COVID-19 has forced many into a new style of learning. In 2020, online learning hit an all time high. Both schools and employers have adjusted to online training as a way to get valuable information into the brains of the viewer. As online learning grows, so does the training necessary to create accessible online learning. This gives everyone an equal opportunity to learn valuable information. I recently heard a story about a high school student who was receiving homework through remote learning that was inaccessible to their screen reader. They were unable to complete any of the remote learning given to them. Ensuring each document passes a series of accessibility guidelines is as important as ever now as students rely on these documents to deliver the learning to them. This can also apply to a new employee training while remote. Trainings provided to employees need to have accessibility in mind in every way. Organizing and presenting online learning with accessibility in mind is important for people that rely on assistive technology. With the growth of online learning in 2020 the need to reevaluate the standards that surround online instruction should be a top priority for 2021.
Students with Disabilities
Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act establishes regulations to accommodate people with disabilities. Section 508 applies to digital access to information and resources to any institution that receives public funding. Although often most K-12 schools are exempt, it is still important that each student has an equal opportunity to learn the material. Both Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) help ensure both colleges and universities offer a range of services to people with disabilities including accommodations and auxiliary services. Learning accommodations can include adaptations in the presentation of a courses, the use of auxiliary equipment and support staff, and modifications in academic requirements. These are all good reminders as learning shifts to a larger online presence, problems may arise in new areas.
A Type of Online Learning
Not only is the accessibility of the learning content important, the “style” in which it is presented is also important. Providing a training or online learning that delivers the right amount of information allows for much better learning retention. This can also be valuable to people with cognitive disabilities who may not have the ability to retain a lot of information if given all at one time. This is where we look at microlearning. “Micro” meaning small, microlearning uses smaller learning units and activities. Tiny bursts of training material allow the learning to get straight to the valuable information first. Microlearning should be quick, which can provide a person with a learning disability a better opportunity to understand information quicker. Research has shown that we learn more with focused bursts than when in a traditional hour-long class or training. This means that microlearning may be a good way to get information out as we all adjust to more remote learning. Microlearning should be a tool that works in tandem with a traditional training program.
While developing microlearning, look to different modalities such as accessible games, videos, and infographics that are easy to coordinate the best with the content to ensure the most effective training. The content should be actionable, meaning it is easily implemented and acted on by the reader. Actionable content is easier to break down into smaller pieces and can help in a blended solution for a more complicated topic.
With accessibility in mind the first three steps to developing a training strategy are figure out who the learners will be, establish content, and determine any technology used. It is best to find a fit that best for as many learners as possible. Ensure that every student or employee has an equal opportunity to learn and develop as we navigate the online world of learning.