To improve student engagement, one of the most effective course design decisions you can make is to offer course materials and assignments that appeal to more than one sense. For example, the same material can have an audio, video, and text component. This type of redundancy helps engage students with different learning types, reinforces important concepts, and ensures that users with physical disabilities can access content in a suitable format. Consider adopting the following best practices:
- Use Content for readings and course material. It is easier for assistive technologies to interpret HTML code than application-based files such as Microsoft Word. When creating HTML content, follow web content accessibility standards.
- If you are scanning documents to use as course content or using PDF files, use optical character recognition (OCR) to ensure that documents with text can be read by screen readers. Also consider adding tags to your documents to ensure that screen readers can navigate more easily. For more information about PDF accessibility, see webaim.org/techniques/acrobat.
- If your readings and lecture materials contain many graphics, tables, videos, or audio recordings, provide a text-only alternative. Text-only material should supplement, not replace, other delivery methods. Videos, graphics, and audio files are a great way to generate interest in a topic, present material from different perspectives, and help students with learning disabilities through redundancy. Make the text-only alternatives easy to compile for print so that all the students can use them as study aids.
- Allow students to demonstrate learning through different assignments associated with the same grade item or competency activity. For example, students might have the option of a written reflection, a recorded interview, or a slide show presentation.
- Set up your discussion areas to encourage peer-to-peer support. Regularly review information in the forums and adjust your content according to the needs of the group.
- Use the Equation Editor in combination with written descriptions of mathematical formulas. Although the Equation Editor supports accessible equations through MathML, these standards are not supported by all browsers or assistive technologies. Written descriptions help all students interpret what they need to complete the equation.
- Use a vertical layout for quizzes so that only one answer or concept appears on each line. Screen readers more easily interpret the order of the material, so most students can more quickly interpret their options. A vertical layout also reduces formatting issues when a student adjusts text sizes.
- Do not convert Microsoft PowerPoint presentations to images if you have any visually impaired students. Screen readers are not able to read the content of the images, and learners are not able to resize the text or graphics. PowerPoint slides are converted by default; on the Create File Resource pop-up page you need to turn off the Convert Word documents to HTML and PowerPoint slides to images option. As an alternative, you can make it easy for learners to request copies of the original content, and the learners can adjust and print them.