In spring 2020, the covid pandemic forced education to leap into the digital sphere with unprecedented speed. Teachers around the globe took on the massive challenge of continuing to deliver remote teaching. With new tools and methods came new practices, and the role of inclusive online content became key.
Teachers expect high-quality digital learning platforms to have learner-centered materials and user-friendly features hosted in a secure, GDPR-compliant platform. Additionally, platform tools must be accessible to all students. The World Wide Web consortium´s Web Accessibility Initiative, WAI, has developed guidelines for accessible digital content known as Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. They describe in detail how digital solutions should be created to allow access for everyone through four principles of accessibility: perceivable, operable, understandable and robust. The guidelines are adopted both by the EU Web Accessibility Directive and the US Rehabilitation act.
itslearning – designing accessible learning tools to ensure inclusive learning opportunities
itslearning, part Sanoma and based in Norway, offers a learning management system for all educational levels. Universal design and accessibility is one of the guiding principles throughout the development of this learning system, aiming to ensure an inclusive platform that can be used by all students and teachers equally. Their dedicated development team analyses, plans and implements the accessibility improvements. Following itslearning´s long-term strategy to improve accessibility, itslearning has created internal guidelines on inclusive design and provides training on accessibility for developers and testers.
“Accessibility is always a priority when we develop new functionalities. At the same time, we are working on improving accessibility in older parts of the platform. The development work is continuous, and we have a clear strategy and priorities related to accessibility throughout our entire platform”, says Kristian Rye Vennesland, Global Development Manager at itslearning.
One practical tool used to ensure accessibility is Immersive Reader from Microsoft. This tool is also used in itslearning´s solutions. It is designed to support students with reading difficulties, such as dyslexia, but can be used by everyone wanting to make their reading experience easier. Immersive Reader reduces distractions and simplifies the user interface to allow the student to focus on the content. There are also additional features available, such as an read-aloud feature and an image dictionary to help explain difficult words.
Keep it simple! Six practical tips for creating accessible content
What makes learning and a learning management system accessible, is also the content. This is where teachers play a key role as they add the content into the management system and why itslearning provides teachers with simple tips on how to ensure better accessibility when creating content:
- Keep it simple. Simple, plain language helps everyone understand what you are trying to say.
- Colors can be a challenge: make sure the contrast of text against background is good.
- Links are an important part of an online world: make sure the link text describes what the link is for, and not the URL.
- Use alternative text on images to aid visually impaired.
- Videos need captions, preferably closed captions, or alternative text.
- Audio content must be available as text, so remember to also include a text version or transcript.
This article is part of a series introducing examples of products and services from our Learning businesses across Europe. Sanoma aims to develop inclusive learning following Sanoma´s Sustainability strategy.
itslearning – headquartered in Bergen, Norway – is the largest European provider of learning management systems. Since 1999, our award-winning LMS has been improving education by providing teachers with real, classroom-actionable guidance for students at all levels of education. itslearning is part of the Sanoma Learning business unit within Sanoma Group, serving over 20 million students in 11 countries.