Q: By law, which learning materials need to be accessible to people with disabilities?

A: All of them.

In 2009, a group of institutions including Arizona State University lost a lawsuit because the universities had selected an e-reader for their textbooks that was (at that time) inaccessible by screen reading software (commonly used by blind and print-disabled individuals). As a result, the technology vendor updated their product, which is now accessible.

Since then, numerous cases have been argued and won against large and small universities (e.g., Louisana Tech, Penn State, U. California, Berkely, U. Montana)  in the favor of legalized accessibility.  All of these cases have involved either the institution’s technological infrastructure, actual course content, or physical environment.

Now, even the MOOCS are under scrutiny. MOOCS (massive, open, online, courses) typically are provided for free, have thousands of students, are open to anyone willing to register, and are non credit-bearing. Harvard and MIT are known for their high quality MOOCS, which are often podcast or video-lecture based. Advocates for the deaf are suing for closed captioning of these materials.

The moral of the story: consider inclusive design a necessary, cost-effective, and strategic part of developing tools and content for online learning.



Facebook and College GPAs

Attention student, you have a new FB notification! If you MUST check in, chances are you MUST be an underclassman.

“Reynol Junco, an associate professor of education at Iowa State University, collected data from about 1,800 students at a four-year college. He found that students who spent a lot of time on Facebook while also trying to complete assignments tended to get worse grades

The correlation, however, held true only for freshmen, sophomores, and juniors. Seniors tended to use Facebook less in general. For them, time spent on the site did not correlate negatively with GPA.”

(“Facebook Addiction and GPA”. Steve Kolowich, Wired Campus, The Chronicle of Higher Education, January 21, 2015.)

Are seniors better at FB restraint, or are underclassmen simply more concerned with establishing their new social connections?

Either way, the message to freshmen is reducing your FB time may improve your grades!

2015 College Bound Day

I recently had the privilege to speak at the NYS Commission for the Blind and Visually Handicapped’s “College Bound Day, 2015” held at The Lighthouse, International in New York City. At this annual event, high school juniors and seniors and their families have the opportunity to hear from college students, administrators, and support organizations about the realities of college life and how  best to prepare.  It was a great turn-out. Many thanks to Tommy, Rosa, and Norman for joining us (live and virtually) to speak about your experiences, and the online classes you took through Echoes Instructional Design, Inc. (They’ll have a good future in public speaking!) As always, I am honored to have been a part of this important day.

Face to Face + Online, How Hybrid Instruction Compares to Traditional College Classes

Are hybrid classes as good as face to face classes? Research from Ithaka, S  & R Consulting has found that courses that provide  a blend of both face to face and online instruction produce nearly equivalent learning outcomes to the traditional classroom experience.

“The study compared how much students at six public universities learned after taking a prototype introductory statistics course in the fall of 2011 in either a hybrid or a traditional format. The researchers randomly assigned a diverse group of 605 students to either a hybrid group, in which they learned with computer-guided instruction and one hour of face-to-face instruction each week, or a traditional format, usually with three or four hours of face-to-face instruction per week.

The result? “We find that learning outcomes are essentially the same—that students in the hybrid format pay no ‘price’ for this mode of instruction in terms of pass rates, final exam scores, and performance on a standardized assessment of statistical literacy,” the report concluded.”   (from The Chronicle of Higher Education, Wired Campus, 5/22/12, Katie Mangan)

 Bottom Line: Since most colleges and universities appreciate  the lower costs associated with online instruction, you can expect to find more hybrid courses in the future.