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The Accessibility Awareness Toolkit A Toolkit for eLearning Faculty, Instructional Designers and Staff

Introductions

This toolkit provides a guideline to establish the project scope, project management framework, leadership approach, stakeholders, role and responsibilities, resource management, and outcome measures regarding the implementation of accessibility in learning resources.

project scope & Organizational Goal for Student Success

Project Scope is a big-picture perspective through defining deliverables in order to ensure the innovations’ sustainability and project’s success. In developing a Project Scope, it is imperative to define a project charter, individual and business need requirements, and organizational policies, procedures, standards and guidelines (Cox, 2009, p. 68). Conversely, certain aspects such as completion criteria, external dependencies, assumptions and constraints should be excluded (p. 71) to maintain a focused document.

The organizational goal for student success is providing inclusive education, a learning environment where students with disabilities have the right for an education with their peers. It is the acceptance and appreciation of all individual differences, including culture, race, gender, socio-economic status, sexual orientation and disability (Carrington, 1999).

Through the use of accessibility policies, guidelines and needs assessments, it is possible to reflect implementation requirements, ensuring the inclusion of all learner needs within scope documentation. Additionally, product analysis, alternatives identification, expert judgement and facilitated workshops are used to gather relevant information (p. 68). One method of garnering expert judgement is Draffan & Rainger’s proposal of gathering and recording learner characteristics through the use of an ePortfolio (2006, p. 61). This combination helps faculty understand how to implement accessibility in an e-learning environment, particularly with regard to course content.

Project Management Framework

Organizational change is often lead by a data-driven decision that proceeds to the implementation of a project. The Project Management Institute (2004) has identified nine essential knowledge areas: integration, scope, time, cost, quality, human resources, communication, risk, and procurement. Thus, managing a project, whether bringing accessibility awareness, sharing knowledge or supporting faculty, has an extended impact and beyond faculty’s responsibilities. At the organizational level, we must remove barriers for learners and create an inclusive learning environment. Weiner (2009) echoes this, noting that change in one area has repercussions in another and, sometimes, on an unexpected scale due to organizations being complex systems.

An effective change process requires significant and inclusive investments of time, resources, and relationship-building, before the implementation stage (Kouzes & Posner, 2011). In order to accomplish this, including Change Management alongside Project Management is essential for success.

Leadership Approach

Watt (2014) defines leadership as the “ability to motivate and inspire individuals to work toward expected results”(Chapter 2). No individual leadership approach is preferred over another in this kind of project. As Watts (2014) states: “leadership style is a function of both the personal characteristics of the leader and the environment in which the leadership must occur” (2014, p. 114). Regardless of a leader’s individual personal characteristics, three important skills for leaders identified by Shi & Chen (2006) are “oral communication skills, being able to build harmonious relationships, and motivating and incentive skills” (Chapter 8). Every project is a unique situation. When it comes to a leadership approach, it is essential to match it to the project's complexity (Watts, 2014). Developing a tool to assist faculty with building accessible learning resources is complex. In particular, it may require the development of institutional policies that change practice, identify a team of key institutional stakeholders and lead the change to embed accessibility across the entire institution (Seale, 2006).

stakeholders

Stakeholders are an crucial component for leadership to identify in any learning project. As such, it is important to identify all the stakeholders in your project upfront since not doing so typically leads to undesirable consequences and uncertainty to the project caused by stakeholders (Karlsen, 2002). Once identified, relevant stakeholders may be informed of potential risks and impacts of any changes since, according to Jergeas et al. (2000), stakeholders are the judges who have the right to assess a project's success.

In general, stakeholders can be people external to the institution and the internal setting and may include project team members, contractors and subcontractors, suppliers, management, and internal and external customers (Watt, 2012). While all participants involved in the project will require consideration in terms of potential problems and uncertainty (Karlsen, 2002), some of the most important stakeholders should be the students and teachers. This focus on keeping key stakeholders happy allows for student and faculty who, as end-users, may be equally affected by accessibility needs, will make or break the project (Watt, 2012, p. 42)

roles & responsibility

Once stakeholders are identified, it is critical to define clear project roles and responsibilities (Watt, 2014). Key roles in creating an accessibility tool include but are not limited to students, faculty, learning technologists, student support services, staff developers, and senior management. Producing accessible resources requires all involved to work as a unit (Seale, 2006). It is important in such a project to determine tasks and a timeline. In developing a schedule Watt, (2014) states that “we first need to define the activities, sequence them in the right order, estimate the resources needed, and estimate the time it will take to complete the tasks.” (Chapter 10). In breaking down the responsibilities in terms of who will complete which tasks, a work breakdown structure (WBS) in the form of a flow chart or graphic can be created. The WBS defines the project scope and divides the required tasks. By creating a WBS, all involved in the project can visualize the tasks that need to be completed and make it easier to assign and manage each task. (Watts, 2014)

resource management

One method of assessing training or technology needs is the judgement of accessibility experts (Watt, 2014, p. 105). Another method is the use of existing data. For instance, while the cost of accommodating an employee may be relatively low (Accessibility awareness toolkit, n.d., p. 45), accessibility in e-learning may necessitate costly changes, particularly to existing courses. As a result, it can be more cost-effective to develop with accessibility in mind (Kent, 2015) through adaptation and flexibility (Cooper & Seale, 2010), blending both pedagogy and specific technologies such as ePortfolios and personalized data (pp. 1114-1115). Combined with expert judgement, specific needs can be assessed in a more personalized manner.

Once these needs have been assessed, a budget may be created by determining the resource costs, external vendor bids, estimation of reserves to mitigate cost overruns, and tracking the cost of activities. (Watt, 2014, p. 132). It may be similar to assessing training and technology needs; however, it may be valuable to consult past data, whether of in-house projects or published data from others. Found in “articles, books, journals and periodicals” (p. 105), this allows the establishment of a baseline for a comparative deployment cost.

outcome measures

As noted above, data collection can be a key component to ensuring that all students can access course content and resources. Typically, quantitative data gathered from online interaction data is used to note links in activity participation and drop-out and participation rates (Cooper et al., 2016). Similarly, quantitative data gathered through surveys, tests and other methods can help identify stakeholder thoughts and experiences, both past and present. Combining this data from various stakeholders such as faculty and students through mixed-method research can provide a rich foundation for improving the user experience.

It is important that any data collection requirements and their presentation are noted during the initial project stages. Similarly, stakeholders should be notified of these requirements as soon as possible in order to both prepare stakeholders from the outset and ensure the availability of assessment resources. This avoids any issues in resource allocation since, when more resources are required than are available, the likelihood of conducting a useful evaluation is low (Posavac, 1997).

Apart from the appropriate calculation of statistics, outcome measures should also account for the wider cultural context in which the project takes place. Similarly, evaluators should also be careful not to include personal prejudices or other preferences (Maestas et al., 2010) to ensure accessibility efforts are not hampered.

Conclusion

Again, it is important to note that change is difficult and that resistance is to be expected. According to Jost (2015), “resistance to change stems from the fact that we value the groups to which we belong, and therefore changing our attitudes or behaviour is tantamount to leaving the comfortable embrace of a social reality” (p. 3). Thus, a project such as bringing accessibility awareness for faculty requires significant and inclusive project planning.

Team Members

This Toolkit was created by Eric Yu, Jean-Pierre Joubert, Shelley Dugan, and Vanessa Tran as an Assignment for Leading Change in Digital Learning as part of Royal Roads' Master of Arts in Learning and Technology. It is released in 2021 under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0.

references

Accessibility awareness toolkit. (n.d.). March of Dimes Canada. https://www.marchofdimes.ca/en-ca/programs/businesstraining/Documents/Training-Institute-Accessibility-Awareness-Toolkit.pdf

Canadian Survey on Disability—Reports A demographic, employment and income profile of Canadians with disabilities aged 15 years and over, 2017. (2019, March 12). LDAC-ACTA. https://www.ldac-acta.ca/canadian-survey-on-disability-reports-a-demographic-employment-and-income-profile-of-canadians-with-disabilities-aged-15-years-and-over-2017/

Carrington, S. (1999). Inclusion needs a different school culture. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 3(3), 257–268. https://doi.org/10.1080/136031199285039

Cooper, M., Ferguson, R., & Wolff, A. (2016). What can analytics contribute to accessibility in e-learning systems and to disabled students’ learning? 99–103. https://doi.org/10.1145/2883851.2883946

Cooper, M., & Seale, J. (2010). E-Learning and accessibility: An exploration of the potential role of generic pedagogical tools. Computers & Education, 54, 1107–1116. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2009.10.017

Cox, D. (2009). Project management skills for Instructional Designers: A practical guide. iUniverse.

Draffan, E. A., & Rainger, P. (2006). A model for the identification of challenges to blended learning. Research in Learning Technology, 14(1). https://doi.org/10.3402/rlt.v14i1.10937

Jergeas, G. F., Williamson, E., Skulmoski, G. J., & Thomas, J. L. (2000). Stakeholder management on construction projects. AACE International Transactions, P12.1-P12.6.

Jost, J. T. (2015). Resistance to Change: A Social Psychological Perspective. Social Research, 82(3), 607-636,860.

Karlsen, J. T. (2002). Project stakeholder management. Engineering Management Journal: EMJ, 14(4), 19–24. https://dl.acm.org/doi/10.1145/2883851.2883946

Kent, M. (2015). Disability and eLearning: Opportunities and barriers. Disability Studies Quarterly, 35(1), Article 1. https://doi.org/10.18061/dsq.v35i1.3815

Kouzes, J. M., & Posner, B. Z. (2011). Credibility: How leaders gain and lose it, why people demand it, 2nd Edition. https://royalroads.skillport.com/skillportfe/assetSummaryPage.action?assetid=RW$564:_ss_book:43184#summary/BOOKS/RW$564:_ss_book:43184

Maestas, N., & Gaillot, S. J. (2010). Outcome evaluation of the Success for Kids Program. The RAND Corporation. http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/royalroads-ebooks/detail.action?docID=669777

Posavac, E. J. (1997). Outcome-based evaluation: Robert L. Schalock. New York: Plenum Press, 1995, 242 pp. Evaluation and Program Planning, 20(1), 114–115. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0149-7189(97)89642-5

Project Management Institute (Ed.). (2004). A guide to the project management body of knowledge (PMBOK guide) (3rd ed). Project Management Institute, Inc.

Seale, J. (2006). E-learning and disability in higher education: Accessibility research and practice. ProQuest Ebook Central. https://ebookcentral-proquest-com.ezproxy.royalroads.ca

Shi, Q., & Chen, J. (2006). The human side of project management: Leadership skills. Newtown Square, PA: Project Management Institute, Inc.

Watt, A. (2014). Project management. BCcampus. https://opentextbc.ca/projectmanagement/

Weiner, B. J. (2009). A theory of organizational readiness for change. Implementation Science, 4(1), 67. https://doi.org/10.1186/1748-5908-4-67

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