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How “learnable” is your digital content?



Today, an important and fascinating aspect of how EdTech is evolving for higher ed. Little discussed, but hugely valuable to your student success efforts. We are focusing on both aspirational and pragmatic approaches to solving specific digital accessibility challenges that are likely not on your radar. 

We’ll start here: Learning Management Systems (LMS) are designed to help faculty and students connect effectively. But what happens when the vast amount of content housed on those tools is not given full accessibility considerations?  

Today’s digital classroom embraces the talents and perspectives of learners with neurodivergencies, aural impairment, visual impairment–including students who are partially or fully colorblind–and those for whom English is not their primary language, among a range of other diversities and learning differences.  

But while the online classroom roster of tools has evolved, the digital content thrown into your LMS has largely failed to keep up. In fact, our current digital content is unable to provide full access to as many as 1 in 5 students in the US. And the Department of Justice is taking notice as an increasing number of institutions are facing legal challenges to “digital accessibility.”  Non-compliance has consequences as seen in a number of significant lawsuits making headlines. 

Join This High-Value Webinar

“Shattering Accessibility Limits in Digital Learning,” a Chronicle of Higher Ed hosted webinar with visionary panelists: Gallaudet University President Roberta Cordano, DREDF Senior Staff Attorney Ayesah E. Lewis, and ansrsource President and CEO Rajiv Narayana. The webinar will be moderated by Reporter Kelly Field, who covers, in detail, education and disability access for the Chronicle of Higher Ed, among other media outlets.

Register HERE (no cost to attend and registrants will receive the recording)

Digital accessibility stopped being about just a Dark Mode toggle a long time ago, and the content passively or casually “thrown onto” your LMS by faculty with competing priorities often overlooks accessibility accommodations. The current state simply isn’t going to cut it.

Today, digital accessibility includes formatting and presenting content in a way that accommodates the vast variety of student needs. Providing alternative text for images, closed captions for videos, and text transcripts for audio content are just a few of the features that help your learners learn. 

Read on for a few valuable, actionable tips and an institutional assessment process that may help you make smart decisions and engage your colleagues 

What you are seeking is an inclusive and more worthwhile student journey that requires focus and attention by those charged with student success and learning outcomes. The power of inclusive learning can be achieved by increasing the ease with which students with disabilities and different learning styles can comprehend and retain their course materials. Clarity of presentation, organization of content, explanations with topical relevance, and overall suitability for diverse learning styles and abilities can take center stage. 

Ensuring that all learners have equitable access to their online learning resources, especially those oft-left behind students, aligns with every institution’s mission to prepare students for the world around them. And a word to the pragmatic: the higher education institutions that fail to evolve are putting their legal and financial health at risk. Cue Department of Justice and Berkeley negotiations as recently as November 2022.  

Our partnership with the education access service ansrsource, and our upcoming webinar hosted by The Chronicle of Higher Education, “Shattering Accessibility Limits in Digital Learning,” underscores the urgency of this learnability transformation as well as first-principle digital accessibility, for both student success and institutional posterity – and, provides a how-to on finding and employing the resources that’ll get you there.  

From Minimum Standards to Maximum Potential 

Minimal digital content accessibility accommodations means minimal learnability. And no content accessibility accommodations means… a learning environment where learning can’t happen.  

For both learners with disabilities and for those with diverse and neurodivergent learning styles, consider just a handful of the challenges that inaccessible digital content present to your learners. Take a moment and imagine yourself in their shoes.   

Now, let’s talk about  what some specific and actionable content learnability solutions could look like: 

Lack of Accessibility Compliance: Many digital learning content creators struggle to meet global accessibility standards, resulting in content that is inaccessible to learners with disabilities or diverse learning needs. 

Solution: Implement a meticulous compliance process that ensures adherence to the latest WCAG standards, with a baseline of WCAG 2.0 AA. This involves thorough testing and validation to guarantee that all aspects of the content are accessible to diverse learners. 

Limited Awareness of Best Practices: Your content creators–likely your faculty–may not be aware of the latest digital accessibility guidelines and best practices, which often leads to content that falls short of student needs in terms of its inclusivity and usability. 

Solution: Provide ongoing training and resources to content creators, keeping them informed about evolving accessibility standards, rules, and strategies. This empowers them to incorporate accessibility considerations into their content creation process effectively.  

Inconsistent Implementation: Even when content creators are aware of digital accessibility standards, there may be inconsistencies in their implementation across different learning materials, resulting in a fragmented learning experience.  

Solution: Develop standardized guidelines and templates for creating accessible digital learning content. This practice helps ensure consistency in implementation across different materials and minimizes the risk of accessibility gaps and presents more balanced learning opportunities for all learners.


In each of these solutions, you strengthen your promise to students that your digital classroom is an inclusive space, fostering a culture that values diversity and promotes equity.This approach emphasizes the importance of accessibility in digital learning content creation.  

Charting the Path From Here to There 

Of course, all of that is easier said than done. We understand that it can be daunting. 

It's no surprise that achieving true digital accessibility in education–not just access, but frictionless access and high learnability-is, unfortunately, rarely thoroughly attempted. 

Costly in time, patience, and dollars, doing so requires a concerted and persistent interdisciplinary effort; specific staff and faculty training and compassion for your internal slow-to-adopt-ers; a willingness to challenge inattentive stakeholders who urge for “good enough” (which is not in fact good enough); and a commitment to monitoring your students’ needs because, in case you hadn’t heard, meeting student needs is everything.  

Most of the time, we can count on higher ed to fulfill the minimum standards required by law: investing a moderate amount of Time-Patience-Dollars to elevate online curricula access.  

But the promise of higher education is not about slouching to the lowest acceptable bar: it’s about rising to the occasion. Are we doing all we can to be true to our word? If not, here’s how we might start: 

Training and documentation: Accessibility training that encompasses all staff who interact with learners, and provides specific training tailored to individual roles. The training commences with raising awareness and progresses to equipping staff with the requisite skills for delivering accessible content. This approach includes designing accessible materials, organizing resources effectively, and employing multimedia resources to address diverse learning needs. 

Pilot testing:  Learners, faculty, and staff with disabilities all become key partcipants in reviewing and confirming any technical approach to ensure digital learning accessibility.  

Implementation and monitoring: Administrators oversee the implementation of inclusivity enhancements to your digital content, ensuring that changes are rolled out smoothly and without disruption to teaching and learning activities. Staff and faculty monitor the performance and usability of their updated content, following implementation with simple pathways to report any issues or areas for improvement that are then swiftly resolved. 

Online content learnability extends leagues beyond mere ADA compliance. Rather, it strikes at the core of what we all want as  our resounding educational ethos, and the guarantee we make to our students: that they’ll leave with stronger minds, rosier prospects, and a toolbelt full of valuable new skills.  

Your Next Step: Attend Our Webinar 

In view of all of those benefits that well-oiled digital learning content can bring, the Chronicle of Higher Ed-hosted webinar Intead has pulled together includes a fittingly diverse panel of experts, each offering unique expertise and perspectives. Get a holistic picture of the day-to-day challenges faced by those working in higher education and the tools at our fingertips to overcome digital accessibility and learnability challenges. 

Perhaps the most exciting aspect of the event is the opportunity it presents for dialogue and collaboration. Join us and engage in a dynamic Q&A with our panelists. Share your experiences, ask the hard questions, and brainstorm solutions.  

Curious? Mark your calendar for March 27th, and join us as we embark on this rewarding transformative journey towards inclusive learning.  

Register for the webinar here.  (If you are interested but cannot attend, register to get the recording).

Let's champion learnability to rewrite the future of education. And, as always, be in touch with your questions: info@inead.com. 

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