Education is the building block of many crucial skills like critical thinking, problem solving and self-awareness. Every child deserves to better themselves through education, no matter what barriers they may face. When it comes to learning, accessibility is nonnegotiable. Tools must be designed with all users in mind from the outset, creating equal opportunities for everyone.
For many children who are neurodivergent or require assistive devices, the widespread adoption of edtech tools has helped bridge accessibility gaps. In this blog, we’ll go over four ways that blended learning tools like the right learning management system (LMS) can help make education more accessible.
Inclusive design is exactly what it sounds like: designing with the needs of every user in mind. By using this principle, the right LMS can create a learning environment that anticipates the needs of a diverse student population. Rather than creating one-size-fits-all solutions, inclusive design means one-size-fits-one, empowering each student to steer their own learning journey.
According to the International Design Research Center, there are three main dimensions to inclusive design:
- Recognize diversity and uniqueness and cater to the margins
- Include stakeholders in processes and tool design
- Enable broader beneficial impact
With inclusive design, accessibility isn’t an option: It’s the default. That’s because designers build products—in this case, edtech tools—with human diversity in mind, allowing broader impacts for all users.
Personalized Learning Paths
Some children will grasp a new concept immediately; for others, understanding may take longer. Personalized learning paths can help students move at their own pace while simultaneously allowing students who are progressing more quickly to move ahead. This can help keep more advanced students engaged and ensure that students who require more time don’t fall behind.
Teachers can also personalize content for students, encouraging them to pursue topics and assignments that suit their interests. This can make for a more robust and engaging learning experience that reaches each student—helping them understand where they are in their learning journey, acknowledging their differences and bridging learning gaps.
Tools to Make Learning for Everyone
On top of enabling these approaches, the right LMS will have built-in tools that make accessibility a reality. Some examples include:
- Automatic closed captioning for video. Using video in the classroom is an effective way for teachers to engage with students. It’s also a great opportunity to provide personalized feedback. With automatic closed captioning, learners who are hard of hearing or deaf can reap the full rewards of interacting with video during class.
- Built-in accessibility checker. From the proper use of headings and alt text to appropriate color contrast, an accessibility checker can flag any items that might make learning difficult. This edtech tool ensures that students can comfortably and easily access all online content, regardless of their age or ability.
- Customizable homepages. With an LMS, teachers can customize each of their classes’ homepages. This provides an opportunity to de-clutter and streamline them so they’re easier to navigate for all students. This is especially effective for students who may be overwhelmed if presented with too much information at once.
Many LMS providers also have integrations with other tools that can help take accessibility measures to new heights.
Tech-Enabled Asynchronous Learning
Asynchronous learning is one of the benefits of a blended learning environment, which can help reduce barriers to education. But ignoring the income gap associated with technology would be irresponsible. Though many districts in the U.S. have taken steps to close the digital divide by providing devices to students who need them, access to technology remains an issue for millions. According to 2021 research by New America and Rutgers University, one in seven school-age children didn’t have access to high-speed internet at home.
Asynchronous learning alone can’t bridge that gap immediately, but it can help by making learning at home easier, even for the under-connected. Students can download materials at school so they can work offline. This allows them to continue learning even if they don’t have reliable access to the internet. Asynchronous learning can also help parents who do shift work or work atypical hours be more involved in their child’s learning, no matter how demanding their schedules are.