Policies and Regulations
Based on your ideas for course structure, student learning outcomes, and content that you’ve come up with during your planning process, you can begin developing the course. Developing a course includes creating assessments, writing content, choosing readings, and picking multimedia elements. Once all the parts are complete, you’re ready to test the course and prepare for its first offering.
As you begin the development phase of your course, remember to keep University policies and legal rules and regulations in mind. There are federal, state, and possibly school-specific guidelines you must comply with to make sure you follow fair use intellectual property policies and to make your course accessible to all students, so make sure you fully research your responsibilities.
Compliance & Accessibility in Your Online Course
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is the first law that made it unlawful to discriminate against people with disabilities. ADA “prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, transportation, public accommodation, communications, and governmental activities.”
Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act
Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act is the law that specifically pertains to information communication and technology (ICT) resources (e.g. online content). All federal agencies, including institutions of higher education, must make their ICT and all online content accessible to people with disabilities.
Put it into Practice
As an online instructor, you might be authoring content that contains common accessibility errors that often result in huge barriers to students. Luckily you can address some of these errors fairly quickly and easily on your own.
Alt text refers to brief captions, or text descriptions, used by screen readers to describe what is portrayed in the image.
Descriptive hyperlinks allow screen readers to read meaningful text instead of long urls to screen reader users. As an added benefit, they are easier for all users to read and understand. Descriptive links can serve as a “preview” of the upcoming information to give the reader an idea of what’s to come
Structure page content to include headings, subheadings, etc. This is essential for users who navigate the screen by keyboard only, or use a screen reader to read text and locate information on the screen since they are not able to use visual cues.
Text should be presented in a way that is easy for the user to view, read, and understand. Text size should be reasonably large (size 10 or higher) and the color should contrast the background page color (text dark, background light or vice versa).
Closed captions are text captions synchronized with video audio and images. Closed captioning for pre-recorded media must be provided because not having it results in total exclusion to someone with a hearing impairment. A huge advantage to closed captions is that they have been found to enhance comprehension, engagement, and retention during the learning process for all students.
For audio-only recordings, include a transcript of the words spoken, but also full descriptions of sounds, gestures, or other elements. There are third-party vendors and resources at UNCG to help with captions, transcripts and audio transcriptions.
Certain text editing and presentation software, such as Adobe Acrobat Pro, and Microsoft Office, integrate native accessibility checkers within their platforms. Accessibility Checkers are typically used to “check your work”, ideally after you’ve implemented the appropriate accessibility design elements during the authoring/design phase of course development. An accessibility checker will find some (but not all) of the accessibility errors that will limit or prevent a student from accessing your content. Accessibility checkers are quick and easy to run, but the amount of time needed to fix errors will depend on which errors are found. Checkers that find alt text, descriptive links, and heading structure errors will be quick to fix. Other errors could take more time and require assistance from an expert. Also, some errors will need to be checked manually.
- Canvas Accessibility Checker, Checking for Accessibility
- More advanced tools: Canvas UDOIT (Universal Design Online content Inspection Tool), WAVE by WebAIM (online web page checker)
- Contact an accessibility expert on your campus for help (e.g. Academic Technology Specialist, Web Accessibility Coordinator, Accessibility Services Office)
There are many other things to consider when creating an accessible online course. The following lists additional resources for addressing accessibility beyond what is covered here.
- Accessible Tables
- Accessible Multimedia
- Checking 3rd Party Materials for Accessibility
- Color & Accessibility (hint: use good color contrast; don’t use color alone to convey your message)
- Creating Accessible PDFs (hint: create an accessible Word or Google doc first, and then convert to PDF)
- Captioning for Live Online Events (applies to live lectures, presentations, ceremonies, etc)
- Testing & Converting Scanned PDFs
Because laws may change, please check with the University for the most current legal restrictions. The World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) also has a robust set of accessibility guidelines and standards related to web accessibility.
As a comprehensive guide, the Accessibility Resources at UNCG website shares resources and beginning strategies for UNCG faculty seeking to comply with ADA and other requirements.
The Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) “is a Federal law that protects the privacy of student education records.” To comply with FERPA requirements, instructors must ensure that grades and other private student data are not accessible by other students or the public. Keeping grades in the LMS helps to ensure the grades remain private.
Copyright relates to the four fair use factors:
- Character and purpose of proposed use
- Nature of the work to be used
- Effect on the market or potential market for the work
- Amount and sustainability of the portion to be used
To comply with copyright guidelines, instructors should seek out public domain images, ask publishers for permission to use copyrighted items, and post links to documents and videos rather than reposting them in the course. Always cite your sources.
UNC Greensboro’s University Teaching and Learning Commons, in collaboration with campus partners including the Counseling Center and the Dean of Students Office, created a series of sample syllabus statements. They can be used as-is, or serve as inspiration for developing your own statement to include in your syllabi.
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