When instruction moved online during the early stages of the pandemic, colleges and universities very quickly learned how important accessibility is for learning.
Many students with physical impairments or other learning disabilities were left behind in the shift to remote learning because they couldn’t access course materials in an online or hybrid format.
These learning modalities aren‘t going away. Surveys suggest that many students prefer the flexibility of hybrid and online learning—and for working professionals, learning online might be the only option that fits in with their busy schedule.
Creating inclusive online learning experiences ensures that all students can fully participate in online and hybrid learning. This means building accessibility into the design of online and hybrid courses.
At Los Angeles Pacific University, we are an online institution serving more than 3,000 nontraditional adult learners, and accessibility is integral to our mission. All of our courses are completely accessible, even for students who are visually or hearing impaired. As a result, we’re able to provide a fully inclusive learning experience that meets the needs of all students.
Here are three key lessons that other institutions can learn from our experience.
Embrace accessibility as a core value.
As a faith-based organization, we care for everybody, regardless of their abilities—and we want to see them succeed. We publicly state that accessibility and digital inclusion are among our core values, and we are constantly looking for opportunities to deliver on those values.
Starting at a place like this makes accessibility part of the fabric of who you are, instead of just an afterthought. Consequently, all our course offerings are developed with this mindset as our anchor, which drives how we choose technology and how we build courses.
Build accessibility into every course during the design phase.
For us, accessibility isn’t just bolted onto instruction; it’s part of the actual build process when we design new courses and programs.
For example, I was recently tasked by our president to create an affordable, high-value online graduate degree program that would lead to better employability without forcing students to take on more debt.
We formed a cross-functional design team with representation from various departments. After researching our options, we decided to create a competency-based Masters in Instructional Design program that would cost no more than $10,000 for students to complete.
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