Universal design of online learning

For this post, I will be looking at an online tutorial I evaluated for an assignment earlier this semester, Welcome to the search for the skunk ape: An information literacy tutorial from Florida Gulf Coast University.  I think this tutorial is great. It’s self-paced, entertaining, and informative. It takes a first year student through their very first research paper at the university, using the skunk ape, a mythical creature akin to Bigfoot, as the research topic. For the purpose of this post, I will only be looking at Module 1.
Universal design allows people of all abilities to be able to access information, or “a set of principles for curriculum development that give all individuals equal opportunity to learn” (What is UDL, 2013) 

Stephanie Maata, in her presentation on universal design, outlines seven principles universal design principles:
  • Equitable use
  • Flexibility in use
  • Simple and intuitive
  • Perceptible information
  • Tolerance for error
  • Low physical effort
  • Size and space for approach and use (Maatta, 2013.)

For the most part, the skunk ape tutorial adheres well to the 7 principles. It is mostly accessible, with some hurdles. The layout is simple and intuitive. It follows a clear path or outline. The pages are high contrast and the material is cut into bit sized chunks. No page has too much information and covers only one small topic. The navigation is obvious but small on the bottom of the page.

The YouTube videos and have closed captioning. The Quicktime videos are somewhat frustrating as the navigation buttons are slightly cut off and hard to use. There are subtitles for these videos and for at least one of them the tutorial does provide a pdf chart of the information from the video.

There is one page that may be difficult for a visually impaired person to navigate. The main part of the material is an image of an encyclopedia entry. As I am not familiar with screen readers, I’m not sure if it is capable of distinguishing text on an image. The quiz for this page is also visually based in that the student has to click on the correct spot on the page to answer the question. This may also pose a problem for people who have physical limitations. Another page, on scholarly versus popular resources, depends on the student identifying images of covers and articles.

Overall, this tutorial does a good job for everyone except the visually impaired. With the dependence on visual objects on several pages with no clear work around, the visually impaired would find it difficult if not impossible to fully benefit from this tutorial.

Maatta, S. (2013, October 6). Creating accessible online learning environments [Microsoft PowerPoint].

Welcome to the search for the skunk ape: An information literacy tutorial. (2012). Retrieved December 8, 2013, from http://library.fgcu.edu/rsd/instruction/skunkape/skunkape.htm

What is UDL? (2013, April 17). Retrieved December 8, 2013, from http://www.udlcenter.org/aboutudl/whatisudl
Categories: instruction, LIS7880

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