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H810 – Reflection on my learning resource (A23.1)

November 16, 2010

Think about the process by which you produced your learning resource and write some notes about it.

You might reflect on:

  • Why did you choose the particular topic?
  • Why did you include particular elements?
  • What guidelines did you refer to when creating the resource?
  • What areas were particularly difficult and why do you think this to be the case?
  • Do you think the act of making an accessible resource affected the way that the learning outcomes were addressed?
  • How many of the decisions you made about the resource were influenced by technical considerations?
  • How many of your decisions were influenced by pedagogical or other considerations?

I choose skin as topic,  because it is part of my teaching in health and care, though I just have this teaching unit as paper version , with no interactivity and use of websites and video like I have in this resource now. Unfortunately I cannot make use of my resources is because it is in English and the English of most of my students is insufficient, hence it would be not accessible to them because of the language barrier.

Why did I include particular elements? Good question, first because of their pedagogical value, second because I already had this material, so not in digital form or I found them in the web, e.g. the video and the National Geographic website, and third because I think providing e.g. transcripts for audio or video files makes it more accessible to students with disabilities. Exploring the case studies we came across so far, I recognized how much students appreciated having the material online in time, so they can access it and work with it. That was the reason I provided all the activities as well as word or pfd file.

What guidelines did you refer to when creating the resource?

Being confronted in Topic 19 and 20, as well the previous topic, I was first overwhelmed by the sheer amount of guidelines I would have to consider. As my technical skills and the tools and had access too set limitations I cut back to simply a few achievable ones like

  • providing titles to links so that they can be read by a screen reader, though that is not always achievable. WordPress or the OU forum/blog allows that to do, but I haven’t found anything similar when I created the HTML documents to insert them into Mahara, or Mahara does not display them.
  • providing descriptions for images. Well, we already experienced in topic 21 how difficult that can be, but I found it an almost impossible task to provide image descriptions for the medical images and I would have liked to find out how medical institutions deal with that issue and how they make their images or video accessible to visually impaired or blind students.
  • avoiding to merge cells in tables, as I heard that would make them pretty inaccessible for screen readers.
  • using headers to better structure the source, though not all the tools allow to influence that. Taking the blog here for example. It does not set any headers, except you change to HTML and change it on your own. Mahara instead, applies at least header to the titles, you can see it if you view the source code, but you cannot influence it either.
  • clear structured navigation – that was not really achievable with my blog, and was one critic I received from my peers, though I enumerated the activities. I picked that critique up and provided a brief instruction in Mahara how best to proceed through the learning unit.
  • PDF files – Acrobat Reader offers since version 9 (or so) better accessibility features, e.g. a Quick accessibility check as well as a screen reader and screen magnifier. However, though I tried to followed the OU guideline for creating accessible documents did the accessibility check failed (see message below). I am not sure if my free pdf converter, the pdf creator caused the problems, because I tried it with a simple document, a header, subheading and some text and it still says that the document is not structured.
  • Word documents – I tried to follow as best as possible the OU guidelines like mentioned above, avoiding e.g. to use the tabulators and I always have the hidden codes on to see how I work. I worked with headings, avoided merged cells in tables and did not use tabs to create columns or tables. I also know that text boxes cause problems for the screen reader, though I did not used them.
  • font size, contrast is unfortunately  not influenceable in my WordPress resource and only partly in Mahara. In both resources you can only change the ‘background’ design and that influence partly as well the font style and colour. I included html files into Mahara and could thus influence partly at least the font size, through using header tags. Fortunately can you use CTRL + / – to increase or decrease font size, which works in both resources.

I found the technical area difficult, here in particular to consider at least to some extent the plethora of web accessibility guidelines and standards and finding a (free) web host that could be made accessible to all in my group. Below some thoughts that I expressed in the  tutor forum after reading what we have to do.

“That is indeed a real challenge. I think one issue we have to consider to find a webhost who allows us to upload our document(s). Right now I cannot imaging using my blog or a wiki for that task, but probably I did not think over the whole task enough. When I read the task I thought about creating a website, using e.g. Google sites or simple use HTML to design one, but then again I need to have a web host. My next thought was Mahara, my ‘repository of evidence’, i.e. my eportfolio for H808, I could create a view just for this course. Sounds not to bad, probably better as Google sites, as I never worked with it, but I guess that shouldn’t be to complicated as well. Well, next to the technical issues is the pedagogical one, what do I present, but if I understood that right, it can be any topic and pretty simple, thus the main focus is not necessarily on methodology and principles of teaching, or?”

“I have a couple of technical questions and probably someone can help me with some answers. I plan or actually start  to use Mahara as my resource, but I am not sure how accessible Mahara itself is. I wanted to use the Microsoft narrator, but it only reads gibberish. First I thought its only because the narrator might not be possible to read websites, but ‘Anna’ cannot even read a word document. Any advise on this? I heard about Lynx the text-only-browser, but I don’t want to bust my whole system when downloading it, does it run without problem next to Mozilla Firefox, or Explorer? Well, I turned the images off to see the effect, but wanted to get a different impression.”

However, the pedagogical part was also not so easy, because we work pretty traditional on my school, particular my department, and access to computer labs are seldom, so my teaching resources are mainly paper based (well I have them as digital files), next to some videos (yes we still use them) and some DVDs. Thus it requires some consideration how to present the material in new ways and make best use of the affordances of the technologies.

Another area difficult area is my lack of experience working with disabled students, and my lack of knowledge regarding assistive technology (AT). Though I learned that we in the UK the DAA (Disability Awareness Act, 1995) expect to anticipate needs did I find it difficult to cater for all possible kinds of disabilities and know that I failed to e.g. for blind students and I guess many more 😦

I don’t think that the act of making an accessible resource affected the way I addressed the learning outcomes. Only my lack of time affected the learning outcomes as I initially planned a more comprehensive resource, including skin stressors, skin diseases, care of skin, but finally cut it down to skin anatomy and function.

How many of the decisions you made about the resource were influenced by technical, pedagogical and other considerations? Time or better my lack of time was the main determinator that influenced my decisions. Well, I might have included a test section, if I would have a similar tool like offered e.g. in Moodle, or Xerte as one or two of my peers did, or eXe learning, a tool I once used. However, I started my consideration with what I want to include content-wise into my resource and then started to design the activity with the technology and my technical knowledge available.

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5 Comments
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