Moodle, MOOCs and Accessibility

As if co-facilitating our 3.3 run of our twice-yearly Learn Moodle MOOC weren’t enough, Moodle Community manager Helen Foster and myself have just completed a four week MOOC on accessible online content. We were among around a hundred participants in the test run of this Accessibility MOOC: Inclusive Online Course Design  which will be showcased by its facilitators, Aaron Page and Marlene Zentz, at the New Orleans Moodle Moot #mootus17. If you’re intrigued, here’s a link to  a short video summary by Aaron and Marlene.

Helen and I were very enthusiastic participants on several levels, not least because it gave us a chance to experience a MOOC from a student’s point of view, and this helped us better understand potential issues of participants in our own Learn Moodle MOOC. Additionally, from a course designer’s point of view, we were pleased to observe new ideas and ‘borrow’ them to improve our own course. (If you did the Accessibility MOOC and you join us for Learn Moodle 3.4, see if you can spot some cool improvements :) ) Both these aspects sit nicely with Moodle’s social constructionist philosophy. As Moodle founder and CEO Martin says in our Pedagogy documentation page:

“All of us are potential teachers as well as learners. In a true collaborative environment we are both”

Of course -the main point of the MOOC was to develop our skills in accessible, universal course design, and the course went over and above our expectations. And  knowing Marlene and Aaron, those expectations started high! We aim to improve Moodle’s user documentation on accessiblity based on what we have learned. The MOOC used Moodleroom’s Snap theme, specially designed for accessibility. I struggled a bit with it as it was very new to me and unlike my experiences with other themes. But that’s the fun of trying new things! The teaching elements were divided into different aspects of accessibility with a new focus each week. For example, in the first week we learned about working with text – headings, layout, hyperlinks. Other weeks included information about images, media and uploaded content. I’m not going to go into too much details because I recommend you sign up and do it yourselves…

I had a slight understanding before, but the MOOC really clarified and extended that understanding. I especially appreciated the videos by Aaron and Devin who showed us how they experience online course content using Jaws and Dragon, two assistive technology software programs. That was for me the most revelatory aspect of the MOOC  -in fact, I was so enthused that I sat @mrmoodlefairy down for half an hour and explained to him everything I’d learned so far, culminating in showing him a couple of these videos. (That’s number 2 in the documentation page on Pedagogy by the way!)

As we progressed through the four weeks learning the materials (presented in Moodle Books) we were able to ask (and respond to) any questions in the forums. This gave us an opportunity to experience the Advanced forums plugin, which  I haven’t tried before. Each topic had a little mini-quiz at the end, and I think they were made from the popular H5P plugin – again, a  new experience. As part of the course we had to develop a practice course with accessiblity in mind. We could then share the link to our course during a Moodle workshop activity.That was fun too, since Helen and I are normally at the teacher end of the Learn Moodle MOOC workshops.

At the end of the MOOC we had both done enough to receive a Certificate of Completion and I have to say, having downloaded it, I now totally understand the pride and excitement involved when you successfully click that link!  If you’re able to attend #mootus17 in New Orleans, do go and see Marlene and Aaron’s presentation. Perhaps in a few months time you too will be the proud owner of a certificate like the person in the picture below!

Mary with certificate

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