How can MOOCs be more accessible?

Iniesto, Francisco; McAndrew, Patrick; Minocha, Shailey and Coughlan, Tim (2017). How can MOOCs be more accessible? In: OER17: The Politics of Open, 5 & 6 Apr 2017, London.



To date, research on the accessibility of MOOCs has been limited. However, the need to incorporate greater access for those who declare disabilities is now being highlighted. There is a growing proportion of disabled learners who choose distance education institutions for their studies. Further, the evolution of enrollment of these learners in higher educational institutions show increasing rates that demonstrates that these students look for the so-called lifelong learning paradigm, which integrates education, work and personal life in a continuous process and allows them to be able to access the knowledge and develop it both personally and through work. Providing accessible MOOCs can be an appropriate educational resource for learners with disabilities, but there is a lack of research about what educators and disabled learners expect from MOOCs.
In our research project, we are employing a mixed methods-research programme to understand the complexity of the issues related to disability and MOOCs. The qualitative studies through interviews are informing us about the user expectations and the educators’ viewpoints on how MOOCs can be helpful to disabled learners; quantitative studies through analysing MOOC survey data are proving to be useful to understand the demographics of learners and how the educational resources could be improved and adapted to their needs. We are designing a MOOC accessibility audit to evaluate MOOCs for accessibility and to arrive at solutions and adaptations that can meet user needs. This accessibility audit includes expert-based heuristic evaluation and user-based testing of the MOOC platforms and individual courses.
We have so far conducted twenty-two interviews with accessibility content managers of MOOC platform providers, platform software developers/designers, educators and those with a range of expertise in the MOOC community. An inductive approach for coding the interviews using thematic analysis has been followed. The next steps of our research programme are to analyse online surveys and online learning activity from courses in the MOOC platform, FutureLearn, interviews with MOOC learners, and conducting the first iteration of the accessibility audit. This research will benefit the MOOC providers who would be able to use the project's outputs and disabled learners to improve their lifelong learning and re-skilling.

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