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    Archive for the 'General Learning Technology' Category

    Applying Universal Design for Learning (UDL) Principles to VLE design

    By Jessica Gramp, on 16 July 2017

    Universal Design for Learning (UDL) Principles describe how educators can cater to the needs of students with differing needs, including those with disabilities (CAST 2011). It stems from the social model of disability, which places the problem within the environment, rather than with the individual who has the disability (Collins 2014).
    Technology enables the quick modification of learning materials to meet the specific needs of students (Pisha & Coyne 2001) and online communication can even hide a disability from others. For example, a deaf student who participates in an online discussion forum does not need to reveal they are deaf in order to communicate with peers. This can lower the social and communication barriers that may be experienced when communicating in person. Also, there are many modern technologies specifically developed to help people with disabilities engage with online environments. This means online learning environments are particularly well placed to address the goal of Universal Design for Learning. It is the responsibility of the institutions and developers who maintain these environments to ensure they can be accessed by all.
    While most of the UDL guidelines apply to curriculum design, some of them are relevant to the design of the broader virtual learning environment (VLE).

    UDL principles (CAST 2011) mapped to how a VLE might meet relevant checkpoints

    To learn more, click on one of the Guidelines in the boxes below.

    I. Provide Multiple Means of Representation

    PerceptionLanguage, expressions, and symbolsComprehension

    II. Provide Multiple Means of Action and Expression

    Physical actionExpression and communication
    Executive function

    UDL Principle 1 aims to ‘provide multiple means of representation’  by ‘providing options for perception’, which includes ‘offer[ing] ways of customizing the display of information’ (CAST 2011). This means the VLE should offer the ability to do things like resize text and enable screen-readers to read aloud text to those who have visual impairments or dyslexia.

    Within UDL Principle 2, guideline 4: aims to ‘provide options for physical action’, which includes ‘vary[ing] the methods for response and navigation’ (CAST 2011). This means ensuring all navigation and interaction can occur via a keyboard and using assistive technologies such as voice activated software like Dragon NaturallySpeaking, which recognises speech and converts it to text.
    UDL Principle 3 seeks to ‘provide multiple means of engagement’ by ‘recruiting interest’, including enabling the learner to choose colours and layouts (CAST 2011). There are a number of tools that enable users to change the fonts and colours on a webpage and it is important these are able to be applied. The VLE should also offer the ability to customise the interface, in terms of re-ordering frequently accessed items, placement of menus and temporarily hiding extraneous information that may distract from the task at hand.
    These three principles and the specific checkpoints mentioned above are being addressed as part of the Accessible Moodle project, which aims to make UCL Moodle more accessible. The main ways these are being addressed are through the development of a more accessible Moodle theme, as well as the development of Moodle code itself. Although the project has limited ability to develop this code, suggestions for improvements are being raised with the Moodle development community via the Moodle Tracker. You can sign up and vote for accessibility enhancements to help these get prioritised, and therefore resolved more quickly, by Moodle HQ and other developers within the community.
    The remaining UDL principles are intended to guide the development of more accessible content and curriculum designs, and therefore these will inform the development of the Universal Design for Learning course that is being developed at UCL, to help educators understand how to design accessible learning tasks, environments and materials.
     
    You can read more about the Accessible Moodle project on the UCL Digital Education blog.
     
    References
    CAST (2011). Universal Design for Learning Guidelines version 2.0. [online]. Available from: http://www.udlcenter.org/sites/udlcenter.org/files/UDL_Guidelines_Version_2.0_(Final)_3.doc [Accessed 16 July 2017].
    Collins, B. (2014). Universal design for learning: What occupational therapy can contribute? [Online]. Occupational Therapy Now, 16(6), 22-23. Available from: http://eprints.bournemouth.ac.uk/21426/1/Collins.pdf [Accessed 16 July 2017].
    Pisha, B. & Coyne, P. (2001) Smart From the Start: The Promise of Universal Design for Learning. Remedial and Special Education. [Online] 22 (4), 197–203. Available from: doi:10.1177/074193250102200402.

    Moodle Summer 2017 Snapshot and Upgrade

    By Annora Eyt-Dessus, on 5 July 2017

    From 17:00 on Friday 21st July 2017 Moodle will be unavailable to all staff and students, until midday Sunday 23rd July. Moodle may be returned to service earlier than this time, however should be considered to be at risk until the Sunday. This is to allow the annual snapshot copy to be created, and update work on the platform to be completed.

    As in previous years, the snapshot allows staff and students to review their past modules in read-only mode, with an initial one month editing grace period for staff to hide content they don’t wish to be visible long-term. You can find out how to do this, and more about the snapshot as a whole, on the Moodle Resource Centre wiki.

    While there will be no major changes to look and feel or functionality, we will be taking this opportunity to perform yearly maintenance and upgrade tasks on Moodle. This is to ensure tools in use are still well supported and keep the platform running smoothly. You can find details of some of these changes in the section below.

    Updates will be posted during the upgrade weekend on the Digital Education Team Blog, our Twitter channel (@UCLDigiEd), and the Moodle News section.

    What do I have to do?

    If your module ends before the upgrade and you would like the snapshot copy to be made available to students then no further action is required. You will simply need to ensure that you hide any content you don’t want to remain visible within the one month editing period.

    You may also want to check if you are using any of the tools within Moodle that are changing this year, so you can plan ahead – see the section below.

    What if my course(s) doesn’t finish before the upgrade?

    We recognise that not all Moodle courses will end before the 21st July. Some run into August/September and others may run later, several times a year, or never stop – and in such cases a manual snapshot can be requested if needed.  More information on the process of requesting can be found in the Moodle Resource Centre wiki on the Manual Moodle Snapshot page.

    What happens after the snapshot?

    Unless it is still running, we strongly recommend that you reset your course in live Moodle and take some time to review your content so it is ready for the next cohort. For more information on preparing your Moodle course for the next academic year, see the following guidance available here: Preparing your Moodle course for the coming year.

    To see the snapshot (formerly archive) for yourself, visit: https://moodle-snapshot.ucl.ac.uk/

    All times are for the UK (BST), for other locations please convert: http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/converter.html

     

    Changes to UCL Moodle during the 2017 Snapshot/Upgrade

    Blackboard Collaborate Ultra
    This new, easier to use web conferencing tool will be installed and available to Staff to add to their courses. This provides the ability to run online sessions with students with polling, group breakout spaces and onscreen annotation. You’ll be able to find out more, after July 23rd, from our updated Blackboard Collaborate guidance on the Moodle Resource Centre. Note that you won’t need to do anything for existing recordings or sessions using the previous version of Blackboard Collaborate – these will still be accessible and usable, but you won’t be able to add any new sessions using the older tool.

    Turnitin Feedback Studio
    A few months ago we alerted you to the fact that Turnitin will be moving all users to its new grading and viewing interface known as Feedback Studio. From 1st August 2017, all users of Turnitin on UCL Moodle will have to use Feedback Studio to view originality reports, grade work and provide feedback. No action is necessary on your part, but you may want to find out more ahead of the changes by reading our blog post about moving to Turnitin Feedback Studio and try out the new version using Turnitin’s interactive demo.

    Moodle Course Menu block
    The Course Menu block previously provided a way to build custom navigation for Moodle courses. However, most of this functionality is now automatically available through Moodle’s standard navigation block, so to avoid confusion and ensure better support, this older tool will be removed during the summer upgrade to UCL Moodle. Again, you don’t need to do anything, as the Moodle navigation block appears by default on all courses and the old Course Menu block will simply disappear. The Digital Education team is currently liaising with owners of departmental templates so no new courses should be created with the Course Menu block.

    Campus Pack
    Campus Pack is a series of add-ons to Moodle that allowed users to create wikis, blogs, journals and podcasts. While these are useful tools, much of this functionality is already present directly in Moodle, or in other institutionally supported e-learning tools. During the upgrade we will therefore be removing the ability to add new instances of Campus Pack tools, to focus support on more widely used tools that provide similar functionality. This will not affect previously added Campus Pack activities, but you may want to investigate our guide around the Wiki activity in Moodle.

    As ever, if you experience any issues, please do let us know by emailing servicedesk@ucl.ac.uk .

    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 recommendations, 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 recommendations 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:

    • 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 Shackleford-Cesare, on 23 May 2017

    Context

    When Portico enrolments are active on a Moodle course, student enrolments on the course are automatically updated overnight to mirror the Portico student list for the associated module. Consequently, students who change courses, or withdraw from their studies either permanently or temporarily, are automatically un-enrolled from their Moodle courses. Usually, this is desirable when students change/drop modules within the first few weeks of term. But, if Portico un-enrols students after they have been awarded any grades, these grades become inaccessible, which can be very problematic.

    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 enrolled 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.

    Will Portico enrolment deactivation un-enrol the students on my course(s)?

    No. Anyone enrolled on a course before Portico enrolments are deactivated will be unaffected by this change and will therefore still be enrolled on the course afterwards.

    What do I need to do?

    If a student is un-enrolled from a course while Portico enrolments are active, but the grades they received, etc. are still needed then the following needs to be done to re-link the student’s data to the student:

    1. Enrol the student manually and tick the ‘recover grades’ option when doing so.
    2. Do this for each affected student on each course.

    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 by Portico, and then re-enrolled on the course, their grades/work will not be re-associated.

    Any ‘new’ students who would normally have been enrolled via Portico enrolments, who still need to be enrolled on a course after Portico enrolments has been deactivated, will need to be enrolled manually or be permitted to self-enrol using an enrolment key.

    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.