A new norm-
Yes, it’s a phrase that divides the audience. Some of us are weary of the over used phrases (unprecedented, anyone?). Others are excited at the prospect of real change. In education I don’t think we really want to see a complete return to the old ways. Our Virtual Learning Environments have always been an extension of the physical spaces we are slowly returning to, but now the affordances are more widely appreciated or understood.
Our 9th annual VLE Awards showed us environments which are rich, integrated spaces. We shouldn’t let a return to physical spaces see our VLE spaces become neglected repositories of files.
Digital carbon footprints
How many of us store mountains of old files in the cloud, or on our personal devices, never to use them again? How many of us make time to watch the recordings of meetings we didn’t attend?
As a university, we have 717,000 hours of Blackboard Collaborate teaching and 785,000 hours of Panopto live and on-demand video (20/21 academic year to May). On average, Collaborate sees nearly 9 thousand unique users a month. Our storage (as you would expect during the shift to online) has skyrocketed.
The internet, email and cloud-based services have cut down on tonnes of physical resources like paper. But the carbon emissions produced from manufacturing, powering, and cooling computers, smartphones, and data centres can add up. The greening of the internet is the next endeavour in our hyperconnected era.Climate Care April 2021
A few megabytes of files here and there in your Blackboard modules may not seem much, but pruning out what isn’t adding anything to your teaching can add up across the institution. You might want to check out how big your video files are.
Are you producing video that goes beyond lecture capture? Consider whether video is the right medium for what you want to explain. Unless you are showing rather than telling, a podcast might be a better way to engage with students.
What is Ally?
Blackboard Ally is a powerful tool to identify and improve accessibility in our VLE. It is rolling out over the summer as part of the Enhancing Blackboard project from iSolutions. Digital Learning will be working with student interns, Faculties and educators. We will run reports on our current levels of accessible resources and take action to improve those levels.
What does Ally mean for me as an educator?
We have a moral (as well as legal) obligation to remove barriers for all of our learners. Digital Learning will provide support and training in how to create accessible materials over the coming year. But we also need your help…
I don’t know where to start…
A spring clean of your current Blackboard content is a great start. Removing neglected files in hidden folders will help to clear a legacy debt of inaccessible materials. When we run the Ally reports, we will be working with a cleaner data set. As a result we can focus on areas that will directly impact students.
If you are new to Accessibility, one of our Senior Learning Designers Matt Deeprose has created this excellent list. Most of it can be worked through in less time than it takes to make a cuppa.
Here are some ideas and resources for learning more about accessibility.
- Read this Accessibility checklist that has 12 tips to make your content more accessible.
- Use the Accessibility Checker in MS Office products to learn about and resolve any accessibility issues it finds.
- Try the “Accessibility Maze”, a browser based game that will teach you some foundational concepts of accessibility. If you want to learn more about it this slide deck gives an overview of the design considerations behind it, and this report What You Can Do to Remove Barriers on the Web will take you further on the journey.
- Install Microsoft Accessibility Insights into Chrome or Edge and run the Accessibility Insights Fast Pass on a site or service you regularly use. If it finds any errors expand that section and follow a link under “Resources for this rule” to read about why it is important.
- Sign up for the 10 days of accessibility. Over ten days you’ll be emailed lessons and examples to help you learn about digital accessibility.
- Sign up for WCAG of the day, to receive a daily email about one of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines recommendations.