Home » E-Learning » Accessibility » Designing and developing accessible e-learning experiences: the learning technologist’s perspective.

Designing and developing accessible e-learning experiences: the learning technologist’s perspective.



  1. There is a debate surrounding who is responsible (or most responsible) for accessibility. How helpful is this debate in ensuring that people working in post-16 education change their practices?If those with technical skills, such as learning technologists, are not ultimately or solely responsible for ensuring accessibility, what responsibilities do you think they should have and why?
  2. On pages 82–83, Seale uses an archaeology metaphor to try to encourage learning technologists to dig deeper beneath the surface of accessibility guidelines and standards. This is intended to develop a greater understanding of approaches to accessible design. How helpful do you think this metaphor is?‘Using archaeology as a metaphor, it can be argued that accessibility legislation, guidelines, standards and evaluation tools are not the most helpful or informative place to start. The legislation, guidelines, standards and tools are merely archaeological artefacts that have been scattered on the surface of a significant archaeological site’. Seal 2006:83

    This doesn’t work for me. It doesn’t ring true to the metaphor. a) Archeology implies something ancient and long buried whereas these guidelines are ‘scattered on the surface’ like rubbish dropped at a later stage. The rules and regulations are recent and changing, both in what is said, how interpreted, executed and policed.

    Can you think of an alternative metaphor, image, analogy or visualisation that could be used to help develop learning technologists’ thinking in this area?

    Not only is collaboration in learning coming of age it needs to happen in practice, as increasingly it does in industry. There continues to be a good deal of resistance in higher education, partly this is because of how academics in particular came into managerial positions – if they are. My experience of most academics is that either they want to be left alone to do research, or they want to be left alone with their students – they didn’t chose to ‘go into business’ or join the ‘real world’ because of the stresses in relation to managing tasks such as this and working in a team where they might not be top dog. It would help enormously if those in Higher Education could spend some time working in business and to take these models and employ them on in their department of faculty. For a start, take on roles such as project manager, learning designer, lead programmer, art director, author and so on. Then find a metaphor that works for everyone that evokes both team work and organic growth. A rock band works for me – I resist the orchestra analogy as it is such a cliché and leads to some people wanting to be the conductor or composer. A theatre troupe might be the thing. Or a circus act! But all performing together and dependent on each other. Academics in particular most stop behaving like premadonnas – ‘out here’ they are the ‘subject matter expert’ – less than a writer, just a conduit for knowledge, a talking and responsive version of information that is readily available online anyway. i.e they can be a hinderance. Perhaps the metaphor I would use, which is close to the reality of creating interactive content – would be a film production unit where there are specialists skills, and a hierarchy: executive producer, producer, line producer, director, first assistant director, camera operator, sound engineer, actor 1, actor 2, script writer, script continuity, art director, props, costume … editor, publicity and so on. One weak link and the entire project might fail.

    As it has currency in learning and e-learning circles an even better metaphor might be that of an architect’s studio given the way in which e-learning has to be designed, constructed in a programmer, shared, adjusted, tested, built, tested again, added to with various layers from foundations to walls, plumbing and electrics, then internal and external decor and furnishings. Christopher Alexander’s 1970 book ‘The Timeless Building’ which he developed into a methodology for computer software design is often cited.

  3. On page 98 Seale discusses the tensions regarding the use of technical tools versus human judgement to evaluate the accessibility of learning resources. What is your position concerning this issue? Can we trust human judgement? If so, whose judgement should we trust – learning technologists working within educational organisations or external experts?

We have to trust human judgement, which includes the decision to expect the technology to provide the answers, or do the donkey work. Instead of relying on one piece of software to come up with a myriad of answers that to the uninitiated can look like some task set by a wicked wizard in a fairy tale. I’m in favour of having a large and diverse testing team drawn from a community of learners, including of course those with visual, hearing, mobility or cognitive impairments – to offer opinions – as we have reviewers and editors in things like Wikipedia. i.e. use the power of the numbers online rather than simply the power of a piece of software.

Make brief notes in response to these questions. Your notes should reflect your own context. You can do this as bullet points or just a sentence or two about each question.

Choose one of your answers and post it for discussion in your tutor group forum. If you disagree with Seale about any of the points in this chapter, you could also discuss this in the forum.



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