“Universal design is the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design” –Ron Mace, NCSU Center for Universal Design
A fundamental of online instructional design is that learning materials should be accessible to all students. Ecampus works closely with faculty to ensure accessibility of course content for everyone. For example, since some students cannot hear an audio track on a lecture video, it’s essential that a transcript of the narration or closed captioning is provided.
Martha Smith and Gabe Merrell are OSU campus leaders in universal design and accessibility, and frequently discuss universal design for instruction with OSU faculty and staff. Martha is Director of Disability Access Services, and Gabe is Senior Accessibility Associate and Deputy ADA Coordinator in the Office of Equity and Inclusion. They note that the principles of universal design offer guidance for the design of every element of an instructor’s “toolkit,” from syllabi to presentation of content, course activities and assessments. They point out that universal design benefits all learners. For instance, some students who can hear the audio track on a lecture video find that they learn more if they take a few extra minutes to read the companion transcript.
Gabe and Martha emphasize the importance of considering universal design up front in the development of teaching materials, instructional methods and means of assessing student learning. This is the approach the Ecampus Course Development and Training team takes with online and hybrid course development. As Ecampus serves an increasingly diverse student population, universal design enhances learning in the online classroom.
Ecampus instructional designer Melanie Kroening has created a great guide called 5 Accessibility Tips for “DIY” Course Designers that provides practical techniques for instructors to enhance the accessibility of course content.