Universal design of interactive learning materials is insufficient

This is the main conclusion in the final report by the research project Universal designed interactive learning materials (UTIN).

Story by: Magne Lunde - 26.09.2008

The main objective of the pilot project Universal designed interactive learning materials (UTIN) was to test to what degree interactive learning materials are universally designed. The implementation of testing, and the results from the UTIN project are summarized in the final report "Interactive learning materials are not sufficiently universally designed".

Tested by experts

Six different interactive learning materials were assessed by experts (pretesting) to determine whether the materials would be suitable for user testing. The prerequisite for user testing was that the material should not obviously exclude users from three groups of disabled users:

  • visually impaired users
  • mobility disabled users
  • dyslectic users

Not easily accessible

Pretesting showed that almost all the teaching materials did in fact exclude disabled users. A common cause for this was the extensive use of Flash and video which prevented keyboard users from accessing the material. Moreover, the content of the teaching material was often not relevant for keyboard users.
We chose to continue with the learning material that was rated most user-friendly and universally designed: Data Power's online teaching material.

Many limitations

The material was tested by three visually impaired users, three mobility disabled, and two dyslectic users. The tests with visually impaired users revealed many limitations in the Data Power interface.

On the background of this testing, the main conclusion was that none of the interactive ICT learning materials tested in the UTIN project were universally designed.

Main Project

MediaLT is collaborating with Diglib to continue the work and we have applied to the Norwegian Department of Education for support. The project will draw up a definition of universal design in relation to multi-functional learning material, and develop common guidelines that would apply to all such learning materials. Furthermore the project will work to improve universal design of multi-functional learning material, using relatively simple measures,and assist publishers to produce all their teaching materials in a digital format. The project has three main objectives:

  • Make textbooks available in digital format for all students
  • Formulate common guidelines for the use of video and interaction
  • Develop a learning platform as a tool for adaptation.

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