6 Ways You Can Use Compassion and Clarity to Ensure Online Learning Remains Accessible

Learning is about much more than facts and figures. As we encounter new situations and information, our perspectives are likely to change—or at the very least—be influenced by what we’ve learned.

Our perspectives and the way we feel are also likely to impact how we design online learning courses. It’s important to approach course creation with compassion for our students in order to create content that is accessible and meaningful to them. Likewise, our online lessons need to be clear and easily understood by any potential learner. The last thing we want is to exclude someone from learning!

This article explores how building online learning courses with compassion and clarity improves online education. We also provide examples of how to demonstrate compassion for learners and make your online courses easy to understand.

Start With Compassion

Besides making websites, videos, images, and text more accessible, it’s also important to make your organization more accessible. Compassion shows not only in the way we design, but also in the way we speak about or perceive others.

It’s very easy to overlook people outside our “zone of normal”. Remember, society’s version of the so-called normal image of a disability isn’t entirely correct, making it difficult to determine how to create truly accessible environments. We need to change our viewpoint to design accessible and inclusive learning content. Here are some base-line aspects to be conscious of when creating educational/training content:

1) Color Contrast

Globally, at least two billion people have some kind of vision impairment. Color blindness especially affects 8% of males and 0.5% of females. This condition alters a person’s ability to differentiate colors or distinguish shades of individual colors.

To prevent users with color blindness from struggling with your content, be conscious of color contrast when designing your course. Color contrast is the difference between foreground and background colors. Designs need to be high contrast, meaning they should use combinations where colors stand out from each other.

Avoid using very light colors against a white background, dark colors against black backgrounds, or red and green together. If colors lack high contrast, a significant number of users will be unable to see them.

Many tools online, like this free accessible color palette builder, allow you to test color combinations and confirm if they meet accessibility standards.

You also want to avoid using color alone to convey meaning. In charts or activities, ensure that you provide another source of information besides colors, like adding text to each part of the chart, or accompanying colors with symbols.

KEEP READING | ‘7 Things to Know About Being an Online Teacher

2) Language Is Important

Disabilities shouldn’t define a person, yet some common phrases carry this implication. A simple change that has a huge impact is to reframe the wording we use when talking about disabilities by putting the focus on the person, not their disability. Some examples include:

  • A disabled person → a person with a disability
  • A blind person —--> a person who is blind
  • A deaf person —--> a person who is deaf
  • A depressed person —--> a person living with depression
  • An autistic person —--> a person with autism

Make a conscious effort to ensure that learners feel like they matter, that they are valued members of the group, and that you don’t define them using just one or two characteristics. This rule applies to all interactions you have—whether you’re lecturing a class at your institution or organization, recording a video, streaming live class sessions, or giving feedback

3) Multiple Ways to Show Achievement

Learners can get to the same objectives by many different means. Part of being compassionate is recognizing that a test or an essay isn’t the only way to demonstrate achievement.

The standardized testing method usually involves completing a test within a specified amount of time and where every learner gets the same set of questions. However, if a member of your school or organization has a disability that might make it harder for them to read, even just looking through the questions could be a challenge.

Standard testing isn’t cognitively appropriate for some disabilities and therefore could be a poor reflection of the learner’s intelligence and/or understanding of the content. Within your LMS, you can include tools like essay questions, game-type activities, peer evaluation, or polls to test students in different, more accessible ways.

FROM THE BLOG | ‘How Online Learning Boosts Your Engagement and Retention

Create Clarity

Having clear and easy-to-understand lessons is important to all kinds of learners. Students need clarity, especially in an online environment, to understand what the main goals of the course are, what’s expected of them, and how to use the course’s tools effectively. With sufficient clarity, learners gain independence and have control over their learning journey. Here are some elements to include within your content to achieve clarity:

1) Simplicity

Finding information in a course involves a series of decisions. Designers must simplify their courses enough to make it clear what learners have to do or where they have to click. A course layout with too much going on at once can stress out any student, but it’s especially challenging for users with learning disabilities who require more energy to know where to focus.

We want to minimize the number of decisions that users need to make to get to the information. That way, users don’t feel overwhelmed with too much information at once. Put in what you need and nothing more. If you want to add extra information, highlight it as optional, that way you can keep things simple and have students focus on what they need. You can prioritize information by creating sections called “What You Need to Know” and “Nice to Know” to provide clarity on what’s essential.

You can leverage LMS technology to create simple content. Open LMS, for example, can help you turn content into interactive books using H5P. It compresses information to create interactive lessons and gives learners the option to engage only as much as they need to.

2) Summarizing

Summarizing enhances comprehension in any educational context. It teaches learners to filter the information and discern which are the main ideas and which act as complementary information. Learning becomes really effective when we can activate prior knowledge. It helps decrease cognitive load and increase learning performance.

By connecting information and summarizing, you bring all the learning pieces together, which also helps the learners re-encode those pieces of information. Instead of starting a lesson with new content, add a brief summary of both what was discussed in the previous lesson and what learners will need to understand the new content.

3) Giving Directions

This is when clarity and context come together. You want to design your courses with clear directions and signposts so that students always know where they are. Be mindful that learners will often need to hear or read directions more than once. Simple changes to the course settings in your LMS will do wonders, such as:

  • Adding banners at the top of your course that help learners orientate. Banners that indicate the previous, current, and next lessons contribute immensely to reducing anxiety.
  • Configuring the course layout to show one section per page only (avoiding endless scrolling).
  • Including an activities block—a list of all activities within a lesson that users can navigate through and where they can find resources easily.
  • Linking to previous lessons you mention in the current topic. Open LMS provides an activity name auto-linking feature to help you do this.

JUST FOR YOU | ‘5 Effective Strategies That Create Successful Communities of Practice

Always Put the Learner First

No matter if you’re designing for large-scale corporate training or freshmen undergraduate courses, your primary goal is to teach someone a new concept. People—your learners—are the priority, so keep them in mind as you create your online learning content.

Compassion for users and a willingness to understand, or try to understand, someone else’s circumstances will go a long way in building confidence in your students and helping you create successful digital learning environments. Likewise, using clear directions and objectives every step of the way will surely improve your learners’ experience and your online content.

Open LMS, an industry leader in open-source online education, can guide you in creating digital content for both business and higher learning needs. To learn more about how to make your online learning more accessible, read our ebook, 4 Principles for Accessible Design in Digital Learning.

Discover our solutions