Friday, 3 August 2012

Designing #mLearning for people with #disabilities or learning difficulties

Last week I got a mail from Jenni Wright from Australia. She is a trainer and she was looking for solutions that could help her optimize the already wonderful vocational courses that her company the BedfordGroup in Australia is setting up for adult learners. The challenge was that the learning environment should be secure for the Intellectual Property content portion, yet at the same time dynamic as a MOOC AND - a tough one - if possible cater to people with learning challenges, whether it be disabilities or learning difficulties of any kind.

In the past years I did encounter more questions on solutions for learners with disabilities. And I feel that with the evolution of mobile technology some of these learning challenges can be met, although it stays a tough road to travel or find solutions on.

Here is what I came up with for Jenny. If any of you have additional ideas, feel free to add them. This is not my area of expertise and any help or ideas are more than welcomed.

1. A secure yet easy to enter and edit learning environment: I would suggest using a private wiki. Why: because the text is easy to edit, comments and discussions can be given on every page. But most of all, as a wiki has plain text, you can use free text-to-speech options to convert the text to audio-files. This means you can add an mp3 on every text page, providing the learner with an audio file. Another bonus of the wiki text, is that you can enlarge the text using key board short cuts. Thanks to Jenni I am contemplating to make all my MobiMOOC additions (week one) audio accessible as well. Just done one addition based on the draft text, simply to see what it gives. I used Pediaphon to get the MP3 files. Mostly because it is easy and it also includes an option to put an PediaPhon bookmarklet into your browser menubar. this Pediaphon bookmarklet makes it easy to select text, than click the pediaphon button in the menubar and ... hear what you have selected. So what I did was enter the text of my 'introduction to mLearning' wikipage (which is a public and open wikipage), download the mp3 and than added that mp3 to the wikipage, enabling people who prefer audio to listen to what is written there. The result of the converted audiofile (mp3) can be found here on the page.

2. In addition to this secure, private learning environment, there is always the option of adding other, more socialmedia driven learning locations, based on the preference of the learners themselves (including what they like to let them create content in a way they like it). For instance: build a central movie repository, for instance via a Facebook group or similar where learners can share their own experiences easily (well, taken the word easily with some salt as what is easy for one person can have enormous complexity for someone else. These social media locations can be embedded via widgets in a secure wiki (to be done by the instructional designer, or technical helper: Once it is set up, new additions to these locations will automatically show up in the central learning environment). Depending on the type of learning you have in mind, you can use different social media. Here is a list of learning aims linked to the most common social media groups.

3. I also added some subtitles to movies using Camtasia and its subtitle options, but I must say that is very time consuming. I could not get very far with the YouTube option that adds subtitles automatically, as I have a non-English accent while speaking ... this dialect affects the YouTube results immensely :-) But I have not tried giving a transcript to YouTube and than see what happens. Might work better, so is on my to-do list.

And I also found a nice short publication (with cartoons) that describes strategic mobile options for learners with disabilities or challenges: called the “The 99 tools from the magical pocket of Aki-chan” .

To end this post, I gladly refer to a slideshare by E.A. Draffan who is working at Uni of Southhampton and has years of experience in this area. Her slideshare covers a lot of tools that can help students/learners with learning challenges.