Best Practices for Creating Accessible Online Courses
1) Make students aware of your commitment to accessibility -- Help students feel
comfortable talking with you about needs or concerns they have about your course.
Include a statement in your syllabus about accessibility and accommodations
Communicate methods of a student engagement clearly and often -- office hours,
how a student can reach you, etc.
2) Provide as much structure as possible in the course -- Providing outlines, guided
notes or activities encourage active listening and cues students to participate in or
engage with the material. Other ways to provide structure include offering a pre-quiz for
a lecture or distributing a graphic organizer
3) Choose your tools carefully --Identify technology and platforms that are accessible to
all students. Not all students can utilize Zoom, recorded lectures, materials on Sakai.
Recommended alternatives might include having alternative test options for students
who can’t access Sakai and allowing students to test their technology (screen readers,
etc.) before the exam to ensure compatibility.
4) Provide a variety of modality of teaching and assessment -- To address a variety of
student learning needs and different types of ability it is important to provide a variety of
styles in teaching and methods of assessment. For example, combine lectures with class
discussions, videos, and activities. Assess using exams, papers, presentations, leading
discussions, group work, oral exam, etc.
5) Be mindful of creating accessible formatting -- Ensure students with visual
impairments have equal access to course material by creating alt text for pictures, proper
formatting for hyperlinks, accessibility for word and pdf documents, captioning for videos,
etc. Faculty can also consider font size, color contrast and layout design to meet the
needs of all students.
6) Allow access to course materials early -- Not all students require the same amount
of time to prepare for class. Early access to course materials provides students with
adequate time to prepare for class, to obtain material in an accessible format, and to
review and understand course materials at their own pace.
7) Establish clear expectations for the course -- Clear expectations helps students
create structure and better manage their time to meet course requirements. Direct
deadlines for papers, assignments, and exams should be clearly indicated and explained
(perhaps in bold).
8) Identify the container of the information vs. the content -- In order to best understand
what accommodations can be provided without altering the intentions of the course,
faculty should evaluate course material to distinguish between the method of instruction
and essential content in the course. Ideally, faculty are finding ways to communicate key
concepts and modify the “container” of the information in a way that best meets students’
9) Know what resources and tools your students are using -- Some students utilize
adaptive software or hardware, devices and equipment to access digital information. If
students in your courses are using assistive technology, how can you support this and
10) Understand the difference between providing an accommodation and being
accommodating -- Work with Sara Bea Accessibility Services through the interactive
process to determine reasonable accommodations. It's okay to say no to a student.
Setting the groundwork for what is reasonable includes identifying essential components
of the course and articulating those goals. Course descriptions could be thought through
as a job description -- what are the essential responsibilities for a student to accomplish
in your course to qualify as having taken the course. Sara Bea staff will partner with you
through this process.