The VIVID model : accessible IT e-learning environments for the vision impaired
|Assoc. Prof. Helen Armstrong
Sighted learners and vision impaired learners experience different problems when accessing e-learning environments. Web designers use complex visual images and interactive features which learners with vision impairment are unable to access. Learners with vision impairment must rely on assistive technologies to acquire the information they are seeking. Vision impaired learners must have conversion facilities to translate the contents of these displays into readable and accessible formats.This research identifies problems faced by learners with vision impairment and demonstrates how e-learning environments must be modified to ensure success. The most significant problems are the lack of accessibility to teaching materials and an inability to participate in the learning experience to the same extent as sighted learners. Learning materials designed for sighted learners are often unsuited to those with vision impairment. Frequently, text provided is too small and unable to be altered; colour graphics are of little value unless accompanied by text or audio description and interactive Web sites present numerous challenges in navigation. Most courses are designed for sighted learners and learners with vision impairment struggle to maintain the required timeframe because of difficulties in reading texts and documents, completing assignments and sourcing reference materials due to their inaccessible formats and presentation.These problems result in lower academic achievement for vision impaired learners, which in turn lead to a lack of choices in employment opportunities. Learning environments for people with vision impairment need specific consideration in design and implementation. This ensures that the learning materials meet their needs and allow maximum accessibility so that the learners can achieve the same outcomes as their sighted peers.There is a small number of existing models to assist the design of e-learning sites for people with a disability. Kelley’s holistic model (2005) and Seale’s contextualised model (2006) are designed for people with disabilities in general and not specifically for those with vision impairment. Lazar’s Web accessibility integration model (2004) does not take into account the importance of social elements. Prougestaporn’s WAVIP model, (2010) whilst it has generic guidelines, the model is limited in its scope.Venable’s Design Science Research method was chosen to investigate the specific problems faced by vision impaired learners enrolled in IT e-learning courses. The characteristics of approximately one hundred adult vision impaired learners were investigated using two case study environments. The data were collected by observation and semi-structured interviews. Additionally, data were collected from these same learners to identify their specific needs in a Web-based learning situation. Accessibility needs were also identified and analysed. These activities involved the Problem Diagnosis stage in the Design Science Research model. Accessibility guidelines and legal and statutory requirements from several sources were also investigated. The components needed to deliver an effective, fully accessible IT curriculum in two Web-based e-learning environments for the vision impaired was then identified.Information was compiled from studying two learning environments for the vision impaired. Data instruments used in this phase were observations and semi-structured interviews with vision impaired learners and teachers. These activities involved the Problem Diagnosis and Theory Building stages of the Venable model. The relationships between the characteristics and needs of the learner, and the components of the learning environment for an Information and Communications and Technology (ICT) curriculum were analysed and then synthesised to build a conceptual model of an effective Web-based e-learning environment for the vision impaired.A new theoretical model, the Vision Impaired using Virtual IT Discovery (VIVID) was then developed. This holistic framework takes into account the specific needs of vision impaired learners. It also includes a social element which vision impaired learners identified as being extremely important to the success of their learning. This activity involved both the Technology Design/Invention state and the Theory Building stage in the Venable model.An evaluation was carried out by a focus group of eight experts in the field of accessible and e-learning course design and the model was then modified to incorporate their suggestions.The resulting model is a high level, comprehensive conceptual model that can be applied in differing pedagogical environments relating to IT education for adult learners with vision disabilities. It provides a framework to guide education managers, instructional designers and developers who are creating accessible IT e-learning environments for the vision impaired.Whilst this model relates only to the IT area, further research could extend its use to other curriculum areas and to those learners with multiple disabilities.
|accessible IT e-learning environments
|The VIVID model : accessible IT e-learning environments for the vision impaired
|School of Information Systems