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Options and Choices: Online Learning

Here is a selection of some of the main strategies that might be used to address respective needs in terms of online learning. These are just the main strategies so additional links to further useful resources are also included.

Some of these might be considered universal or inclusive approaches that can be applied for the benefit of all learners, whereas others may be more specific interventions that may be needed over and above these to benefit students with specific needs.

As you work through these, think about which of these you do already. Are these things that you could apply in all your teaching? Which of them would most help Hazel or Peter in their situations? 

Agree a consistent structure for the learning management system (LMS) or Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) that all lecturers will adhere to.

  • Agree where key documentation will be found, and which learning technologies are going to be used e.g. Pebble Pad.

By having a clear consistent layout across all modules in a course, students benefit from knowing where to find key documents and information. It also reduces workload for staff by reducing the number of enquiries regarding key information.

Make sure your site is clearly laid out in a logical fashion for screen readers.

  • Use the standard VLE template to ensures that students can navigate the learning materials and assessments in a logical fashion.
  • Make sure that any additional links are self- explanatory and unambiguous.
  • Content Folders should be self- explanatory i.e. Week 1 – Introduction to Cakes.

Ensure images have Alt-text added.

  • This means that you add a description to the image that explains the image content e.g. picture of a man walking a white dog.

Make sure that web links are descriptive and open within a new tab or window.

  • The description needs to explain what is behind the link and not be the actual URL.

Ensure all online content uses consistently formatted text.

  • Use appropriate styles for formatting online content. Using standard heading styles and legible font sizes (12 point minimum in a sans serif font) can help navigation and support reading.
  • This should be available at least 48 hours in advance.

Heading styles help visual impaired students navigate online content on your site. Clear evenly spaced fonts reduce the visual stress for dyslexic students and make content easier to read for everyone.

Check use of colour and colour contrast.

  • You need to check the contrast ratio of your text against the background. It should be at 4.5:1 and that any information where you use colour is not dependant on colour alone.

Ensure all video content includes captions (this includes live lectures)

Communicate clearly.

The same rules for effective apply in online learning as in face to face. In fact, you might need to consider adapting your style to ensure that students are able to access the information you are seeking to convey. Some key principles are:

  • Use plain language to avoid ambiguity.
  • Consider slowing down your delivery
  • Offer clear explanations of new terminology
  • Clearly explain how students can use online tools such as chat rooms, voting tools etc. Do not assume mastery of these. Send prior information to students so that they can get used to new tools and offer them the opportunity to ask questions about this prior to using them.
  • Structure sessions in clear chunks, providing regular pauses for students to process ideas, reflect on content and generate questions or rest.

(Adapted from the University of Worcester’s Inclusion Toolkit

Pause for thought

Reflecting on both scenarios in this section the suggestions above:

  • How does your practice support the needs of students with regard online learning?
  • What changes to teaching and learning strategies could you make in these situations? Might you do things differently?
  • Who do you need to involve in order to make support for students effective?
  • What are the main barriers to you accommodating students’ needs with regard to online learning? How can these be overcome?
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