Online learning authoring tools: how governance and accessibility impact the online learning equity

Universities across the nation are moving towards a more hybrid approach to learning as we all acclimate to a more post-pandemic life. Students are now expecting in-person courses to have an online equivalent, and universities will need to make that transition as the paradigm shifts to be more hybrid. University academic courses and electronically provided course materials must comply with ADA and Section 504 accessibility requirements. Establishing a high level of course quality for both online courses and in-person courses with digital components that are both accessible and provide a consistent end-user experience is a practical and ethical imperative to attracting and retaining students. The development of such electronic course materials should utilize a cohesive institution-wide strategy, or toolbox, to enhance the end-user experience by producing high quality content that is accessible, inclusive, effective and engaging.

A gap is emerging between university distance learning policies, or lack thereof, and the procurement and integration of a multitude of online learning tools used to create online course content, as well as tools integrated into learning management systems (LMS) that must be utilized by students to complete an online course. These tools have varying degrees of accessibility and have the potential to create inconsistent online learning environments for students. These inconsistencies result in student frustration and create an unfair playing field for students who cannot utilize some tools and understand the content because it is disseminated in a way that is not accessible. As a result, some students must request accommodations which may put an unfair burden on these students to have equitable access to the course content. This presentation discusses this emerging gap, issues regarding governance and support services, and possible solutions to lessen the gap and promote a more accessible and equitable learning environment for students.


Corie Forrest — Virginia Commonwealth University ( VCU )

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