Greater engagement and improved retention are obvious goals of nearly all L&D professionals and their managers. Improving the accessibility of eLearning content is a way to achieve both. Citing these goals and emphasizing the many other benefits of accessible eLearning can help L&D teams get managers on board with an accessibility initiative. Creating more usable eLearning launches a virtuous cycle that results in better learner experience (LX), as well as progress toward meaningful KPIs when engaged learning translates to better on-the-job performance.
That may all sound too good to be true, but an examination of what improved accessibility means in terms of day-to-day interaction with eLearning shows that building in accessibility features makes content more engaging, memorable, and simply better.
Accessible eLearning is better eLearning
A hallmark of accessible content is that it meets learners where they are, making eLearning content usable for a broad range of learners. For example:
- Designing for learners who are less comfortable with technology means thinking about navigation and the use of icons and menus to ensure that the learning path is clear and intuitive. This enables them to focus on the content; it reduces their cognitive load.
- Designing for learners who might be learning English or have a language-based disability means writing in plain terminology, avoiding jargon, and replacing culture-specific references and metaphors with simple, clear explanations. The content will be more focused and concise, and easier for learners from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds to understand and retain.
- Designing for learners who have visual or hearing impairments means offering options: captioning and transcripts; the ability to adjust color scheme, contrast, and text size; even offering content in multiple formats, such as text and video or audio. This gives all learners greater control, which can encourage engagement.
“It’s less about making an accessible course [than] it is about making a course that everybody can learn from. ‘Everyone deserves a chance to learn’ is one of our taglines. It’s how you approach things,” Brian Dusablon, chief technical officer at Learning Ninjas, told Jane Bozarth in an interview for Creating Accessible eLearning: Practitioner Perspectives, a free eLearning Guild research report. “If you go talk to people, you understand it’s not so much about something like a specific screen reader. People zoom in on things all the time on their phones—they aren’t blind, but they need to do it if they want to learn something. If we take that control away from the user, or don’t design for it, we’re taking away the opportunity to learn.”
Getting managers on board
Results matter. That’s why it’s not enough to approach managers with the argument for making content more accessible because it’s the “right thing to do,” or even because accessibility laws require it. Showing managers that accessible eLearning produces better results across the board, with all learners, is key to getting their buy-in. To be really effective, usability has to be part of the DNA of eLearning. It must be part of the design from the concept phase onward, and it has to be built in as the eLearning is developed. Adding on features after the eLearning is launched is costly, cumbersome, and often impossible.
Present it to stakeholders as giving everyone an opportunity to learn and connect. “For me it’s all about connecting with the audience, no matter who they are or how they’re interacting with the content. If they’re unable to do that then we’ve failed—we didn’t build a tool or solution that actually helps. By including accessibility you’ll build a better course, web app, or whatever the audience needs. It will help you be a better designer by thinking about things ahead of time,” Nick Floro, a learning architect at Sealworks, said in the Guild report. “When you show management the challenges, what is possible, and how that can improve productivity, you will gain support, funding, and can grow.”
Explore how and why to make eLearning more accessible
The eLearning Guild’s research director, Jane Bozarth, interviewed four leading eLearning developers, including Dusablon and Floro, and presented their insights into the benefits of creating accessible content in Creating Accessible eLearning: Practitioner Perspectives. This research report is available free to all eLearning Guild members. Download your copy today!