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online learning

Evaluating Web Page Accessibility

This month is the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disability Act, which is a federal legislation designed “to [eliminate] discrimination against people with disabilities.” Often times students with disabilities can be left out of online curriculum, which is why it is important to evaluate if your webpage is accessible. In an a recent article George Williams discussed how you can evaluate your webpage for accessibility, he noted the best way to engage in accessibility testing is with actual people. However there are also a number of helpful tools that can automatically check your site for the most important accessibility issues:

  • Wave Toolbar
    WAVE can help you evaluate the accessibility of your web content. WAVE is easy to use, you simply enter the web page address or browse to a file on your computer and select WAVE this page. WAVE will then provide you with a report section at the top of your page with embedded icons and error indicators. RED icons indicate accessibility errors and GREEN icons indicate accessibility features.
  • HTML_CodeSniffer
    HTML_CodeSniffer Is a client-side JavaScript application that checks an HTML document or source code for violations of a defined coding standard. It can be extended by developers to enforce custom coding standards by creating your own “sniffs”. This bookmarklet can work with almost any browser.
  • Tota11y
    Tota11y helps visualize how your site performs with assistive technologies. Testing for accessibility is often tedious and confusing, but tota11y aims to reduce this barrier by helping visualize accessibility violations. Your file will have a small button in the bottom of your corner document, once you click on the button you are able to see the accessibility problems your web page may have.
  • Pa11y
    Allows you to check the accessibility of web pages your own or others. If you are more interested in fixing issues rather than hunting them down you can use pa11y-dashboard.

You can also look at W3C web accessibility evaluation tools list. Over 40 tools listed are software programs or online services that can help determine if the webpage is accessible. All these tools will help evaluate webpage accessibility to ensure everyone can enjoy your webpage.

Create A Better Learning Space

Providing a well-rounded learning space is not always the easiest task, and can be difficult based on the class size as well. Luckily there is a way to deal with such obstacles. In an article on Campus Technology we find out how multiple types of tests, taken by Purdue University, worked and brought in new ways to improve the learning space of their students. To provide a better experience for everybody, the university had to lay out specific requirements for the new physical space, such as: soundproofing, acoustic panels and ceiling mics.

To create a better learning space, Purdue University had to take into consideration the different needs of students taking classes online. In order to turn lectures around quickly for the use of online learners, “Telestream” was applied to do the encoding, which allowed the school to provide recordings to its students within 20 minutes from the time the lecture was finished. The encoding would capture the lecture and place it into one big file. It was then compressed down into a MPEG-4 file that could be uploaded onto a Web server.

This was a great way to improve the experience for students who were taking the class online, but more changes had to be made to take effect on those who physically attended. It was for them that the monitors were removed from the desks in order to design a more interactive classroom layout. Mobile tables and chairs were also added to provide maximum flexibility for the professors and students. For bigger classrooms, containing 75 students, 90 inch screen tv’s were placed on the wall allowing the students to view anything that the professor would display or demonstrate.

The rooms were all designed to function in two distinct modes: the first is the”Presentation mode,” this meant that the equipment in the room was not in use for  lectures being recorded; the second is “production mode,” an operation intended to capture the class. These two modes could easily be switched between one another with one single button. Though as nice and as flawless as this may sound, there were some challenges the University happened to come across. To see what challenges were faced and how they were handled click the link above.

E-Portfolios New Way For New Career

A new way is being tested to link students’ academic achievement to career success. In an article on Campus Technology, Dian Schaffhauser examines how Portland State University is turning E-Portfolios into a key component in their programs. These will be used by the students and will be carried out for use after their graduation. There are three steps total, one will be incorporated each year out of this three-year program.

Starting this summer, the usage of E-Portfolios will be embedded into as many touch points as possible. One example of this is during their orientation, where students will be presented a self-paced video module about E-Portfolios. The videos will explain what they are as well as how they are used. There will also be a organizational behavior course that will have first-year students begin their E-Portfolios. This will include writing an autobiography and a leadership purpose statement.

In year two, students will develop content that talks about and is able to expose their very own personal strengths in a “team processes” class, as well as a “innovation for shared value” class. From there, they will create a presentation that will be used to persuade a board of directors about a “state-of-the-art innovation process.” The works that are produced will then be added into their E-Portfolio.

Then comes year three, where a “contemporary leadership issues” course will require the students to revisit their project from year one and refine it in order to reflect their experience and the knowledge they gained. As for their capstone, the students have to take on a community project. This project and the results will also be added into the E-Portfolio. Though at the same time, the students will also be going through a “career management and digital portfolio” class.

To find out more about these steps and their possible outcomes as well as questions that it has raised, visit the link below:

http://campustechnology.com/articles/2015/06/17/eportfolios-link-academic-achievements-to-career-success.aspx

Open-Source Learning: Next-Gen Knowledge

open-source

In 2006 a man by the name of Richard Baraniuk introduced the idea of open-source learning during a Ted Talk presentation. Baraniuk does not hold sole ownership of the idea, however what he presented was an alternate avenue by which the way we learn could evolve. Open-source learning is defined by Baraniuk as a database in which teachers across the world can share course-materials, lesson plans and data while constantly being peer-reviewed by their professional colleagues. Baraniuk envisioned a world where not only the cost of learning would be greatly reduced but the efficiency of learning and the scope of students learning would be raised substantially.

Fast forward into 2015 and the landscape of learning has changed drastically. Online classes have been integrated into most community colleges and universities, student textbooks can now be found online and information has definitely become more free-flowing between both professors and students alike. With that said Baraniuk’s vision is far from being realized. The idea of open-source learning was built on the premise of being a free route (emphasis on free) to educate and develop philosophies, so that those in underdeveloped regions with limited access to resources could in fact receive a similar education to those in well developed areas. Of course in the U.S. where a capitalistic system reigns, free is never truly free.

Today there are plenty of websites that promote open-source learning, which is a positive increase from where education was in 2006. With that said the system is not without its flaws. Often times an open-source website allows for free use, however in order to access certain features one must pay a certain amount per month, going against the whole idea of “free”. Some websites provide a basic design layout for teachers to use however if not satisfactory to the teacher’s needs then a third party coder or designer would need to be brought in to deliver a new design and regularly update code which can prove costly. These are just a couple of drawbacks open-source learning has come to encounter over the years. As students, educators and people who are overall hungry for knowledge what do you think of open-source learning? Will it improve? Will costs be raised? Lowered? Please leave thoughts or comments as this may very well be where education in the future goes.

For more information on this topic, visit the link below.

http://www.academyofmine.com/open-source-learning-management-system-lms/

 

Simplicity for International Teaching

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Comprehending a new language can be difficult, but luckily there is a tool that can help anyone pick it up.

The University of Washington Bothell has been building a large and diverse campus over the years and provides hundreds of types of courses to its students. English language classes are even offered to international students as well. But how are these classes being taught? Is there a more effective way?

The answer is yes! And the Voki app is the right tool to use for these situations. Voki allows the teachers and students to make avatars that can be used to help them with their education. Students are able to design their own Avatars to speak the language they are currently trying to learn. A set of instructions can also be provided to help students understand the meaning of the words and guidance on how they are pronounced. That is only the beginning of what Voki is capable of.

Voki is a great program and has multiple purposes, speaking another language is just one of them. The best thing about Voki is that it is great to use in front of a large class, when one on one with a student, or even by one’s self when alone studying. It is definitely a strong tool and can be used to help students everywhere comprehend things in a different and technical way.

To find out more about what Voki can do and how it can be used, click the link at the top of the page and find out something new and amazing you could have missed.