Learning Centered Technology

Technology for the Educator

Archive for April 2016

Creating Quality Online Courses: Accessibility & Usability

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Accessibility & Usability

Accessibility and Usability means ensuring a quality learning experience for all learners. When talking accessibility it mean those with disabilities can view the content. When we talk about Usability, it means all individuals regardless of their abilities or disabilities, has the ability to navigate the course.


One function used to help with images is the alternative text functions. It serves to:

  • allows screen readers to read alternate text, on things like images
  • it displays text in place of the image in browsers where the user has chosen not to view images because of visual problems or bandwidth issues
  • finally it provides a meaning and description to images which can be read by search engines

Other important accessibility functions to include in your online course is:

  • Transcripts or Caption for all Audio and video files
  • PDFs that have been saved as searchable text and not images
  • Descriptive text, or alt text in when using tables in a document


Usability Means the Ability to Navigate

  • Course navigation must be intuitive and simple
  • The course provides alternative means of access to course materials in formats that meet the needs of diverse learners
  • the course should be free of irrelevant graphics, borders, etc.,
  • files should be saved in accessible formats
  • font choices and colors should be consistent
  • aclean look without excessive decoration is easier to download and use
  • avoid flashy colors, ornamental clip art, and video for its own sake
  • keep your structureparallel so students can get in a routine
  • grouprelated items together and present them in a chronological sequence
  • do not send students to three different areas to get their lectures, assignments, quizzes and web links, just keep it simple
  • make sure the content is readability
  • all multimedia must be easy to use and information provided about the accessibility of all technologies required in the course




Creating Quality Online Courses: Learner Support

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Learner Support

Learner support in the online environment is a little different from the things we discussed up to this point. Learner support not only involves the instructor, but the whole institutions. Students in the online environment require a high level of both academic and technical support.

Institutions need to provide easy access to things such as the learning management system, library resources, bookstores, tutoring, academic counseling, early alert/intervention systems, financial aid, and career services.

In addition they will need 24/7 access to the technical help services. These services include live help desk services, training on the use of the various technologies, and various orientations opportunities. Students will also need help with connectivity issues such as institutional Wi-Fi connections and in some cases, access to institutional labs with any additional hardware or software required in their online class.

As you can tell, it takes an institutional effort to support the online student. That being said, instructors also play a large role in supporting the online student.

Classroom Support of Online Students

  • Provide timely feedback
  • Send a weekly message in to show you are engaged in the classroom
  • Comment strategically within discussion boards
  • Create an environment conducive to creative thinking
  • Clearly identify the objectives to be achieved
  • Provide a link to the technical support offered
  • Supply a link to the institution’s accessibility policies and services
  • Provide an explanation of how the institution’s student services and resources can help learners succeed and how learners can obtain that help

Written by Dr. Sherri E. Ritter

April 18, 2016 at 9:00 am

Creating Quality Online Courses: Course Technology

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Course Technology

It may sound funny to discuss technology integration in an online course, because in and of itself the online class is technology. When we talk about technology in the online class, we are discussing technology outside of the realm of the Learning Management System Technology and that takes a little skill.  Technology integration is more than just throwing up a variety of tools and expect students to be engaged by the flashiness. Technology must be used to support the course learning objectives. Technology integration is successful when the use of technology is:

  • Routine and transparent
  • Accessible and readily available for the task at hand
  • Used in support the learning objectives
  • Promote learner engagement and active learning
  • The technologies are current
  • Links are provided to privacy policies for all external tools

Many different types of technology exist for the online classroom, but again you must use it in a way that promotes the learning objectives of your course. Following is a partial list of tools you may find helpful in your online classroom:

  • Game-Based Learning and Assessment
  • Interactive Whiteboards
  • Student Response Systems
  • Web-Based Projects, Explorations, and Research
  • Podcasts, Videos, or Slideshows
  • Collaborative Online Tools like Wikis
  • Social Media
  • Discussion boards
  • Webinars

You can use a variety of these tools, but keep them relevant. For example, video in your classroom is perfectly acceptable, but asking a student to watch an hour-long video that you recorded during your last lecture may not be so wise. Usually an hour-long lecture is filled with a lot of dead space and illegible content. Videos should be edited and all irrelevant information removed to create manageable chunks. These chunks allow the viewer to absorb the important bits of information relevant to the course objectives while not wasting time watching things of no value. In addition to chunking the information, you will need to make sure all content is accessible to all students, as in ADA compliant.

Creating Quality Online Courses: Learner Interaction

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In the online classroom environment, learner interaction is key to keeping students engaged. Instructors must strive for three distinct areas of interaction:

  1. Learner to instructor interaction
  2. Learner to learner interaction
  3. Learner to content interaction

Learner to Instructor Interactions

Learner to Instructor interactions establish an environment that encourages learners to understand the content. Some Instructional Activities you can include in your course follows:

  • Virtual office hours
  • Feedback on assignments
  • Summary of class key points/concepts
  • Asking or responding to instructor questions
  • Instructor participation in class discussions

Instructor to learner interaction is a key part of the online course. Many of the above recommendations can be achieved through email, discussions, announcements, and other tools within your Learning Management System.

Learner to learner Interactions

Learner to learner interactions take place between one learner and other learners, alone or in group settings, with or without the real-time presence of an instructor.

Some of the instructional activities that promote learner-to-learner interactions are as follows:

  • Team-based learning activities
  • Online discussions as part of assessment
  • Small team discussions
  • Wikis
  • Blogs
  • Instructor participation in team discussions
  • Peer evaluation
  • Student introduction forum

You will notice a lot of learner to learner action takes place within the discussion area. Following are a few ideas when you work with discussions:

  1. Prepare Discussion Posts that Invite Questions, Discussions, Reflections and Responses
  2. Create open-ended questions that learners can explore and apply the concepts that they are learning
  3. Encourage critical or creative thinking
  4. Supporting students in their own reflections and inquiries
  5. Do not post questions soliciting basic facts, or questions for which there is an obvious yes/no response.
  6. Provide guidelines and instruction on responding to other students.

Learner to content Interaction

Learner to content interaction is the process of intellectually interacting with content that results in changes in the learner’s understanding or perspective. The interaction can be as simple as reading a text to creating something creating something because of that knowledge.

  • Textbooks
  • Videos
  • Interactive Learning Games
  • Links to various resources

No matter what type of interaction you include in the course the learning activities should promote the achievement of the stated learning objectives. The instructor should include feedback on all assignments and detailed instruction of the activity requirements.

Written by Dr. Sherri E. Ritter

April 4, 2016 at 9:00 am

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