Is Remote Learning Accessible?

Illustration of a person watching a lecture on a laptop

Remote learning has become an integral part of many students’ lives.   Whether they’re participating in hybrid classes or going fully remote, students are spending more time than ever in virtual classrooms.  And that has brought both benefits and challenges–especially when it comes to accessibility.  Here are some ways educators can ensure their virtual classrooms are accessible to all. 

Ensure Your Materials Are Accessible.

Students will be accessing their course materials on a wide variety of devices. Some might be on tablets, some might be on laptops—and some might be on screen readers. It is important for educators to factor this in when selecting their supplementary content.  

Lengthy PDFs with bad contrast will alienate and exclude students with low vision or who require the use of assistive devices.  Web content is usually better but educators should still need to ensure that any relevant images or videos within the web content have been made accessible to students using assistive devices.  

Facilitate the Lecture. 

Following along with a virtual lecture can be challenging.  And bad audio can exasperate this challenge.  Lecturers who ensure a clear audio broadcast, free of ambient noise, will create a significantly more inviting and accessible environment.  Moreover, not all students will have access to ideal audio environments and equipment.  Lecturers need to enable and moderate discussions by repeating any questions or comments that may not have come through clearly.  It’s also important to reduce commotion on audio channels by muting students or encouraging them to mute themselves when they aren’t talking. 

Lectures that rely heavily on the visual content they are presenting—without also providing alternatives—risk alienating students with low vision or who’s internet can’t stream at a high enough resolution.   While having a nice camera to stream with can be a nice touch, lecturers need to remember that the level of quality they see on their screens might not reflect what all of their students are seeing. 

Be Flexible. 

Not all of your students will be coming into your virtual classroom with ideal circumstances.  Some students may not have access to a distraction-free work setting.  Some students may not feel comfortable having a webcam pointed at them for the duration of your lecture.  Other students may not have access to internet at all times.  A one-size-fits-all mindset simply will not work in this kind of setting. 

Giving students options can ensure that the entire class has the opportunity to succeed and learn. For example, giving students the option to turn in a written assignment in the place of participating in a discussion. Or recording your lectures and making them available for students to download to watch or rewatch on their own time.  Small accommodations like this will ensure that your remote learning technique techniques work for as many students as possible.

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