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    Archive for the 'General Learning Technology' Category

    Accessible Moodle wishlist

    By Jessica Gramp, on 20 June 2017

    The following outlines recommendations from the Accessible Moodle project to improve the accessibility of UCL Moodle for disabled students and staff, as well as improve usability for all users. These have been informed by focus groups with disabled students and staff; analysis of how UK websites adhere to accessibility guidelines; and research of relevant journal articles and accessibility guidelines.

    Our primary aim is to ensure Moodle is technically accessible using assistive technologies including ZoomText, JAWS screen-reader, Read & Write, Dragon NaturallySpeaking voice recognition software, as well as other assistive technologies commonly used at UCL. In addition, keyboard-only access should be fully supported. It is also important that UCL Moodle is usable for those with disabilities, as well as the wider student and staff community.

    In order to develop these requirements, the project team ran focus groups with UCL students and staff with disabilities, to find out what they found difficult to use within Moodle and what suggestions they had for improvements. I have blogged previously about the background to the project and the outcomes of these focus groups.

    A number of sources were also referenced to see how Moodle could be made to better adhere to accessibility guidelines. The most important of these are the following three guidelines from the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) :

    • Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Level AA for making Moodle and its content more accessible.
    • Web Accessibility Initiative – Accessible Rich Internet Applications Suite (WAI-ARIA) for designing Moodle so users of assistive technologies, like screen-readers, can navigate and read its pages.
    • Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines (ATAG) for making the Moodle rich text editors more accessible.

    A number of websites were also analysed to compare how each of them implemented W3C guidelines.

    The list that follows is a wish list, which may not all be implemented, but gives us a guide for how we might improve Moodle. Although there are many other elements that are important, but not mentioned below, the following makes a start of improving the interface for disabled  and non-disabled users alike.

    We are taking a multi-faceted approach to resolve the issues identified, and work is likely to be ongoing, but here’s a list of changes we’d like to see made to make Moodle more accessible.

    Assistive Technology compatibility.

    The following requirements are likely to require implementation at multiple levels, so don’t easily fit under any single development areas below. The project aims to achieve the following requirements:

    • Content and editing features are available to screen-readers, or suitable alternatives are available – e.g. offline marking in Word enables in-line marking for assessments.
    • Navigation is straight-forward, with content appearing before menus and appropriate headings, links and lists being utilised to enable easy navigation using common screen-reader features. E.g. the list of module tutor names under every Moodle course name in the search results means that hundreds of links are listed to screen-reader users and sighted users are overwhelmed by irrelevant information which needs to be scrolled past, and which is particularly problematic for those with dyslexia.
    • All images have alt tags (even if these are empty), or in the case of icons that supplement text, they use ARIA tags to tell screen-readers to ignore them.
    • Accepts user input using voice recognition software, like Dragon Naturally Speaking.
    • Enables magnification by ensuring the pages display well when the browser is zoomed in or when zooming software is used.
    • Visible focus when using the keyboard (tab, space, enter and arrow keys) to navigate.
    • Supports the use of OpenDyslexi font, available as a browser plugin to help those with dyslexia read text.

    A multi-faceted approach

    The following five areas outline the different ways in which Accessibility improvements can be made to UCL Moodle.

    1. A new, more accessible UCL Moodle theme for use on desktop and mobile devices.
      • Minimise clutter, by enabling blocks to be hidden and removing extraneous information.
      • Position elements for optimal access. E.g. ensure the login is prominent and important course features are easy to access.
      • Simplify the menus, by showing relevant links only to relevant users. E.g. staff see different links from students.
      • Improve the course icons by making them larger and clearer. E.g. the maximise block link is not intuitive.
      • Show alerts to users – e.g. explaining that editors can drag and drop files, warnings of Moodle outage periods.
      • Improve navigation, e.g. by enabling links to key areas that users expect.
      • Use high contrasting colours on a pale background that is easy to read for those with dyslexia (e.g. not white).
    2. Changes to Moodle configuration.
      • Configure text editors so they encourage accessible content design. E.g. offering heading styles 3-5, removing the inclination for people to add heading 1 and 2 tags when these are used at higher levels within Moodle pages.
      • Enable global search (assuming this does not negatively impact performance).
      • Allow students and staff to personalise the interface by enabling courses to be moved up and down on the My Home page, hide and show blocks, maximise the screen or use a default width better for reading and dock blocks.
    3. Enhanced Moodle features.
      A number of plugins to Moodle exist that make Moodle more usable and improve accessibility.

      • Implement and configure user tours to help users understand how to use Moodle and point to help with accessibility features.
      • Install the course checks plugin to help staff create an accessible Moodle course – e.g. checks for assignment due dates in past, courses not reset, broken links.
      • Implement a Moodle course site map so students can easily see what is available on a course on one page.
      • Enable importing content from Word, which some users find easier to edit within than Moodle.
      • Pilot the Blackboard Ally plugin to help in the creation of more accessible learning resources and course structures.
      • Install the Office 365 plugin to make it easier to author, organise and link or embed content into Moodle (coming to Moodle core in v3.3).
      • Enable staff to add icons to help signpost particular areas of their course and help people who prefer these visual cues, as opposed to having to read excessive text.
    4. Improved training, staff development and support.
      • Develop a course for Moodle editors so they understand how to develop accessible Moodle resources and activities.
      • Develop an online course to explain how Assistive Technologies can be used with Moodle (e.g. regions for JAWS, browser plugins to show a reading ruler, change fonts to OpenDyslexi font, improve colour contrast).
    5. Improved interfaces by proposing enhancements to Moodle HQ and iParadigms (who provide Turnitin).
      • Adequately signpost links showing (new window, document, external/internal etc) automatically.
      • Enable users to personalise their experience by allowing them to choose their own course format, set blocks to particular colours.
      • Improve assessment interfaces, such as the Moodle Assignment rubric functionality and display.
      • Flag new items on the Moodle course page (allow this to be enabled/disabled in user preferences).
      • Improve the Moodle calendar – e.g. size, reliance on colour, clicking month to access full screen.
      • Improve the discussion forums – e.g. showing the entire thread when replying, the accessibility of the email alerts it sends.
      • Fix Moodle heading tags.

    The UCL Digital Education team, staff in Disability Support teams and staff from IT for IoE  are slowly working through each of these five strands to make improvements to virtual learning experiences at UCL for those with disabilities. Many of these improvements will also benefit other Moodle users, since accessibility cannot be considered in isolation from usability, so this means an enhanced user experience for everyone!

    Accessibility of e-learning – 10 key points from the free OU course

    By Jessica Gramp, on 13 June 2017

    The UK Open University (2006) provide a useful introductory course, called Accessibility of eLearning, that will help you understand how to create accessible e-learning experiences that provide access for all. The course can be completed online, or downloaded in a number of common file formats, including for e-readers and as a PDF.

    I would strongly suggest either completing the course, or reading the course materials, but if you don’t have time I’m going to summarise the key points in this post:

    1. In 2006, disability affected 10-20% of every country’s population, and this number is growing.
    2. In 2006, 15% of the UK population, over 16 years old, self-declared a disability.
    3. A disabled person is one who has a mental or physical disability that has a substantial, long term (12 months or more), adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.
    4. Around 1 in 10 men and 1 in 200 women have red-green colour blindness.
    5. UK Universities are legally obligated to make reasonable, anticipatory adjustments to ensure those with disabilities are not discriminated against.
    6. There are two views of disability. The medical model describes the problem of disability as stemming from the person’s physical or mental limitation. The social model sees disability as society restricting those with impairments in the form of prejudice, inaccessible design, policies of exclusion, etc.
    7. Accessibility is about both technical and usable access for people with disabilities. For example, although a table of data may be technically accessible by a blind person using a screen reader, they may not be able to relate the data in each cell to its column or row heading, so the meaning of the data is lost in the process, rendering the table unusable for that person.
    8. Computers enable even severely disabled people to communicate unaided, giving them independence and privacy that is not possible when they need to rely on human assistants.
    9. When communicating online, a disability may not be visible, removing barriers caused by people’s reactions to the disability.
    10. Creating accessible learning environments helps everyone, not just those with disabilities. For example, products that can be used by blind people are also useful for people whose eyes are busy*.

    *This last point reflects my own preference for listening to academic papers while running or walking to work, when I would be otherwise unable to “read” the paper. As a student and full-time employee, being able to use this time to study enables me to manage my time effectively and merge my fitness routine, with study time. This is only possible because my lecturers, and many journals these days too, provide accessible documents that can be read out loud using my mobile smartphone.

    This list brifly summarises the key points I drew from the OU’s Accessibility of eLearning course and demonstrates some of the ways we, as developers of online courses, can make better online learning experiences for all our students, including those with disabilities.

    References

    Open University (2016) Accessibility of E-Learning. [Online]. Available from: http://www.open.edu/openlearn/education/professional-development-education/accessibility-elearning/content-section-0 [Accessed: 13 June 2017].

    Window-Eyes discontinued

    By Michele Farmer, on 8 June 2017

    Please see info below for details:

    Thank you for being a valued member of the GW Micro and Window-Eyes family. We regret to announce that sales of Window-Eyes have ended in the United States and Canada. Users outside of the United States and Canada should contact their local distributor for options. We are committed to our customers and will honor existing product purchases and software maintenance agreements, and we will continue to provide technical support to end users that have purchased Window-Eyes or a support package.

    All users who are currently using Window-Eyes can continue to use the software indefinitely; however, as the Windows(r) operating system and/or applications change over time, Window-Eyes may not function adequately for your needs.

    We understand how important a screen reader is to you and are offering

    • JAWS(r) for Windows 18 as a replacement.  We are committed to providing a smooth transition and will honor existing Window-Eyes product purchases and software maintenance agreements (SMA), as follows.
    • End users that paid for and are current with Window-Eyes 9.x will be converted to JAWS 18 at no charge.
    • If you are using an earlier version of Window-Eyes, you can purchase an upgrade to JAWS 18.
    • If you are using the free version of Window-Eyes you cancontinue to use it. While there is not an upgrade path from the free version, if you are interested in purchasing JAWS, please contact our sales team at 800-444-4443.
    • Existing Window-Eyes SMAs will be rolled into the JAWS SMA program for end users that migrate to JAWS.

    Learn more about the migration options and pricing.

    To make this process as easy as possible, we ask you to complete a simple web form that will go directly to our sales team, who will then contact you with an authorization code for JAWS 18, or request additional information if necessary.

    Requests for upgrades must be submitted using this migration form, or by phone at 800-444-4443 by July 31, 2017.

    Note, the free Window-Eyes Offer for Users of Microsoft Office version is not part of the conversion program.

    If you have any questions please call us at 800-444-4443 or email us at orders@vfogroup.com.

     

    Globally Deactivating Portico Enrolments in Moodle

    By Karen A M Shackleford-Cesare, on 23 May 2017

    Context

    When Portico enrolments are activated on a Moodle course, student enrolments on the course are automatically updated every night to mirror the Portico student list for the associated module. Consequently, students who change courses, or withdraw from their studies permanently, or temporarily because of extenuating circumstances, are automatically un-enrolled from their Moodle courses. Usually, as in the first case cited, this is desirable. However, because as a consequence, any grades these students were awarded before they withdrew, become inaccessible, this may not be desirable in the other two cases.

    Note: the grades, submissions and logged activity are not deleted, and can be accessed again if the student is re-enrolled manually. But, when a student is no longer listed on a course, there is just no way to view their content.

    Remedy

    To reduce the likelihood of this particular “missing grades” problem occurring, the decision has been taken to deactivate Portico enrolments globally in Moodle, six weeks from the start of each term. Hence, after this juncture a student who discontinues a course won’t be automatically un-enrolled. Thus, any user with the requisite permissions can continue to access this student’s grades, etc.

    What do I need to do?

    If a student is un-enrolled from a course before Portico enrolments is deactivated, whose grades, etc. are needed then the way to re-link this data to the student is to enrol them manually and tick the ‘recover grades’ option when doing so. This must be done for each course, for each user. The enrolment must be manual as automated Portico enrolments does not offer the ‘recover grades’ option, so even if students are restored in the module in Portico, and then re-enrolled on the course, their grades/work will not be re-associated.

    Should any ‘new’ students still need to be enrolled on a course after Portico enrolments are deactivated, who would normally have been enrolled via Portico enrolments, they will need to be enrolled manually.

    Can I re-activate Portico enrolments on my course(s)?

    Yes. However, please assess whether you risk losing access to some students’ grades before you do this. For instructions on re-activating Portico enrolments, please see:

    https://wiki.ucl.ac.uk/display/MoodleResourceCentre/Enrolment+-+Portico+enrolments

    Note: Portico enrolments can be ‘deactivated’ within the course at any time by anyone with Course Administrator or Tutor access, thereby stopping any updates to the list of enrolled users on the Moodle course. Please see:

    https://wiki.ucl.ac.uk/display/MoodleResourceCentre/Enrolment+-+Portico+enrolments#Enrolment-Porticoenrolments-Activatinganddeactivatingmappings

    Will Portico enrolments be globally re-activated?

    No, they will not be globally re-activated, but you can activate Portico enrolments in your course(s) at any time. However, they will be globally deactivated again, 6 weeks into each term.

    Addressing ten Moodle accessibility concerns for UCL’s disabled users

    By Jessica Gramp, on 17 May 2017

    UCL staff from Digital Education Advisory and UCL’s Disability Services teams are currently looking at how to improve the accessibility of UCL Moodle for those with disabilities, which will benefit all users. Information from two focus groups, one with students and one with staff, have highlighted a number of concerns, which the Accessible Moodle project aims to address.

    The focus groups identified ten areas of concern (listed in order of priority):

    • Clutter – it is difficult to find what you are looking for amongst irrelevant links and content.
    • Emphasis – understanding what is the most important information is not easy.
    • Layout – page elements are not configurable, there is too much visible at once and the blocks are too wide.
    • Navigation and Orientation – pages are long and disorganised, with links to external services not adequately signposted.
    • Usability – some interfaces, especially for assessments, are particularly difficult to use.
    • Awareness – useful features (skip links) and services (Moodle snapshot) remain unknown to those who would benefit from them.
    • Personalisation – there’s a lack of configurable page elements (blocks, fonts, font sizes and colours) or information about how to do this independently with browser plugins and other assistive technologies.
    • Text – there’s a lot of overly long text that is too small, in a difficult to read font with poor contrast and in difficult formats both in Moodle and the resources it contains.
    • Consistency – there’s inconsistencies between some Moodle courses and conversely some courses not being adequately distinguishable from others.
    • Graphics – there’s heavy reliance of written information that could be expressed more simply with icons and images, with appropriate alternative text for those using screen readers.

    The learning curve of using new interfaces, problems with assessment, and clunky mobile access were also mentioned by the focus group participants.

    These issues will be addressed by a number of initiatives:

    • A new, more accessible UCL Moodle theme for use on desktop and mobile devices.
    • Changes to Moodle configuration.
    • Enhanced Moodle features.
    • Improved training, staff development and support.
    • Proposals to Moodle HQ and iParadigms (who provide Turnitin) to improve interfaces.

    Further updates on this project will follow on the Digital Education blog.

    UCL ChangeMakers project funding for 2017/18 available

    By Jessica Gramp, on 8 May 2017

    UCL ChangeMakers

    “I cannot recommend the experience enough for any fellow student willing to enrich their learning and skill repertoire while deriving the satisfaction of contributing towards enriching the experiences of UCL’s student community through a UCL ChangeMakers Project.”

    – UCL ChangeMakers Project Lead

     

     

    Make your mark on UCL: Do a UCL ChangeMakers project

    UCL ChangeMakers supports students & staff in running or getting involved in a project to innovate, enhance or improve the learning experience at UCL. There is up to £1000 project funding available for your project (to cover costs such as catering, survey or focus group incentives etc.) in addition to student stipends of up to £150 each. You will also be fully supported by the UCL ChangeMakers Team.

    The deadline for proposals is 22nd June 2017 for projects commencing next academic year (September 2017).

    UCL ChangeMakers is open to all students and staff at UCL. If you want to talk to the UCL ChangeMakers Team about your idea or simply find out more about what’s involved then come and chat to them and other interested people at one of our Q&A sessions on 16th & 26th May; 13th & 15th June 2017. Sign up for a Q&A session.

     

    Apply to UCL ChangeMakers…