E-learning has opened up many new opportunities for education, particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic. Learners can access resources and attend lessons remotely, among a range of other benefits. To ensure that e-learning is available to the widest possible audience, accessibility must be considered in its design and delivery.
Accessibility in e-learning means that no matter a person’s disability or needs, everyone should have access to digital learning resources. It increases usability, reaches a wider audience and does not discriminate against those with disabilities or those in challenging circumstances.
One of the most common ways to make e-learning accessible is to provide subtitles or closed captions for videos and transcripts for podcasts. This would particularly aid those who are hearing impaired, deaf or have learning disabilities. Subtitles can be used in both loud and quiet environments where audio cannot be heard clearly or cannot played out loud, respectively. They can also help the learner understand different accents and define audio with loud background noise. Transcripts are useful if a learner needs to find a reference quickly without spending time skipping through the audio.
Providing alternative text for images would improve the learning experience of those who are visually impaired, blind or have cognitive disabilities. Screen readers can read alternative text aloud to the learner and ensure that any important information contained within the image is not missed. Additionally, images may not fully load due to poor internet connection, for example, and some users may choose not to view images in their settings; alternative text for these images would be useful in these situations.
Accessibility in e-learning does not only apply to disabilities but also to those with potential barriers, such as having limited access to the appropriate technology or poor internet connection.
Learning material should be compatible on a range of devices, such as smartphones and tablets, as not all learners will have access to a computer or may prefer to learn on-the-go. Material should be simple and easy to navigate, regardless of whether its accessed via desktop or mobile.
As learners will have different internet connection statuses across various areas, it is important that an e-learning platform can operate with poor internet connection. Content that uses large amounts of memory, such as video, animation and high-definition images should be compressed to ensure that they run smoothly with any quality of internet connection.
There are many other ways that learning material can be made accessible to those with disabilities and other needs. These measures ensure that e-learning can be fully available to all and gives everybody a chance to learn. Online learning provides a cost-effective solution to training, either as part of a blended solution or on its own. There are many benefits and simple ways in which it can be made more accessible.