How to Build the Foundation of an Accessible Online Course

More students are learning online than ever before. While many educators are gradually making the move back to the classroom, we can expect to see virtual learning continue. Accessibility remains a critical consideration for educators, and any online course you design requires careful review and structuring to ensure all students have an equal opportunity to learn.

Top strategies for stronger distance learning
Read on to learn why accessibility is so important and how to design your online course so that it benefits everyone.

What makes a course accessible?
Accessible courses allow students with disabilities to participate in a more equitable fashion. These students can learn and participate alongside their peers without their disabilities or learning differences being emphasized. Universities are required by Federal law to offer accessible courses.

According to the Office of Civil Rights and the United States Department of Education, for a course to be accessible it must :

Allow students to acquire the same information
Afford students to engage in the same interactions
Enable students to receive the same services as those without disabilities
Be equally effective and integrated for all students
Why accessibility is important in an online course
Research shows that the number of students with disabilities is growing in the United States. According to the most recent data released by the National Center for Education Statistics, students with disabilities make up 14% of national public school enrollment . This accounts for nearly 7 million students.

Students with disabilities face barriers with virtual classes that educators may not always be aware of. A Pew Research Center survey found that these students are more likely to have lower levels of comfort with technology . They are also less likely to have home broadband access and tech devices such as laptops, smartphones, and tablets.

Accessible courses support these students in their pursuit of education by offering a variety of ways to learn, communicate, and engage . Each student has their own unique ways of learning that will vary by gender, race, cultural background, age, socioeconomic background, religion, and more. Even students who do not have a disability or a learning accommodation will benefit from the organized and intuitive presentation of information found in an accessible course.

Related: 15 Benefits of Distance Learning for Students, Parents and Teachers

The key elements of accessible online courses
In many ways, online courses offer greater flexibility and convenience for students than in-person classes. However, simply moving a course to a virtual format does not make it accessible. Accessibility needs to be integrated into all courses, from the start, to be successful.

Review the format, content, visual, and audio elements of your course instruction and material to ensure it is accessible.

Formatting and written communication
Use headings to break up content in a logical, consistent manner
Choose sans-serif fonts that are at least 14pt for easy reading
Avoid low-contrast backgrounds and color palettes
Select text-based content for documents (e.g., Word or Google docs) over image-based ones (e.g.,PDFs)
Include text descriptions with images
Avoid cliches and jargon that may not be understood by all students
Define terms and acronyms
Use the same layout and organizational format to present all content if possible
Include descriptive hyperlinks
Check the color accessibility of your materials and website
Leverage programs and technologies students are already familiar with whenever possible
Set expectations and review instructions aloud and provide a text-based reference
Offer support resources for acquiring new technology skills
Present the same ideas in multiple formats
Ensure material can be accessed by smartphones, tablets, laptops, and personal computers
Use interactive tools to encourage collaboration
Related: Best Practices for Distance Learning

Caption videos
Record class meetings and use technology to creates written transcripts
Provide dial-in information for meetings
Select accessible media players
Allow students to demonstrate learning and mastery through graded and non-graded activities
Include time for group and independent practice of concepts
Consider pacing for activities and projects
Offer opportunities to correct and improve on assignments and other deliverables
At FVASEE, we’re proud to offer a remote learning hub for effective collaboration, instruction, and engagement through our interactive digital whiteboard and smart software. Learn more about FVASEE’s education solutions here or by attending one of our upcoming webinars .

FVASEE offers a collaborative solution combining an interactive digital whiteboard and innovative smart software. Increase engagement and efficiency at your brainstorming sessions, virtual training, and classroom sessions by integrating your favorite applications with video conferencing and an infinite, mess-free writing canvas. Collaborate today with FVASEE.

Looking for the latest in interactive whiteboard technology? Check out FVASEE today!

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