Sanoma Oyj: Designing accessible learning tools ensures inclusive learning opportunities

In the spring of 2020, the covid pandemic forced education to leap into the digital sphere with unprecedented speed. Teachers around the world have risen to the daunting challenge of continuing to deliver distance learning. With new tools and methods, new practices have emerged and the role of inclusive online content has become essential.

Educators expect high-quality digital learning platforms to have learner-centric materials and user-friendly features hosted on a secure, GDPR-compliant platform. In addition, the platform tools must be accessible to all students. The World Wide Web Consortium’s Web Accessibility Initiative, WAI, has developed guidelines for accessible digital content, known as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. They describe in detail how digital solutions should be created to enable access for all through four principles of accessibility: perceivable, operable, understandable and robust. The guidelines are adopted by both the EU Web Accessibility Directive and the US Rehabilitation Act.

itslearning design accessible learning tools to ensure inclusive learning opportunities
itslearning, our learning company based in Norway, offers a learning management system for all levels of education. Universal design and accessibility is one of the guiding principles throughout the development of this system, with the aim of ensuring an inclusive platform that can be used by all students and teachers alike. A dedicated development team analyzes, plans and implements accessibility improvements. In line with itslearning’s long-term strategy to improve accessibility, we have created internal guidelines on inclusive design and provide accessibility training for developers and testers.

“Accessibility is always a priority when we develop new features. At the same time, we are working on improving accessibility in older parts of the platform. Development work is ongoing and we have a clear and accessibility priorities across our platform,” says Kristian Rye VenneslandGlobal Development Manager at itslearning.

A handy tool used to ensure accessibility is Microsoft’s Immersive Reader, also used in itslearning solutions. It is designed to support students with reading difficulties, such as dyslexia, but can be used by anyone who wants to make their reading experience easier. Immersive Reader reduces distractions and simplifies the user interface to allow the student to focus on the content. Additional features are also available, such as a read-aloud function and a picture dictionary to help explain difficult words.

Keep it simple! Six practical tips for creating accessible content
What makes learning and a learning management system accessible is also the content. This is where teachers play a key role as they add the content into the management system. That’s why itslearning provides teachers with simple tips on how to ensure better accessibility when creating content:

  1. Keep it simple. Simple, clear language helps everyone understand what you’re trying to say.

  2. Colors can be a challenge: make sure the contrast of the text against the background is good.

  3. Links are an important part of an online world: make sure the link text describes what the link is for, not the URL.

  4. Use alt text on images to help the visually impaired.

  5. Videos require subtitles, preferably closed captions, or alternative text.

  6. Audio content should be available as text, so be sure to include a text version or transcript as well.

This article is part of a series featuring examples of products and services from our learning activities across Europe. Sanoma aims to develop inclusive learning in line with Sanoma’s sustainability strategy.

itslearning – headquartered in Bergen, Norway – is Europe’s largest provider of learning management systems. Since 1999, our award-winning LMS has been improving education by providing teachers with actionable, actionable guidance in the classroom for students at all educational levels. itslearning is part of the Sanoma Learning business unit within the Sanoma Group, serving over 20 million students in 11 countries.

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