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The attribute of accessibility

Read this article about the attribute of accessibility in HyFlex.
© University of Southern Queensland

Accessibility can have different meanings for different people and contexts.

In HyFlex, we really want to define accessibility as providing options for the learner so that they have the flexibility to access content, ideas and collaborations through whichever mode they choose and at a time and place that they choose.

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The reason that accessibility is a priority for a HyFlex environment is because of technology. Accessibility is possible in ways that were previously inconceivable due to network capabilities, software, and hardware. With the rise in access to networked technologies, there has been an increase in enrolment into post-secondary formal education by groups of people who would previously not have been able to do further study. For example, people with children are now more likely to return to study because they can access the learning experiences from home, asynchronously, at any time, and in a place that fits with their other commitments. The ubiquitous nature of the internet and the way in which anyone can produce learning materials has facilitated access to informal learning experiences ranging from how to knit to how to change a tyre.

Another aspect to accessibility is the way that learning experiences are designed. Technologies that support different learner needs have increased and become more widely accepted as the norm. This includes assistive technologies such as text-to-speech software, voice recognition, reading pens, proofreading software, ability to adjust text size and colour, virtual reality, and augmented reality. Those designing learning experiences now have easier access to audio and video creation materials including captioning, thereby offering the learner a variety of modes to access the content and ideas.

An area of learning design that is perhaps less considered is the asynchronous experience. There is often an assumption that synchronous experiences are the lifeblood of learning—one in which the teacher interacts in real time with the learner. However, current technologies provide asynchronous experiences that not only provide high quality interactions but also allow the learner to choose when they will interact and how they will interact. We have already touched on asynchronous experiences and will expand on this further in 2.10 when we present a case study for effective asynchronous learning.

When designing for HyFlex, you may observe that there are overlaps in the principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL):

  • Engagement: the why of learning
  • Representation: the what of learning
  • Expression: the how of learning (Rose & Meyer, 2006)

Each of these are considered and presented to the learner through numerous means. Barriers should be anticipated in order to circumvent them early. Learning goals and objectives should always be clear and achievable through various pathways.

If you are already using UDL principles, you will find that you are either in a HyFlex environment or very close to it. If you are new to UDL, we encourage you to explore the online resources further.

Rose, D. H., & Meyer, A. (2006). A practical reader in universal design for learning. Harvard Education Press.
© University of Southern Queensland
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