Monthly Archives: November 2008

Sign Smith

While preparing for my latest assignment I discoverd Sign Smith from Vcom3d which can created animated avatars useing sign language.  At hte moment it has alot of limitations such as the price and the face that it onlt uses american sign language, but I thought it was an interesting example of how technology may develop in the future:


Week 11, Activity 2.1. Evaluation Methods

Which approach could you take in your role? 

From my own point own view it is relatively easy to get an accessibility expert to evaluate a learning object.  This is because I work closely with a colleague who is an elearning advisor for accessibility.  She can also train me on how to evaluate accessibility from a number of points.


Are there any other approaches that you are familiar with?

This is not a practical option for many of the learning providers I support who would be more likely to check using checklists, guidelines and assistive technologies.  

If a member of teaching staff is not comfortable with assessing resources, they may ask for support from an expert within the college.  depending on the college this request may go to a member of the learning resource team, the elearning team or the learning support team.  They are more likely to have access to a wider range of accessible technologies for more detailed testing and , if necessary, they could trial the resource with a range of students.


Which approaches would be appropriate for a large virtual learning environment (VLE) such as the one used for this course?

I can think of a few methods if evauating content for a large VLE. each with advantages and disadvantages.


Ensure all contents is checked by a team of assessors before being uploaded.

Advantages: thorough. Disadvantages: timely, expensive.


Give all teaching staff strict guidelines on what they can and can’t add to the VLE. With constant and random checking of material.

Advantages:less expensive, uniform content type accross all areas.  Disadvantages.  Strict guidelines may limit creativity and lead to “accessable but diluted”(pp82) resources.


Ensure staff are aware of the accessibility needs of learners and give them general guidelines while encouraging creativity.

Advantages:  Wider range of resources Disadvantages: Less thorurgh


Ensure content can only get uploaded once it passes through an automated evaluation tool.

Advantages: cheap.  Disadvantages;  automated tools will not take into account common sense (i.e. ensuring invisable images have alt tabs)


Give all learners the oportunity to provide feedback resources.

Advantages: good practice. Disadvantages: can not work as the only evaluation methord.

Week 10 Activity 3.1, Reflections

Why did you choose the particular topic?

Although we are not going to be asesed on the content, I wanted to create a learning object for a genuine course delivered by the learning providers I support.  A-Level biology is avalable at many of the Sixth form colleges I support.

Why did you include particular elements?
Some elements were dictated within the requirements of the activity such as the table and links, while others were based on pedagogic conciderations such as the inclusion of an revision quiz
I wanted to create the resource using an easy to use, open source, content creation tool.  The final choice was between eXe and Xerte.  Although I am more experienced in using eXe, I chose Xerte as I felt the final package would be more accessible.

What guidelines did you refer to when creating the resource?

I referred to a wide range of guidelines including:

What areas were particularly difficult and why do you think this to be the case?
Creating an interactive quiz was difficult because the interactivity causes many accessibility problems.  I could not find many guidelines on how to deal with this. The flash presentation I eventualy used is a compromise between accesibility and an interactive quiz for all.

I also had difficulty meeting the guidelines for using video.  Although I could add subtitles to a youtube version of the video, I could not find a way of embedding the youtube video in an accessable, keyboard controlled player, which kept the subtitle function.

I think both of these activities were difficult as I was trying to meet many accessable and pedagogical requirements.

Week 9 Activity 6.1 Readability Usability and Accessibility

I find it difficult to separate the issues of accessibility and usability without looking first at some definitions:

Branjnik 2000 as cited in Seale (pp84) defines usability as “the effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction with which the specified users achieve specified goals in particular environments”

Seale (pp29) defines accessibility as “removing bariers to participation and engagement in the online experiences and the degree to which someone can acess an online resource regardless of their disability, technology or environment”

These definitions do little to help me clarify significant different outcomes for accessibility and useibility as the definition of accessibility is about “removing bariers to participation and engagement…”, and poor usability is one of those barriers to participation and engagement.  While the usability, is about the “effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction” of “achieving specified goals” which is not possible without accessibility.

It has been argued that accessibility and usability are signifficantly different as website can met accessibility standards without being usable (Thacher 2004 as cited in seale pp86)  However I suggest that this mealy highlights problems with the standards used as the website would not be truly accessible if it was not usable.

I understand that the words readability, usability and accessibility mean different things however I feel that the outcomes are so intertwined that trying to seperate out for the purpose of creating guidelines, would lead to more barriers to good (i.e. accessable, readable and usable) design.

week 10 Activity 2.1 Creating an accessible resource

For this weeks activity I have created a couse using Xerte with the basic techdis template.  The course is for A-Level Biology on the subject of Species and Speciation.

week 9 activity 3.2 issues with guidelines

To what extent do you think guidelines work?

I have found many of the guidelines in this weeks activities useful and informative, however there are major barriers enforcing them in the FE sector.  The overwhelming number of guidelines and resources can be extremely daunting and off-putting, particularly for staff who are not computer literate and may already be resistant to create any online materials.  There are a small number of colleges that have a dedicated team for creating online content, however in most cases teaching staff are encouraged to develop their own materials, often useing a range of resources such as eXe, photostory or the componants of a VLE.  Although some of the guidelines will be relevent to these tools, the language used is often enough to put people off creating anything in the first place.


Going through these guidelines I found the highlighting of the problems more useful that the guidelines themselves.



Who do they work best for?

Most of the guidelines highlighted here are beneficial to staff who have the technical knowladge to fully understand them and heave the time and resources to implement them.  The guidelines which cover basic common applications such as Microsoft office and PDF files, are beneficial  to a many people, however those who use alternatives to, or different versions of the software will not see these guidelines as relevent.



What else might you need to go with them?

Technical knowladge, time, commitment from the learning provider and an understanding of how content created useing a variety of software tools can meet these requirements.



Why do you think there are so many different guidelines?

I feel that it is difficult for the guidelines to maintain their relevance due to a number of factors including:


  • The rapid evolution  of technologies, such as web 2.0 tools, mobile devices and multitouch formats 
  • The of creative and innovative ways in which these tools are being used
  • The evolution of assistive technologies. 


This lack of relevance may go some way to explaining whey there are so many different guidelines.  Another reason for this is the  wide range of people creating content, who require different advice according to their technical knowladge, resources and requirements.  The range of impairments and disabilities which these guidelines try to take into account is another reason why there are so many.  There are also issues as not all guidelines are universally accepted (

Week 9 Guidelines for Specific Components

VLE Pages

Creating accessable courses on Moodle
In the FE sector, most teaching staff are more likely to develop pages as part of a VLE rather than a Web Page, and Moodle is the most common VLE witnin this sector.


Techdis Accessibility Essentials 3 – Creating Accessible Presentations

also avalable as a booklet as part of the Accessibility Essentials set of publications


General guides for creating accessible videos.

Guide for adding captions/subtitles to youtube videos