Think about this: when education is accessible, it’s not just a tool—it’s a bridge, connecting knowledge to everyone, regardless of their abilities or disabilities. That’s why at Thinkific, we believe that creating accessible online courses isn’t just a nice-to-have—it’s a must-have, a core responsibility for every course creator.
Making your online courses accessible isn’t just ticking a box—it’s opening the door to a whole new world for learners who might otherwise be left out. It’s about understanding that every click, every word, and every video in your course can either be a stepping stone or a stumbling block for your learners. We’re here to make sure it’s the former.
In this guide, we’ll walk you through the practical steps to make your online courses as accessible as a park on a sunny day. And, of course, we’ll showcase how Thinkific is your ally in this noble endeavor, equipped with tools and tips to help you along the way.
- Understanding the importance of accessibility in online learning
- How to make your online course accessible
- Empowering inclusivity with Thinkfic’s features
- Additional tools and resources
- Create an accessible eLearning environment with Thinkific
So, what is accessible learning? Imagine a learning environment as welcoming as your favorite cafe. Accessible learning is just that—a place where everyone, regardless of their physical, learning, or cognitive needs, feels right at home. It’s where course materials are crafted with care, ensuring everyone can participate, understand, and thrive.
The spectrum of accessibility
Accessibility in learning covers a broad spectrum. It’s about providing audio options for those who can’t rely on their sight, captions and visual aids for those who can’t depend on their hearing, and considerate content structure for learners with cognitive challenges like ADD, ADHD, or dyslexia. It also means being mindful of those with limited motor skills, ensuring that navigating your course isn’t just possible and effortless.
Why accessibility in eLearning is non-negotiable
- Compliance is key: If you’re in the business of eLearning, staying aligned with Section 508 Standards and the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) isn’t optional. It’s about giving everyone a fair chance to access your content, just like everyone else.
- More common than you think: Did you know, in the US alone, about 4-5% of adults have ADHD? And that’s just one slice of the pie. Learning disabilities and physical challenges aren’t rarities—they’re part of our diverse human fabric. Ignoring them? Not an option.
- Education as a right, not a privilege: This is about more than just user experience. It’s about equality, about giving every learner, regardless of their workplace or personal circumstances, the same opportunities to grow, learn, and shine.
Web accessibility is the backbone of inclusive eLearning. By understanding and adhering to web accessibility standards, you ensure that your courses are compliant and genuinely accessible. It’s about knowing which elements need your utmost attention and why making your course welcoming to all is not just a good practice but a crucial one.
Understanding compliance around accessibility
Navigating the world of accessibility compliance can seem like a complex puzzle, but don’t worry—it’s not as daunting as it looks! Here’s a friendly guide to understanding key standards like Section 508 and WCAG and how they apply to your online courses.
Getting to know Section 508
Section 508 is part of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 in the United States. It’s all about ensuring that electronic and information technology (like websites and online courses) are accessible to people with disabilities. Think of it as a commitment to inclusivity in the digital world.
Who needs to follow it? If you’re a federal agency or an institution receiving federal funding, Section 508 is your playbook. But even if that’s not you, adhering to these standards is a great way to ensure your course is accessible to all.
What does it entail? Section 508 compliance means your online course should be navigable and understandable by everyone, including those who use screen readers or other assistive technologies.
Diving into WCAG
The WCAG are a set of recommendations for making online content more accessible. Developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), these guidelines are the gold standard for digital accessibility across the globe.
The levels of WCAG: WCAG breaks down into three levels of compliance—A, AA, and AAA. Level A is the minimum standard, while AAA is the highest level of accessibility. Most organizations aim for AA, which strikes a good balance between thoroughness and practicality.
What’s in the WCAG? These guidelines cover everything from how text is presented to how users can navigate and interact with content. They ensure that all users, regardless of their abilities, have a similar experience.
Why these standards matter
You might be wondering, “Do I really need to follow these standards?” Here’s the thing—while they might be legally required for some, they’re a beacon of best practices for everyone in eLearning. Following these guidelines not only helps protect you legally but also opens your course up to a broader audience. Plus, it’s just the right thing to do!
Remember, making your online course accessible isn’t just about ticking compliance boxes—it’s about creating an inclusive learning environment where everyone has equal opportunities to learn and grow. And hey, that’s something to be proud of!
Creating accessible content is much like cooking a meal that everyone can enjoy, regardless of dietary restrictions. Here are some key guidelines to ensure your content is universally digestible:
- Avoid long blocks of text. Break them into shorter, digestible pieces.
- Use infographics, bullet points, and microlearning videos for clarity.
- Increase white space, like double spacing between lines, for ease of reading.
Audio and video captioning:
- Add subtitles, closed captions, and transcripts to videos, aiding those with hearing impairments and non-native speakers.
- Highlight key points in videos with text or interactive elements to engage learners with attention deficits.
Navigable and intuitive course design:
- Use clear language for instructions—”choose” or “select” instead of “click.”
- Avoid relying on color for navigation cues.
- Ensure your course is easy to navigate for everyone, with straightforward layouts and logical progression.
Inclusivity in language and design:
- Steer clear of phrases that assume abilities, like “let’s hear” or “see below.”
- Use bold sparingly and ensure essential information is easily identifiable.
Visual content adaptation:
- Add alt text to images for screen readers.
- For complex visuals, consider adding voice-over or audio descriptions.
- Balance contrast in backgrounds and fonts—not too high to strain the eyes, but enough for visibility.
Moderate use of interactive elements:
- Be mindful with drag-and-drop activities—offer keyboard alternatives for those with motor skill challenges.
Incorporating diverse learning styles
Understanding and catering to diverse learning styles is like hosting a party where every guest feels valued.
Here’s how to make your course a hit with everyone:
- Visual learners: They learn best by seeing. Use videos, infographics, and diagrams to illustrate concepts. Color coding and spatial organization in course material can also be very helpful.
- Auditory learners: These learners prefer to listen. Incorporate podcasts, audio explanations, and group discussions. Reading content aloud or using rhymes and music can enhance their learning experience.
- Kinesthetic learners: They learn by doing. Include interactive elements like simulations, role-playing, or building models. Even simple actions like note-taking or drawing diagrams can engage kinesthetic learners.
- Reading/writing learners: They prefer written words. Offer plenty of reading materials, written assignments, and opportunities for note-taking.
- Social learners: These learners thrive in group activities. Facilitate discussions, group projects, and peer reviews to engage them.
- Solitary learners: They prefer to work alone. Provide self-paced modules and individual assignments to cater to their needs.
By integrating various content types and teaching methods, you create a rich, inclusive learning environment that respects and supports the diversity of your audience.
Using accessible technology
Make technology your ally in creating an accessible learning experience.
Implement screen readers and text-to-speech:
- Integrate screen readers to read the text aloud, making it easier for visually impaired learners to follow along.
- Text-to-speech features can be a game changer for learners with reading difficulties like dyslexia, converting written text into audible speech.
Optimize for screen reader users:
- Pay special attention to headings and sound design. Headings should be clear and descriptive, helping learners navigate the content.
- Sound design isn’t just about audio quality—it’s about how audio cues can guide and inform learners who rely on auditory information.
Regular accessibility audits:
- Conduct regular checks against the WCAG standards. These standards are the gold standard for ensuring your content is accessible to all.
- Aim for at least a double-A (AA) rating, though striving for triple-A (AAA) is ideal.
Utilize accessibility tools:
- Tools like AudioEye are essential for checking elements like color contrast and the overall accessibility of your course.
- These tools can help you identify and fix potential barriers, ensuring that your course is as inclusive as possible.
Feedback and improvement
The key to maintaining accessibility is listening to your learners. Here’s how to stay on the right path for success:
Active feedback collection:
- Regularly gather feedback from your learners. This can be through surveys, feedback forms, or even direct conversations.
- Make sure you’re asking specific questions about accessibility, like ease of navigation, clarity of content, and effectiveness of accessibility features.
Be ready to evolve:
- The digital world is constantly changing, as are learners’ needs. Be prepared to adapt and update your course based on feedback.
- This might mean introducing new technologies, tweaking your course design, or even revisiting your content to ensure it remains accessible.
- View feedback not as criticism but as valuable insights to enhance your course. It’s about fine-tuning your course to fit the evolving landscape of eLearning.
- Keep an eye on technological advancements and accessibility trends. Staying updated means staying relevant and accessible.
Inclusive community building:
- Foster a community around your course where learners can share their experiences and suggestions. This not only aids in gathering feedback but also builds a supportive learning environment.
- Encourage peer-to-peer support and engagement. Often, the best suggestions for improvement come from within the community.
At Thinkific, we don’t just host online courses—we empower you to create learning experiences that are accessible to all. Here’s how Thinkific specifically aids in crafting courses that welcome every learner:
Customizable course design
- Your course, your rules. Thinkific’s platform offers unparalleled customization options. This means you can tailor every aspect of your course to meet diverse accessibility needs.
- Adjust text sizes, choose easy-to-read fonts, and create navigable layouts for all. With Thinkific, your course can be as unique as your learners, ensuring that everyone feels included.
Integration with accessibility tools
- Thinkific is designed to work hand-in-hand with various accessibility tools. The platform makes it seamless, whether it’s integrating screen readers or text-to-speech software.
- These integrations are essential components that ensure your course meets important accessibility standards, like the WCAG.
Comprehensive support and resources
- We’re here to help you every step of the way. Thinkific provides an extensive collection of resources focused on accessible course creation.
- From detailed guides and tutorials to a responsive customer support team, you have a wealth of knowledge at your fingertips. Whether you’re a seasoned educator or just starting out, you’ll find the support you need to make your course welcoming to all.
While Thinkific provides a robust platform for course creation, complementing it with additional tools can elevate your course’s accessibility. Here’s a list of tools that can assist in making your online courses more inclusive:
- AudioEye: A digital accessibility tool that helps ensure your course content is compliant with accessibility standards. It’s great for checking color contrast and offering solutions for visual impairments.
- WebAIM: Offers a range of resources, including a contrast checker and accessibility training. Their tools are useful for ensuring that your web content meets WCAG standards.
- NVDA (NonVisual Desktop Access): A free screen reader which is perfect for testing how your course content is experienced by visually impaired learners.
- Otter.ai: A transcription tool that can provide real-time captions for your videos and audio content, making them accessible to hearing-impaired students and enhancing overall learner engagement.
- Loom: Ideal for creating video content with integrated captions. It’s user-friendly and allows for the easy creation of engaging, accessible video materials.
- Readable: This tool analyzes the readability of your text content, ensuring it’s easy to understand for learners with various reading levels and learning abilities.
In the spirit of accessible online learning, let’s keep this simple and meaningful. Embracing accessibility is not just about meeting standards—it’s about opening doors to knowledge for everyone. And that’s where Thinkific comes in.
Thinkific is more than a platform—it’s your partner in this inclusive journey. Our tools, customizable design, and dedicated support are here to help you create courses that don’t just educate but empower every learner. There are enough learning barriers out there, don’t add accessibility to your list.
As you begin on this path of creating accessible online courses, remember, with Thinkific, you’re not just teaching—you’re making a difference. Let’s build learning experiences that welcome everyone. Together, we can shape an inclusive future for online education.
How important is it to make my online course accessible?
Making your course accessible is crucial. It not only ensures compliance with legal standards but also opens up your course to a wider audience, including learners with disabilities.
What are some key elements of accessible course design?
Key elements include readable text, audio and video captions, intuitive navigation, alternative text for images, and compatibility with screen readers.
Can making my course accessible benefit learners without disabilities?
Absolutely! Accessible design often results in clearer and more engaging content, which benefits all learners, not just those with disabilities.
How can I check if my course is accessible?
You can use tools like WebAIM and AudioEye for accessibility checks. Additionally, gathering feedback from a diverse group of learners is invaluable.
Are there legal requirements for online course accessibility?
Yes, there are legal requirements, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), that you should be aware of and comply with.
What should I do if a student reports an accessibility issue?
Take it seriously and act promptly. Assess the issue, make the necessary adjustments, and keep communication open with the student to ensure the solution meets their needs.
Ready to start your online course? Try Thinkific for free here!