How To Improve eLearning Accessibility For Online Learners With Special Needs
Confusing navigation controls and lack of personalized support are some of the most common issues that remote learners face. But those who have visual impairments, learning disabilities, and other special requirements must add other hurdles to the list, which can make the learning process frustrating, stressful, and wholly ineffective. Thus, it’s crucial to understand the challenges that every member of your audience must contend with, then figure out how to develop an all-inclusive eLearning experience. Below are 8 obstacles that online learners with special needs must overcome, and tips to help you improve eLearning accessibility.
1. Cannot Focus On The Task At Hand
Online learners with ADD, ADHD, or other conditions that impair their attention spans may be easily distracted. In some situations, they might not be able to focus on the task at hand. For example, completing a simulation in a noisy environment. Other online tools may also serve as a distraction, such as social media groups or online discussions that are intended to provide peer-based support. However, you can help these online learners maintain their focus by offering engaging learning material that’s downloadable. They can participate in eLearning activities offline and then resync with the system if they feel that connectivity may be a hindrance.
2. Inability To Hear Or Comprehend Audio Elements
Not everyone can enjoy your Subject Matter Expert-hosted podcasts or emotionally compelling background music. Particularly online learners who experience hearing impairments or difficulties. Therefore, you should include subtitles or closed captions for audio-based activities. In the case of podcasts, you may want to create an audio transcript so that online learners can follow along and still get the key takeaways.
3. Difficulty Reading Text
Dyslexia and other learning disabilities have a significant impact on how affected learners receive and process information. They may not be able to understand text-based learning material as effectively. Therefore, you need to provide them with audio-based resources that feature written descriptions. This allows them to connect the two delivery formats and improve eLearning content comprehension, in addition to building their reading comprehension skills.
4. Cannot Understand The Default Language
Online learners who speak English as a second language may have difficulty understanding the default text and audio in your eLearning course. Even if they comprehend certain conversational terms, more complex vocabulary can present a challenge. If you’re catering to a worldwide audience, create translated versions of the eLearning course to meet everyone’s needs. There are also LMSs with geolocation features that detect the online learner’s locale and deliver the most suitable version.
5. Inability To See Visual Elements
Online learners with visual impairments, such as those who are legally blind or experience vision loss, cannot see what’s on the screen. But they still need the information to achieve the learning objectives. The best solution is to include audio captions and narrations so that they can explore the subject matter. You should also simplify the text-based elements to make it easier for screen readers to decipher. For example, avoid technical jargon that may be too complicated for the software to read aloud.
6. Uncomfortable In Social Learning Settings
Another special learning need to consider is social discomfort, which can stem from a variety of psychological and emotional issues ranging from autism to anxiety. These online learners with special needs may not enjoy social interactions as much as others. For example, they might shy away from social media activities or group collab projects. Thus, you should give them the opportunity to choose their own path based on their preferences and needs instead of forcing them to engage with remote peers. You can also help them ease into social situations by creating a closed eLearning group where they feel more comfortable sharing ideas.
7. Memory Loss
Online learners who suffer from memory loss are often frustrated by the fact that they cannot recall key facts or retain knowledge long enough to apply it in real-world situations. Some experience short-term memory impairments due to an accident or injury while others have trouble processing verbal information and committing it to long-term memory. Whatever the case, you must reinforce and refresh knowledge periodically to help them retain the key points. Another way to aid online learners with memory loss is to create a microlearning online training library they can access on their own, which enables them to go at their own pace and bridge memory gaps as they arise.
8. External Distractions Impede Information Processing
Another group of online learners who must contend with external distractions is those who suffer from information processing impairments. For example, those with learning disabilities or psychological issues. It’s wise to incorporate serious games, simulations, and other interactive tools to keep them engaged and immersed, as well as allow them to set their own schedules via personalized learning paths. That way, they can choose when and where they’ll broaden their knowledge to eliminate external distractions. In addition, emphasize the importance of the eLearning course so that online learners understand the advantages and commit themselves to the task. They’re more likely to focus and make time for eLearning when they understand the real world benefits it brings.
Online learners with special needs should always feel like they’re part of the online learning community rather than outsiders who have to make special accommodations in order to reap the eLearning rewards. Use this article to ensure that you consider their unique needs and requirements so that they can improve workplace performance and be in line for that next big promotion, too. It’s also worthwhile to get them involved in the eLearning development process so that you can gather their input. Invite them to participate in a test round before launch to ensure that your eLearning course is inclusive and learner-centered.