessibility and usability needs to be reviewed </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Address the fact that accessibility and usability are systems design issues not just interface design issues </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Evaluation </li></ul><ul><ul><li>That an integrated evaluation plan is adopted for the project that includes accessibility, usability and in the case of an eLearning project educational evaluation </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>That outline methodologies for the planned evaluations are produced early – this will effect the detailed planning of the developers work </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>That the accessibility of the methods to be adopted be fully considered and accommodations devised to meet the needs of disabled people as necessary </li></ul></ul>
  18. 18. Recommendations cont … <ul><li>Facilitate iterative development </li></ul><ul><li>Project Management </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Responsibility for accessibility and usability should be clearly defined </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Integrating the constraints of evaluation methodology into project planning </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Team building issues – managing developer and evaluator tensions </li></ul></ul>
  19. 19. Concluding comments <ul><li>Accessibility, usability and pedagogic issues are all interrelated in an eLearning context </li></ul><ul><li>Accessibility and usability issues need to be addressed throughout a projects life-cycle to ensure its developments are subsequently adopted in educational delivery </li></ul><ul><li>Evaluations are key to ensuring accessibility and usability issues have been addressed in a project’s developments </li></ul><ul><li>Additional insights are gained when conducting evaluations with users, including users with disabilities, compared with other methods. This is strongly commended to all projects </li></ul>
  20. 20. Concluding comments cont… <ul><li>Integrating accessibility and usability evaluations yields benefits over treating them as distinct areas for study </li></ul><ul><li>Care is needed when drawing up evaluation methodologies so that they are inclusive and consistent for both disabled people and non-disabled people acting as participants </li></ul><ul><li>Accessibility and usability are management issues. Good management can enable a team to effectively address these </li></ul><ul><li>Enhancing the end-user experience of an eLearning system or resource, by comprehensively addressing accessibility and usability, impacts positively on the effectiveness of the learning. This is the premier reason for giving them due consideration in any eLearning project </li></ul>