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Use Best Practices for Custom Content Types

Use Best Practices for Custom Content Types

Using different content types in your courses can significantly add to the learning experience for your learners. This section covers how to design several custom content types so that your course content is accessible to all learners.

1. Simulations and Interactive Modules

Simulations, including animated or gamified content, can enhance the learning experience. In particular, they benefit learners who might have difficulty acquiring knowledge from reading and processing textual content alone. However, simulations can also present some groups of learners with difficulties. To minimize barriers to learning, consider the intended learning outcome of the simulation. Is your goal to reinforce the understanding that can also come from textual content or a video lecture, or is it to convey new knowledge that other course resources cannot cover? Providing alternative resources will help mitigate the impact of any barriers.
Although you can design simulations to avoid many accessibility barriers, some barriers, particularly in simulations supplied by third parties, might be difficult or impossible to address for technical or pedagogic reasons. Understanding the nature of these barriers can help you provide workarounds for learners who are affected. Keep in mind that attempted workarounds for simulations supplied by third parties might require the supplier’s consent if copyrighted material is involved. If you consider third-party solutions, we encourage you to evaluate them for accessibility. The easiest way to do this is to contact the vendor and ask them about the accessibility of their product. Specifically, ask for their VPAT/ACR.
Consider the following questions when creating simulations, keeping in mind that as the course creator, you enjoy considerable freedom in selecting course objectives and outcomes. Additionally, if the visual components of a simulation are so central to your course design, providing alternative text descriptions and other accommodations might not be practical or feasible.

Does the simulation require vision to understand? If so, provide text describing the concepts that the simulation conveys.

Is a computer mouse necessary to operate the simulation? If so, provide text describing the concepts that the simulation conveys.

Does the simulation include flashing or flickering content that could trigger seizures?

If so, and if this content is critical to the nature of the simulation, take these steps.

Do not make using the simulation a requirement for a graded assessment activity.

Provide a warning that the simulation contains flickering or flashing content.

2. Online Exercises and Assessments

For each activity or assessment that you design, consider any difficulties that learners with disabilities might have in completing it, and consider using multiple assessment options. Focus on activities that can be completed and submitted by all learners.

Some learners take longer to read information and input responses, such as learners with visual or mobility impairments and learners who need time to comprehend the information. If an exercise has a time limit, consider whether the allowed time is enough for all learners to respond. Advance planning might help to reduce the number of learners requesting time extensions.

Some online exercise question types, such as the following examples, might be difficult for learners who have vision or mobility impairments.

Exercises requiring fine hand-eye coordination, such as image mapped input or drag and drop exercises, might present difficulties to learners who have limited mobility. Consider alternatives that do not require fine motor skills, unless, of course, such skills are necessary for effective participation in the course. For example, instead of a drag and drop exercise for mapping atoms to compounds, provide a checkbox or multiple choice exercise.

Highly visual stimuli, such as word clouds, might not be accessible to learners who have visual impairments. Provide a text alternative that conveys the same information, such as an ordered list of words in the word cloud.

3. Third-Party Content

If you include links to third-party content in your course, be mindful of the accessibility of such resources. Xen.ed recommends that you evaluate third-party content prior to sharing it with learners.

You can use the eReader tool or Adding Files to a Course to incorporate third-party textbooks and other publications in PDF format into your course. You can also incorporate such materials into your course in HTML format. 

4. Accessible Custom Content Resources

Provide access to digital publications, from the National Center for Accessible Media, which provides best practices for describing graphs, charts, diagrams, and illustrations.

AccessSTEM provides guidance on creating accessible science, technology, engineering, and math educational content.

 The National Center on Educational Outcomes (NCEO) provides Principles and Characteristics of Inclusive Assessment and Accountability Systems
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