The Index of Jorum FE resources has some failings in terms of accessibility. It seems most useful to browse by titles. However some titles are not sufficiently informative. If teachers have to view the detailed description or full resource in order to assess its relevance, it’s not as accessible as it should or could be. For example, titles like ‘Maths Circus’ or ‘Maths Magnet’ do not indicate the Maths skills that are targeted by the resources.
But a more obvious failing is where resources have been put in the wrong subject category. For example, there are 2 Hot Potatoes quizzes listed in the Sciences & Mathematics section which test understanding of Dreamweaver and Flash (listed as ‘Hot potatoes quiz – Dreamweaver’ and ‘Hot potatoes quiz – Flash’). These should presumably be located in the Information Technology & Information section.
While on the subject of Hot Potatoes quizzes, the default font size is often used. This is unnecessarily small for most exercises that use little text, making them harder to read.
The categories themselves are not very useful for Basic Skills / Functional Skills teachers, since resources that might generally be relevant to Literacy are scattered in at least 3 different (and not obvious) Subject lists: Area Studies / Cultural Studies / Languages / Literature; Communication / Media / Publishing; Family Care / Personal Development / Personal Care & Appearance.
The National Learning Network materials (http://www.nln.ac.uk/) were all developed with laudable good intentions with regard to accessibility. However interpretations of what constituted 'accessibility' varied widely among the different commercial content developers.
PLATO Learning (UK), for instance, produced materials that were very accessible in terms of navigation and basic usability, but not in terms of reusability or ease of adapting the materials for different needs. These materials covered General Basic Education, Level 1; Application of Number, Levels 1,2,3; Mathematics, Level 2; Wider Key Skills: Working with Others, Improving Own Learning, Performance and Problem Solving, Levels 1,2; Communications, Levels 1,2,3.
These are accessible in that students (and teachers) with minimal IT skills have no difficulty in understanding what’s required to complete each learning object. Students can also change the screen colour to suit individual preferences, which can be particularly beneficial for those with dyslexia. All the written text can also be read out, helping poor readers and the visually impaired. The large and very obvious ‘Next’ button lights up when the reading has finished, helping the hearing-impaired to know when it’s appropriate to move onto the next page. Many of the materials use Key Skills terminology like ‘Communications’ and ‘Application of Number’, but are actually very suitable for Basic Skills Literacy and Numeracy classes.
Unfortunately the Plato materials are inaccessible in another sense, since they are not easy to repurpose for specific needs. Other NLN materials are more easily adapted and modified, using a programme called ‘Reload’, which is free to download from www.reload.ac.uk.
CTAD (Cambridge Training and Development, http://www.ctad.co.uk/) also produced a large range of Numeracy and Literacy materials. Although the learning content of these materials is mostly excellent, my students found the materials harder to navigate. On the first introductory page, for instance, the learner is told to “Use your learning environment to go to the explanation activity. This is in the learning centre.” There is a picture of a Learning Centre on the Introduction page, yet clicking on it (or its door) produces no result. What the learner actually needs to do is click on the word ‘Explanation’ in a list of 4 words on the left of the page. The terms ‘learning environment’ and ‘learning centre’ simply baffle most learners who lack confidence with literacy or technology, making them nervous of proceeding with the content. Having said that, the text can be read out by clicking on the ‘Play’ button at the top of each page, although this button is much smaller and less obvious than in the Plato materials. The font used for all the text is also rather small. This can be changed by clicking on the ‘Accessibility’ button at the top of the page and following these instructions:
“Changing text size
The size of the text can be changed in your browser settings. If you are using Internet Explorer follow these simple steps:
In the menu at the top of your browser, click on ‘View’ or press ‘Alt’ and then ‘V’ Then select Text Size or press X on your keyboard Select either larger or smaller depending on your requirements or use the arrow keys to scroll up and down”
However many students have already been discouraged before reaching this stage and would in any case have difficulty following the instructions accurately.
The materials proclaim their accessibility thus:
“This learning object has been designed to be as accessible as possible. As well as making use of standard Windows and web accessibility features, it has a number of built-in features to help users navigate around the object using the keyboard or using non-visual access devices including screen readers.
Using the keyboard
You can use standard keyboard navigation to move around using the links and form elements: use the Tab and arrow keys to move between links and form fields, and the Enter key to activate them.
This learning object has a ‘skip to content’ link at the beginning of each page. Use this to skip the menu bar and jump to the content. Screen reader users should continue reading the content of the screen using cursor or other keys (such as document read) as appropriate.
Certain functionalities require keyboard users to activate them in a particular way. Users should open dropdown menu combo boxes using ALT + down arrow and then cursor through the options.
Changing text size
The size of the text can be changed in your browser settings. If you are using Internet Explorer follow these simple steps:
In the menu at the top of your browser, click on ‘View’ or press ‘Alt’ and then ‘V’ Then select Text Size or press X on your keyboard Select either larger or smaller depending on your requirements or use the arrow keys to scroll up and down
If you are using Netscape follow the steps below. Alternatively press ‘Control’ and ‘+’ keys for larger font size, or ‘Control’ and ‘-’ for smaller fonts.
In the menu at the top of your browser, click on ‘View’ Click on ‘Increase Font’ or ‘Decrease Font’ Repeat this till the text is the size you require.
The learning object has been designed in accordance with W3C web content accessibility guidelines as detailed below.
Pages on this site use structured semantic mark – up, H1 tags are used for main titles, H2 tags for subtitles, etc.
All content images used in this site include descriptive alt tags.
This site uses relative font sizes, compatible with the user-specified "text size" option in visual browsers. If your browser or browsing device does not support stylesheets at all, the content of each page should still be readable."
This might be fine for more academic students with special needs, but is more or less incomprehensible to learners at the level the content is designed for (from E3 to level 2).
There seems to be a dearth of Basic Skills content on Jorum, unless they are simply poorly indexed and therefore difficult to find. Those that are available could be made more accessible with some very simple adjustments.
Dunstable Bar Charts
‘Awkward Charts’ (http://dspace.jorum.ac.uk/xmlui/handle/123456789/14731)
The text in this resource could be viewed either as pleasantly chatty or unnecessarily wordy.
“It (Excel) ought, in my view, at least offer you a good guess – it’s an enormously powerful program and it seems strange that it doesn’t make such a guess but that’s life. The fact is that it doesn’t so you need to use the Series tab.” (p1)
This opinion may not be relevant to a new user, so the simple instruction to use the Series tab may be more appropriate.
“Now click on the anonymous button once more. How anyone is expected to figure out that pressing that button will whisk them back to the Chart Wizard window I have no idea. But it does.” (p2)
It may reassure the user to know that he/she is not the only one to find Excel less than intuitive, but the extra words involved are an unnecessary obstacle to those with low levels of literacy.
Hot Pots quiz
‘Flash MX Quiz’(http://dspace.jorum.ac.uk/xmlui/handle/123456789/14744) This uses the default font size which is smaller than it needs to be, given that the text occupies a small proportion of the page. The quiz would also be more attractive and engaging with the addition of images or colour, which is easy enough to add in Hot Potatoes.
Why use Hot Potatoes?
Very quick and easy to create exercises (in 5 minutes!)
Very light on memory, so students can take exercises home on any flash drive
Program marks exercises itself
FREE, if you make exercise publicly available (eg by uploading to Hot Potatoes website)
Download from http://hotpot.uvic.ca/
Variety of exercises:
Jumbled sequence (JMix)
Matching Exercise (JMatch)
Create an Exercise in 5 minutes:
1. Start/ Programs/ Hot Potatoes/ Top Icon in drop-down list
2. Select JCloze
3. Add a title and then write a short sentence
4. Highlight a word
5. Click ‘Gap’ button
6. You are now looking at the tutor’s file, which you can adjust whenever you wish.
7. To create the exercise the student will see, click on the web icon with number 6 on it (if Hot Potatoes version 6)
8. Click top button, ‘View the exercise in my browser’: You should now see the student exercise.
Click middle button, ‘Upload the file to the hotpotatoes.net Website’, to make quiz publicly available (and satisfy condition of free licence).
9. You can alter appearance in tutor file:
Change background colours (Options/ Configure Output/ Appearance/ Rainbow icon/ Select Colour)
The Options menu
This is the same in all the programmes (with the exception of JQuiz, which has an extra Mode setting).
The Configure Output option is important. Each tool has a slightly different configuration screen which you will need to check before you start creating your questions. It allows you to set:
· Title and instruction details
· Prompts and feedback information
· What buttons to include on the screen
· The appearance of the text and any colours
· Time limits for your exercises
The Font option allows you to specify the font for the quiz and the Right-to-Left option enables your students to enter their text from right to left instead of left to right (for example if their questions were displayed in Arabic or Hebrew).
10. Alter appearance with pictures:
Find an image. The easiest source to download compatible, appropriately-sized images is the Hot Potatoes website: http://hcmc.uvic.ca/clipart/
Select ‘Topic Galleries or ‘Keyword Search’ to find image.
Save images to same folder as your exercise.
Or use Google/ Images. Must be JPEG or GIF.
Put pictures in the same folder as the exercise
Right clip on required image / Copy
Create folder for Hotpots exercise (right click/new/folder), another folder inside called ‘pictures’
Right click on destination folder / Paste
Insert pictures in a Hotpots exercise:
In Left (ordered) items, click in first box
Insert / Picture / Picture from local file
Click on image you want / Open
Adjust size - approx 50 pixels to avoid need to scroll down page. Then click ‘Load’ button
You can also link exercises together:
Either use Hot Potatoes’ own ‘Masher’ program (free version restricts you to 3 exercises)
Or use ‘Reload’, (free to download from www.reload.ac.uk ) to link any number of exercises
‘6point1’ Word doc (Module One Homework 6.1) and ‘6point2’ (http://dspace.jorum.ac.uk/xmlui/handle/123456789/14757)
This again uses the default font (Times New Roman) which is awkward for students with low levels of literacy, particularly the ‘g’ and ‘a’. However, since these are produced as Word documents, they can easily be adjusted to suit students with special needs. This is in contrast to the resource described below.
South Devon College Maths Transformations
‘Transformations ppt’ (http://dspace.jorum.ac.uk/xmlui/handle/123456789/16835)
This again uses the default font (Times New Roman) which is awkward for students with low levels of literacy, particularly the ‘g’ and ‘a’. The text is also more wordy than it needs to be. For instance, the first sentence, “I am going to help you through this tutorial on transformations”, is not necessary. There are some errors in sentence construction. For instance, on the first page: “When you ask you to click the mouse…” and “Now click the mouse to bring in to start the tutorial.” This would be much less problematic if the resource was loaded as a simple powerpoint that could be edited by other users. However since it is loaded as a Slideshow, no adjustments can be made.
The first animated page on Reflections contains animations that move too quickly for the student to follow, with no pause facility to allow for discussion or reflection.
Other content that is open in the sense of being freely available include resources from Alison http://alison.com/), Khan academy (http://www.khanacademy.org/), LearnDirect (http://learndirect.co.uk/ ) and a particular favourite of mine, Ambleside primary school, which produces a number of resources that are exemplary in their sparing use of text, yet perfectly obvious in terms of navigation. Many are also not overtly ‘childish’ and so are entirely appropriate for use in an adult basic skills context, where it would normally be unwise and patronizing to use content designed for young children.
Most impressive of these is the ‘Look, cover, write, check’ spelling exercise (http://www.amblesideprimary.com/ambleweb/lookcover/lookcover.html) where it is very clear how the student needs to proceed yet has almost no textual instructions. Note that this exercise, along with others on the Ambleside website (http://www.amblesideprimary.com/ambleweb/literacy.htm) can be downloaded for use when there is no internet connection.
Similar qualities are evident in many of the Numeracy materials (http://www.amblesideprimary.com/ambleweb/numeracy.htm), including ‘Table Trees’ (which allow students to test their knowledge of the times table) ‘Numberlines’ and ‘MentalMachine’.