Business Training Category
Thursday, September 15th, 2011
Last month I asked my Moodle host to upgrade BeeLearn.com to 2.1. I’m getting antsy to overhaul my curriculum using the new features of Moodle. It took him about two hours to complete the entire site upgrade, including the back-ups of the old site. Everything works swell, except for a couple of third-party modules that we knew wouldn’t work beyond Moodle 1.9x (not yet, anyway).
A few days earlier, I had set up my new desktop PC, with the latest of every version of software for every application you can imagine. As of today, I am still trying to get to the same level of functionality I had before the upgrade. Since I had the same computer, with the same version of the operating system and application software for five years, I had many customized settings. I had grown accustomed to the location of tools and options. Now, I can barely delete an email.
The thing is, when I have a question such as “how do I enable conditional activities in Moodle” I have four choices:
- Poke around until I figure it out myself
- Read through the online documentation (always easy to locate)
- Post a question at a forum and wait for a response from another user
- Ask a Moodle expert, such as my host (if I have engaged him for a support contract)
All of these options are reasonable, by my standards. I typically receive helpful answers in a short period of time. Option # 4 is the only one that costs anything and it is also the most reliable.
In the six years that I’ve been using Moodle, I’ve heard some folks express concern that since it is open source there’s really no one to respond to questions; no one is responsible to provide explanation of a feature or help troubleshoot a problem. That seemed like a valid concern, if options 1-3 above were not feasible for certain people. I get it. Not everyone has my curiosity or tenacity; maybe they are more interested in rock climbing than learning Moodle. That’s cool, too.
Now I’m wondering how those people are coping. When I clicked on the Help icon in my brand-spanking new desktop software (it doesn’t matter which application; they’re all the same), I was stunned, horrified, mortified (you get my point) to be taken to an online community forum and presented with literally hundreds of posts that were somewhat related to my keyword.
What happened to the help index? Where is the comprehensive list of how to do whatever? I’m fine with that process when the software is open source and I didn’t pay to download it. But when the application costs $1000 and I have to accept legal terms to use it, I do not expect to receive support from some other user who happened to figure something out!
What this tells me is that open source software (such as Moodle) just took one more giant leap toward “the business model of the future”. That one advantage of proprietary software – paying more for the product to ensure technical support – just went down the drain.
If you had any reservations about Moodle – or any other open source application – because of the “lack of support” – you can rest assured that you will get at least – and probably better – support from the enthusiastic Moodle community than you will from the reluctant and desperate users of those “other products”. Most Moodle Partners offer on-going support contracts (essentially, personal help forums) that are less money than the purchase price of my desktop suite that has no such support.
Note: When you’re building your business case and determining your budget, be sure to include the costs of training and support for Moodle if you plan to do most of the build yourself. If you don’t have the time or desire to learn Moodle to that extent, include the costs of a course developer in your budget. Actually, these costs are added on to any project, regardless of whether you use Moodle, other open source, or proprietary software. None of them come out of the box with your content in them!
Tags: elearning, eLearning for Business, elearning help, Moodle, moodle community, moodle for business, moodle help, Moodle Partner, online support forum, open source software, proprietary software
Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011
A little creativity goes a long way.
Last month, at the Midwest Moodle Moot, I attended a workshop by Melinda Kraft of Albion College. “The Moodle Mash – It’s a Web 2.0 Splash” covered many free (or inexpensive) and easy-to-use online applications that you can use to add more connectivity, interaction, and interest to your Moodle courses. I’m splitting this into two posts: this one on multi-media and a second one on collaboration and interaction. Both build on previous posts…if you have time, read them all!
Create your own multi-media for your content. These will make your eLearning GREAT without breaking the budget on production costs. You don’t have to be an artist, but a little creativity helps…Here are some of the applications Melinda demonstrated, with my business content take on them. Warning: some of these examples are, uh, rough around the edges. I would recommend more polished versions for real courses.
- GoAnimate.com Create cartoons for memorable lessons. So much business training is so dry, so boring. Lighten it up with a cartoon here and there (don’t overdo it) to highlight really critical messages you want students to remember. Or, use them to offer a mental break after a particularly intense topic. Watch Zeb help Gerry remember the things to look for in a 10 Second Inspection in the Fort Swampy course at BeeLearn.com.
- Xtranormal is another site that allows you to create animated movies online. There is also a desktop version. There is more functionality here than with GoAnimate.com, but you’ll have to pay for everything after the initial test. Here is my first creation; crude, but not so bad for ten minutes worth of my time.
- Aviary.com Super easy online image editing. A picture is worth 1000 words and every eLearning course should contain some! I have spent hours searching for just the right stock image or trying to adjust an existing image with Photoshop.
Buzzy Made-over at Aviary.com
I don’t recommend dressing your logo up like he’s been out on an all-night bender, but you can do it in a few minutes if you choose. You can get a free screen capture/editor as a browser extension, too. A great time saver when you are building content.
- Create and edit more than images with AviaryTools. Obtaining a license to use copyrighted material in a commercial project (which applies to eLearning courses used by all business, for profit or not), can be expensive or forbidden. These online tools are affordable and useful when you want to:
- Include music in your content. Create your own score!
- Add sound effects (including your own voice) to your Engage animations, GoAnimate or Xtranormal videos, or as stand-alone content in your courses.
- Add comments or otherwise mark-up screen captures and images.
- Snagit and Jing by TechSmith – Easily create “how-to” videos, narrated slideshows, and other objects to show your students, comment on what they’ve done, and help them collaborate with each other.
- WidgetBox.com Mix up the way your content is presented by displaying it in a widget (copy the code into any HTML area in your course). Some ideas for displaying content in a widget:
- BrainPOP was not covered at the Moot; Brent Schlenker tweeted this one about Hurricanes (given the current event of Hurricane Irene threatening the east coast of the US and Canada). Very, very nice…
Most of these come with widgets and buttons that you can place in your content to direct students to create their own as part of assignments.
Mobile Widgets at WidgetBox.com. This is a fee-based service, but you can try it out for 30 days. Offer your clients a free app that supports your training content. Even if one already exists, customize your own with your logo and contact information, specific to your training content and expertise:
- A mobile version of a quick reference like the Pill Identifier or Seafood Watch (above).
- Things to look for in a 10 Second Inspection; any checklist or guide that would be helpful to people when the job takes them away from their computers.
- Calendar with important events. Include your “office hours”, required web meetings, chats, and even assignment due dates.
- Assignments. This app could provide details on the assignment, links to resources, quick tip guides. This is especially helpful if your course requires field work, whether it be in a hospital, a mall, the manufacturing floor, or literally a field.
Tags: albion college, Articulate Engage, Aviary, Aviary Tools, elearning features, eLearning for Business, elearning multi-media, GoAnimate, HTML widgets, Jing, mobile apps, mobile widgets, Moodle, moodle features, moodle for business, moodle moot, Snagit, web 2.0, WidgetBox, widgets, Xtranormal
Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011
Building on an earlier post and a Moot workshop presentation by Melinda Kraft of Albion College, here are some ideas for using online applications to stay connected with your students and to encourage them to interact with each other. Make sure you check out the companion post to this one, More Ways to Make Your eLearning GREAT.
WidgetBox.com Add unlimited features to any Moodle course or Front Page– for learning, communicating, or just plain fun. Create an account, design your widget, using one of their many templates or your own, and copy the code into an HTML block in your Moodle course (or front page). Some ideas for using their templates to make your courses more engaging:
- An RSS feed from your blog (much nicer formatting than the standard Moodle RSS block), a YouTube widget, Twitter updates; you can see examples in the Pluto course at BeeLearn.com.
- Poll widget – use on the home page to gather demographics about your site visitors; within courses you can use this much like the Moodle Choice activity to gather instant feedback such as “Would you like to see more examples like this one?” or “Who is buried in Grant’s tomb?”
- Form – use as a sign up form for an event, a newsletter, a free information product, a follow-up call for a quote, a free consultation…View an example in the Fort Swampy course at BeeLearn.com where the form is used to sign up for peer study groups.
- Countdown – are you holding a webinar or speaking at a conference? The Countdown widget lets you customize the event name, the countdown display, and a custom message once the event is over. You can put “Sorry, you missed it, but you can download the presentation here” and put a link. See an example in the Pluto course at BeeLearn.com.
Note that the WidgetBox.com Basic account is free, but has fewer design options than the fee-based Pro account.
Chat, VOIP, and Web meeting clients that add interactivity to any eLearning course:
- Meebo Put the Meebo Bar on your site to make it easy for both visitors and participants to share with others, connect with you, and even allow affiliate advertisements without negatively affecting the aesthetics or distracting learners.
- Trillian I am not an online chatter anymore. Twenty-five years ago I was enthralled with, so I avoid the temptation now. But if you are, Trillian is the IM client for you, aggregating all of your screen names in one place so you can keep up.
- For VOIP calls and web meetings, Skype remains a favorite. There was a Skype activity module (plugin) for Moodle; I’m not sure if it’s working for 2.x or not. Regardless of that, you can create a customized Skype button and place it in any HTML content area in Moodle.
Use these scheduling applications to connect with your students/clients for coaching sessions, consulting, speaking engagements. You’re not bogged down by multiple “are you available” emails; you don’t need a personal assistant to schedule for you. These can be linked or embedded in your Moodle course content and can sync with your Moodle calendar.
Tags: albion college, doodle.com, elearning Chat, elearning features, eLearning for Business, Google slots, HTML widgets, meebo, mobile apps, mobile widgets, Moodle, moodle calendar, moodle features, moodle for business, moodle moot, skype, trillian, tungle me, VOIP, web 2.0, Web meeting, WidgetBox, widgets
Saturday, July 30th, 2011
Here is the presentation I gave at the Midwest Moodle Moot. You can view it online as a flip book (click the image below) and download the PDF from there or from the link at the bottom of this post.
PDF version only
If you’d like a summary tip sheet of the Six Steps, send me your snail mail address. Or, you can print your own from this PDF.
Tags: Business Training, e-learning for business, eLearning for Business, elearning for small business, launching a new product, midwest moodle moot, Moodle, moodle content, moodle courses, moodle for business, moodle moot, online training, small business consulting, using moodle for business
Sunday, June 19th, 2011
A question was recently posed regarding certification for Lean Six Sigma. There is no governing body and no standard test. Many companies, including my own, offer certification. How can that be? How can someone be certified to do something when there is no standard against which to measure that person’s competence?
The irony here is that Lean Six Sigma is all about measurements, standards, and processes. As a professional in the field for more than two decades, I know the importance of operational definitions, standard processes, and calibrated measurements. This is no less important when it comes to certifying experts.
Whether your profession has standards for certification or not, you can – and should – use reliable and valid instruments for measuring competencies and skills. The scales that you use to grade need to be applied consistently. You also need to ensure that what you’re measuring is correlated to competency in that job; i.e.: a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt.
Assuming that you’re training for certification, not just administering tests, a great way to design and validate your certification process is to use Moodle Outcomes.
Outcomes are not simply pass/fail grades. Grades of tests and assignments, along with other demonstrations of competence, are used to determine the outcomes based on a set of evaluation criteria. This set of criteria is known as a rubric.
Outcomes – and rubrics – can become quite complicated and they aren’t something you can apply directly from one curriculum to another. You can, however, follow good examples, such as this one at Moodle.org.
Before you can create your own rubric, you need to:
- Determine the competencies required for the certification or diploma you are awarding.
- Design the training that will teach these required skills.
- Design the testing that will reliably measure the competencies gained by your training.
Once you have defined the set of criteria for each outcome, then you can:
- Deliver the training and testing (tests, written assignments, hands-on assignments…)
- Evaluate each student against those criteria.
Stay tuned to this blog and Buzzy’s Beehive for many more posts on rating scales, grades, good question writing, and how to implement them in Moodle.
Tags: competency, lean six sigma certification, Moodle, moodle competencies, moodle for business, moodle outcomes, rubric
Wednesday, June 8th, 2011
I’ve been seeing the phrase “competency frameworks” a lot lately. I’m glad. I’ve long been concerned about the disconnect between training content and job performance. In a quarter decade of business training, I have rarely felt much attention was given to the question: “What do these people need to know to do better in their jobs?” I often felt that training was designed from the starting point of “here’s what I know so that’s what I’ll teach”.
So, what is a competency framework and how will it improve the effectiveness of training?
The HR Dictionary defines competency framework as “the set of duties or tasks performed as part of a job with the standards which should be achieved in these duties”.
OK, so for every training course we design, we need to know:
- What job are we training for? In other words, what duties or tasks are we teaching someone how to do?
- What are the standards that we will measure against? How will we know if our students have learned enough of the right things to perform those duties? How will we know our training accomplished this?
In my mind, competencies for education are fairly well-defined and adhered to by a very strict accreditation system. It is relatively easy to accurately measure students’ understanding of geometry, grammar, or DaVinci’s work. Education provides foundational knowledge; training is the application of that knowledge in a specific situation. My brother-in-law (a math whiz) was always amazed at how his grandfather used calculus in his machine working job. But Granddad didn’t actually know calculus; he knew some rules for machining. My brother-in-law, with his foundational knowledge, can apply what he knows about math to just about any situation.
The difficulty with business training is that job descriptions (and their related competencies) change frequently. People in those jobs come from varying backgrounds. Often, people have to adapt to new job requirements because that’s the best thing for the company. An example would be that of typists. There’s no such thing as a typing pool any more. For awhile, typists were converted to word processors (using machines of the same name). That transition required an entirely new competency: using a computer.
Businesses try to fill the gap between “knowledge/skill” of workers (old, young, new, tenured) and what they need at that moment, with training. Not only is it difficult to determine what training is required for that gap, it is even harder to measure if the training is effective. Sadly, it is even more difficult because often the very people in charge of these efforts are not competent in training design or testing! I’m hoping that with increased emphasis on it from a software view, there will be some attention to the concept itself.
Much the same as when mapping a process, the people who do the job should be involved in the determination of the necessary competencies. Mind Tools™ has posted an excellent article on the subject, which includes a step by step guide to get it done. As they say, it will take a lot of effort; effort by the people who actually know the positions.
The US Army is very good at defining job duties and training to them. Every job, at every classification, has defined skills within the MOS system. (Note: this term varies by branch of service, but the structure is very similar.) Here is an example for a US Army Corp of Engineers Diver for five skill levels. Notice how this also includes required scores on fitness and written tests, as well as other requirements. Those developing the training would start with these requirements, not with what they felt like teaching!
I encourage you to read as much as you can about the concept of competency frameworks (start with this Wikipedia article), browse through the Army’s MOS listings (for ideas on how to structure yours), and do your own Internet searches. To read more on how competency frameworks are critical to the success of your business, visit my blog for earlier posts (such as this one) on testing in a business environment and this one on Purpose-Objectives-Goals for business training. Future posts are planned for how Moodle supports competency frameworks through grades, scales, and outcomes.
Tags: Army MOS, Business Training, competency, Competency Frameworks, job duties, job skills, job standards, measures drive behaviors, measuring competency, measuring training, purpose objective goal statements, purpose objectives goals, training, training effectiveness
Friday, April 15th, 2011
For any business deciding whether or not to replace existing training with eLearning (and in what proportion), there are several factors* to consider, including the “ecological footprint” of various training methods.
I can’t tell you what the footprint of your training is, but I can tell you how I calculated mine when I created my “Leave a Legacy, Not a Footprint” eWheel in 2007. If you follow the same steps, you will be able to understand your impact and reduce it, even if you are not able to calculate the exact value.
The first thing I did was to make a list of environmental aspects and impacts associated with the processes of face-to-face training and eLearning. I also looked at meetings; in-person vs. using web technology. My list of processes:
- Building training facilities (not used otherwise); material production and transportation, land use
- Furnishing training facilities (furniture, electronics; production, shipment, disposal)
- Using facilities (air conditioning, heating, water use and treatment)
- Printing of paper materials, including drafts/mistakes that are thrown away
- Production of non-paper materials used in face-to-face
- Shipping of materials to training site
- Traveling by instructors and participants to training site, daily commuting or extended stays
- Living arrangements for instructors and participants who are not commuting
I made the assumption that with virtual learning, there would be a negligible increase in computer usage because in 2007 most office workers had at least one work computer and one home computer, all being served by network servers connected through intranet and Internet equipment. To be completely fair, if everyone did everything electronically, the environmental impact of computers would rise, but by how much I don’t know.
From the processes, I made a list of environmental aspects associated with them. An aspect is an output of your process that you can touch (and possibly measure) that will affect the environment.
- CO2 (metric tons) – every process above contributes to this aspect.
- Freshwater used (gallons)
- Water treated (gallons)
- Electricity used (KWhr)
- Heat produced (therms)
- Crude Oil (barrels)
- Noise (decibels/hour)
- Light pollution
- Pollution (from chemical used in production and disposal)
- Non-productive time (person-hrs)
Next, I searched the web to find data on each of these. I found three particularly helpful sites:
- The Oil Drum – discussions about energy and our future. This site gave me a great starting place for calculating the impacts of travel.
- CarbonFund.org – I used their formulae for calculating the carbon footprint of travel and office activities.
- Ecological Footprint analysis of The Countryside Council for Wales offers a comprehensive look at how our daily activities impact the environment.
Each of these sources led me to several additional sources. Because many of the aspects are algebraically equivalent to others (e.g., carbon dioxide per therm is a known value), I pared the list down to these three:
- Carbon Dioxide (pounds)
- Crude Oil (barrels)
- Non-productive Time (hours)
Click & Spin
Environmental impacts are defined as the change in an aspect between doing nothing and doing something. They are measured as the increase or decrease in each aspect, due to a change in your process.
Click the wheel and spin it to see the final values. They represent the increase in each aspect (CO2, Crude Oil, Non-productive time) of each type of training over no training.
If I had been preparing a business case (instead of creating a marketing wheel) I would have been more precise in my calculations. Still, a relative comparison of face-to-face vs. virtual activities presents a strong argument for using eLearning if your objective is to reduce waste (both environmental and time).
Take it one step at a time
Including footprint analysis in your decision process should make it easier for you to decide how to use eLearning in your business. Every day, more data becomes available, so it will get easier. Don’t worry about including every last aspect and impact into your initial calculations; the Pareto Principle applies!
- List the processes
- List the aspects of those processes
- Measure or calculate the impacts
- How Apple calculates its footprint: http://www.apple.com/environment/
- For ideas to save paper, other natural resources, time, and money in your meetings, seminars, and workshops, check out You’ll Save More Than Trees, Part I: Meetings, Seminars, & Workshops
- For ideas to save paper, other natural resources, time, and money in your everyday practices, check out You’ll Save More Than Trees, Part II: Everyday Practices
- For tips on paperless enrichment of your webinars and eLearning courses, read this post.
*The following posts from The eLearning Coach are a good a good place to start when writing a business case for eLearning, considering costs, intangibles, and other non-environmental criteria.
Tags: carbon footprint, ecological footprint, environmental aspect, environmental impact, footprint, green business, green learning, sustainability, sustainable business, sustainable eLearning, sustainable training
Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011
In my previous post on availability settings for Moodle resources and activities, I stated that one of the triggers of availability is the completion status of another. Not only is completion status one of the conditions for availability of additional material, but it provides an excellent way to engage students, track their progress, and allow them to keep on a project schedule.
For small businesses offering Moodle courses in any topic, for any reason, this new functionality is huge. In at least half of the conversations I have with potential clients, there is a functional requirement to be able to mark items as complete, track completed items, and/or limit access to material based on the completion of other material. In previous versions of Moodle, this was possible, but not practical for a small organization with limited resources (time to do it manually or money to custom code it).
This post addresses how to determine completion status; to learn about how both student and teacher can monitor that status, stay tuned.
So, what defines “complete” in Moodle 2.0?
In all cases, it is possible to choose from “don’t mark as complete”, “the student may mark as complete manually”, or “conditions must be met”. The conditional settings vary for each activity, because not all settings make sense for everything. My suggestion is to create your content first, then go back and add conditions where it makes sense; don’t do it just to do it.
For non-graded activities such as Web Pages, Wikis, and Chats, there is on option for conditions:
- Student must view to be marked complete (or not)
For Quizzes and Assignments, completion options are:
- Student must view to be marked complete (or not)
- Student must get a grade (or not). This grade will be determined by other settings which haven’t changed from 1.9. To learn more about the other settings in Quizzes and Assignments, and how to best use them in business training, follow the links to applicable posts by clicking here.
For Glossaries, the completion options are:
- Student must view to be marked complete (or not)
- Student must get a grade (or not)
- Student must create (enter #) entries*
Forums have the most options for determining completion status:
- Student must view to be marked complete (or not)
- Student must get a grade (or not)
- Student must post (enter #) discussions*
- Student must create (enter #) discussions*
- Student must reply to (enter #) discussions*
When choosing to mark an activity as complete when it has been viewed, do so with caution. For longer courses and for students who are genuinely interested in learning the material, viewed is a great bookmark for where the student left off during the last visit.
However, I think it is folly to believe that if you require students to view every page, you are guaranteeing that learning has taken place. It isn’t too hard to hit “next” without comprehending, reading, or even looking at the monitor! If you really want to ensure competency, use well-written quizzes and assignments and require participation in collaborative activities.
*For ideas on how to engage students by requiring participation in forums, glossaries, and other collaborative activities, read “Jazzing Up Your Moodle Courses with Collaborative Features“.
I’d like to thank the creators of the Mt. Orange School demo site for providing a place for me to learn about these features; if you’d like to play around with Moodle 2.0 yourself, check it out!
Tags: Business Training, competency, eLearning for Business, measuring competency, Moodle, moodle 2.0, moodle activities, moodle assignments, moodle completion status, moodle conditional activities, moodle for business, moodle quizzes, moodle resources
Sunday, February 27th, 2011
In versions of Moodle prior to 2.0, activities such as assignments and quizzes could be made available to students any time, any time after a certain date, until a certain date, or within a window of time. However, resources were either available or hidden. This is problematic when the course design calls for material being “released for viewing” throughout the course instead of all at once in the beginning of the course. The burden falls on someone (usually me) to “unhide” the content on the specified date. I have forgotten to do this a couple of times, which led to a flood of emails from panicked students. Oops.
I am thrilled that Moodle 2.0 will allow resources to be set up with a “show” and “hide” date, just like we’ve enjoyed with assignments. If you’re unsure about the difference between a resource and an activity, check out this earlier post.
As if this isn’t exciting enough, 2. 0 also adds contingency option settings for both resources and activities.
Now, in addition to date restrictions, the course creator may limit access to a Moodle activity or resource based on:
- A minimum grade received in one or more other activities within the course
- Completion* status of one or more other activities within the course
If the activity or resource is not available for any of the above reasons, the course creator has an option of showing it with restriction information or hiding it completely. When the conditions are met – whether it is a date or status of other activities – the activity or resource will automatically become available. No more setting the alarm to “unhide” the pages at midnight. Yeah!
OK, so what does all of this mean to you?
If you are offering continuing education units or courses that are governed by certification requirements, such as time spent, all material viewed, minimum grades, etc., you are in a better position to demonstrate that those requirements were met. Even if you don’t have to answer to anyone, but you have certain learning objectives in mind that require a structured journey through the material, these new options are very beneficial.
- Students won’t be able to jump straight to the test or the assignments without reviewing the content.
- All activities and resources may be marked complete, so you’ll have some good data to see what students are viewing – and not viewing – without having to grade everything.
- You’ll be able to direct students to different materials within the same course, based on their performance of prior materials. If a student fails to view a page or complete an activity to your satisfaction, you can allow access to “remedial” materials, but not the next topic or exam.
- You will never have to worry about whether the material is hidden when it should be showing, or showing when it should be hidden.
While I think these new options are awesome, my fear is that this will add confusion for Moodle rookies. This type of “if…then” logic can become very complex and will require some strategy to employ reasonably. My even worse fear is that some course creators will go wild with it, with so many contingencies that it might as well be a “view next slide” course. I can only hope that course creators will default to no restrictions, using the conditional availability only when it supports learning objectives.
*There are several options for determining the completion status of various resources and activities. I will cover those in a separate post…
Tags: Moodle, moodle 2.0, moodle activities, moodle availability restrictions, moodle course design, moodle for business, moodle resources
Thursday, February 24th, 2011
In my post, Looking Ahead at Web Accessibility, I touched on the reasons why eLearning should be designed with accessibility in mind. I’m not going to preach why we should do it. I’m going to assume we’re all going to do it and get right to the how to go about it stuff. (If you’re still not convinced, check out this blog by CourseAvenue.)
I’m also going to assume that everyone, regardless of disability, deserves and expects the experience of GREAT eLearning. So, let’s start* with the Five Basic Things to consider when designing for web accessibility:
Will this add value to the students’ learning experience? Without it, many students will receive no value, so yes; web accessibility adds value for those who would otherwise not be able to take the eLearning course. But the best part is the serendipitous nature of building for accessibility: it will likely add value for everyone.
The thought process of how each word, image, or feature you create will be taken in by this broader audience will enhance your understanding and connection with all of your students. Many of the practices — such as careful outlining and more descriptive alternate text — will add to the experiences of all.
Do I have the skill? I think skill is less important than awareness and consideration. Educate yourself on the issues. Review examples of how a simple change can make a huge difference to someone with a disability. The most comprehensive site on the subject that I have found is WebAim.org. If you feel that you still need to understand it better, they offer training in accessibility for both designers and administrators.
What are the options? The options range from free to costly, from software to hardware, and from designed-in to user-controlled. For instance, ReadSpeaker is a plug-in for applications such as WordPress; the user has only to click “listen” to launch it. JAWS is user-installed software that enables key stroke commands and Braille outputs. Other applications, such as captioning, require the designer to add that feature at the creation stage.
I will be reviewing these options — and many more — in upcoming posts on specific features. The first will be on web accessibility as it applies to text and images.
How much functionality do you need from this tool? If this were a game show and you were asked to name the disabilities that could restrict access to web content, you’d probably shout out “visual impairment” without any thought. But did you realize that color blindness is also a visual impairment? What would your second answer be? Many people think that because the web is written, deafness isn’t a problem. In my previous post, I mentioned that many people are including voice that explains their content; without it, the content is meaningless. WebAim.org gathers data on how many informational sites bury their content in videos. Don’t make the same mistake with your eLearning.
The answer to how much functionality is needed: You should consider whether your eLearning audience will include those who have any form of vision impairment, have difficulty hearing, have limited motor skills, as well as the possibility of cognitive disabilities or the chance of seizures triggered by your cool fireworks flash. Designing with these disabilities in mind will improve the quality of your content for everyone; even those of us without clinically diagnosed memory disorders appreciate intuitive content and navigation.
Will this tool work within my LMS? Your LMS itself should be web accessible, so your concern is with making your content web accessible. An organized, well-designed layout will work anywhere. Plugins, such as ReadSpeaker, will work in specified applications only. Still others will have nothing to do with your LMS because the applications will be on the user-end (you’ll still have to design your content so it works with those applications.)
*Stay tuned for the next posts in this series on how web accessibility applies to the Features of GREAT eLearning:
- Web Accessibility Issues and Options: Text and Images
- Web Accessibility Issues and Options: Forms and Navigation
- Web Accessibility Issues and Options: Links and Documents
- Web Accessibility Issues and Options: Audio, Video, Flash, and Games
Tags: Braille, elearning design, elearning features, eLearning for Business, Instructional Design, JAWS, screen readers, web accessibility, web accessible elearning