Monday, October 15, 2007

Accessibility in Online Classes

There are some fundamental accessibility problems at our online school. High School students, and students of all ages for that matter, have trouble navigating online courses. So, if we know that, why don't we make it easier for them? Are we trying to trick them? Are we trying to exude power by playing guessing games? It's simple, they will learn more of the actual content if we take the time to include some fundamental basics when constructing our courses. Below are 5 tips for making your online coursework more accessible.

1. Lesson Introductions - Most of our online teachers do not include this basic part to a good lesson plan. The introduction, or what I call the hook, has to somehow connect what kids are about to learn to what they already know. Building your lesson to connect to their background knowledge is the first rung on a ladder to creating schema organization in long term memory. It also gives the lesson relevancy and motivates students by tying into what they already know or like.

2. Be Brief but Organized - We have all been to a website where you scroll down further and further, seemingly never coming to an end of the webpage. If you do that in an online lesson the kids are gone, done before they ever begin. Lessons have to be constructed in small, organized parts without including pages worth of material on one webpage.

3. Requirements - Tell the students what you want them to do. For example, if you are sending the student to a link outside of your webpage then tell them what to do once they get there. Be specific, tell them exactly what to read and sometimes what to ignore. Also, when the student is completing a project or written assignment, you should include the exact requirements of what they need to understand for that assessment.

4. Student Samples- Try to provide student samples. We do this in a regular class, why wouldn't we do it online? All of my courses utilize a wiki that my students have created and host to show off quality work.

5. Don't hide things from our kids- If you want HS kids to find what you want them to learn, put it right in front of them. Don't make them go to one page to find a password or another to find what you are going to assess them on. Don't get me wrong, it's okay to have links that shoot the kids off to content, but don't make accessing the content a labyrinth they have to navigate. Its difficult enough for kids to just complete the assignments in an online course, don't try to teach them how to be successful scavenger hunters to do that.

Many of us believe the way we have set up our courses is spot on. Are we paying attention to the signs that student's are giving us that tell us they aren't?

1 comment:

Mr. Moses said...

I'm with you. Most of what you're talking about is covered when a course is designed to accommodate the needs of all students. Building a course and then trying to get it to fit kids is nearly impossible, like trying to add an elevator to 150- year-old building. Is it possible, sure but you're going to have to knock down a lot of stuff to do it.