Inclusive content creation

I’ve been asked to speak at the 2016 Xerte Conference at the University of Nottingham. As you would expect, my theme will be on inclusive teaching and learning. This has got me thinking; in these days of FELTAG agendas for FE and the Teaching Excellence Framework for HE how can organisations ensure that any investments in technology enhanced learning will actually pay off?

So, as some preparatory thinking for my Xerte session I’ve been working out what we might mean by inclusive content creation.

The “inclusivity” of content can be looked at in two very different ways – inclusiveness for staff and inclusiveness for learners. Both perspectives are vitally important for long-term sustainability and scalability. Unfortunately, organisations do not always have a good track record in considering either of these. Let’s look at them individually:

Inclusivity for staff

Inclusivity staff is not just about their accessibility needs but may equally be about the level of their technical skills or the time they have available. An excellent content creation tool will require minimal skills to participate, will be available to all staff on any device and will allow sophisticated sharing and re-purposing possibilities. Make choices that…

  • Maximise availability. Expensive commercial tools that are only available to a few staff creates an immediate disincentive to engage.
  • Minimise technical skills required to participate in creating quality content. If all staff have access and the tool requires few skills there are no excuses for non-engagement.
  • Maximise the range and quality of resources that can be created with those minimal technical skills. Look for a content creation tool that allows staff to present information, assess understanding, create interactivity and incorporate their existing resources.
  • Maximise collaboration and reusability. Ensure staff on different sites can collaborate on the same resource. Or staff teaching at different levels can easily adapt an existing resource by tweaking the text, media or assessments.
  • Maximise mobile. Ensure the output from the tool is mobile friendly for tablets or phones.
  • Maximise integration. A quality tool will allow staff to embed any existing online resources they currently use.
  • Maximise reliability. There are some excellent online services from Google classroom to app based content creation. If all your content is stored online what happens if the service ceases? Content stored on your own servers puts you in control.

Inclusivity for learners

  • Personalisation. Learners should be able to change colours or font size, navigate using keyboard instead of mouse, integrate with text-to-speech, view on a mobile device etc.
  • Subscription. The ideal tool would allow learners to subscribe to a content folder and automatically have updated resources alerted to them.
  • Active. It is well established that one of the best ways of learning is to get learners teaching. An ideal tool would allow all learners to have access so they can be creating or improving content as part of the learning experience.
  • Trackable. An ideal tool would provide options for data analytics so you could see the learner’s performance on quizzes or see how many pages they had viewed.

The problem of personal preference

A problem I have noticed over many years of staff development in e-learning is that the people who make decisions about e-learning tools are the people with a high skill level and low boredom threshold. They may be more interested in top of the range commercial products that suit their personal self-development and allow them to create very sophisticated resources. However, this approach also creates an elite of ‘top level producers’ – a bottleneck to productivity and a further rift in the digital divide.

The check list of bullet points above should help create a useful reality check on your own direction of travel.

Xerte toolkits – an open source tool with several streams of Jisc input over its ten year evolution – ticks all the boxes for developing sustainable, institution-wide elearning capacity. If you’ve not seen it before or haven’t updated your installation for a while it might be worth getting to the Xerte conference on April 14th.

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