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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.

Stanford Chief Wants Higher Ed to Be ‘Affordable, Accessible, Adaptable’

In an article on the Chronicle of Higher Education, written by Jenifer Howard, the president of Stanford University shares his views on the accessibility of higher education.

In a keynote talk on “Information Technology and the Future of Teaching and Learning,” the Stanford president, John L. Hennessy, sketched out ways in which technology could be used to provide affordable, accessible, and adaptable education.

Mr. Hennessy said that Massive open online courses “are not the answer, at least not the only answer.” He also went on to say that hybrid and flipped-classroom models are effective in some settings and that we need to develop adaptive courses to help students learn faster and better, potentially saving time, money and reducing student stress.

There are several challenges that online learning needs to overcome. It needs to help students learn better and provide a customized experience, he said. “In a live classroom, a good instructor can see what works and what doesn’t.” but it might be possible to accomplish the same using real time data analytics on how students are engaging what the material.

Mr. Hennessy also mentions the machine driven hype of the 1960’s with a vision that high quality technology would solve all our problems. “it turns out that human learning is really complex.”

For more information on this topic visit the link above.

Why Blogging Is Key to the Future of Higher Ed

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Photo credit to Prasan

At Virginia Commonwealth University, nearly 30,000 students were encouraged to start blogging about their schoolwork. It was a way to incorporate social media, something that almost all college students are fond of, with education.

Gardner Campbell, Vice Provost for learning innovation and student success, said that this “catastrophic success…does not do justice to his real vision for both VCU and higher education.” He wants to change the direction, definition and purpose of concepts like online education and curriculum.

VCU worked with a vendor to set up a WordPress installation that would allow students to communicate with each other and their teachers as well as do their work online. Campbell explains how these blogs can act as an e-Portfolio. Since it is public, any other staff and faculty will be able to access it and view students’ work.

One example of using blogging for coursework was when students were asked to go out and take pictures of plants, post them on their blogs and add tags to them. This helped when biology students were studying botany.

Campbell referred to this as a catastrophic success in spite of the few disadvantages that the web can pose, such as poor connectivity. There can also be a low limit of how many students can sign up for the blog.

Nonetheless, Campbell said that VCU should look past the technological challenges and focus on the potential that this approach can have. This is just a work in progress, and could help advocates understand that a culture of a university should be more about content and course delivery.

For more information on this topic visit the link below.

Source: http://campustechnology.com/Articles/2015/05/27/Why-Blogging-Is-Key-to-the-Future-of-Higher-Ed.aspx?Page=3

Learning on a Cloud

 

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In education, to incite the mind into thinking deeply about a topic is to in fact learn. This has remained unchanged throughout the course of time, yet somewhere along the way educators lost sight of that. The education system began to place an emphasis on exams and regurgitated knowledge, rather than the actual experience of learning. In 2013 educational researcher Sugata Mitra decided to flip that by introducing SOLE within the classroom via Cloud based learning devices.

SOLE stands for “Self-Organized Learning Environment”. Within that, what is necessary for success includes collaboration between students, answerable introspective questions, an Internet connection and an educator’s influence. What entails is a learning environment wherein students not only learn through their spark of curiosity, but also gain insight on posing questions that develop their understanding. For instance, Mitra posed this question to a group of nine and ten year old students “Why do human lungs breathe? What happens to the air we breathe? What followed was an in-depth analysis of the lungs, diaphragm and respiration system developed solely through student research. In connection with the Cloud, these answers and developments would then be added to the pool of research, allowing for access amongst all Cloud-based education systems.

Designing a new future for learning at the elementary and middle school level allows for more advanced topics to be understood at younger ages, thus allowing for students at the university level to focus their learning/career path earlier. The purpose of the Cloud is to gather and hold all of the learning tools (i.e. the big questions, answers, development strategies, etc.), essentially SOLE’s provide the setting or atmosphere within a classroom and the Cloud provides the tools. Mitra’s vision of a cloud-based school took form in 2013 and since then has grown to five different classrooms across the U.K. and India, including an independent location in Korakati, India. The future of eLearning continues with the introduction of the School in the Cloud.

For more information on this topic visit the links below.

http://blog.ted.com/sugata-mitra-opens-first-independent-school-in-the-cloud-in-india/

http://elearningindustry.com/how-can-we-build-a-school-in-the-cloud-sugata-mitra-ted-talk

Picture Credit: http://edtechreview.in/news/877-world-s-first-school-in-the-cloud-opened