The post-pandemic future: Embracing the new-world sense of community and connection. (To boldly go where no one has gone before!)

As a child of the sixties (just) and an unapologetic Star Trek fan I couldn’t resist the sub title and think it’s very relevant to the current situation. As lockdown starts to ease, our thoughts areon a return to a new normality; something that will feel familiar, and yet strangely unknown at the same time as it comes with a new set of rules around ways of interacting. We, like many businesses, are looking at ways we can safely have our teams working together under one roof. We also host a live event series across the UK for DSA professionals, in the form of ‘The CPD Revolution’ event series, for which we have also had to think about how these events can safely take place in a post-pandemic world.

What is the post-pandemic world though and what does that look like? What does ‘low-touch society’ mean? Is there a start point… or even an end point? And what will people’s personal response be to a world that is trying to reconnect people physically? These are just a few of the many questions, which I’m sure everyone is considering daily. Many business people’s thoughts are “well the world hasn’t changed while we’ve been hibernating” on which, my view is “but we have!”, and we as business leaders have a duty to help re-shape the world to respond accordingly.

Looking ahead into an undefined future can easily feel overwhelming and unattainable, which is also easy to see how people’s mental health has been so affected by the pandemic.

But there are also some great positives that can be taken from this strange period of limbo; the main one being this new sense of community we have managed to create and we should hold on to, even post-pandemic.

Creating a new sense of community

You may not realise it but you have probably joined lots of new communities during lockdown, not to mention the global sense of community we now have in seeing out the pandemic. 

Lockdown has allowed people to reclaim time to learn new instruments, languages and take up new hobbies. Many people have also developed their work-based knowledge and furloughed employees have been encouraged to undertake continued professional development (CPD). Families and friends have spent more time talking, especially with loved ones they wouldn’t normally see, as the weekly Zoom call has become the norm. Lockdown has even convinced my Dad that there is a use for the Amazon Echo which had sat collecting dust since Christmas 2018!

Through digital connections we are able to continue to learn and feel part of something bigger than just our ourselves. There are local choirs, pub quizzes and even virtual cheese and wine tasting clubs you can all join online! This opportunity for digital experiences is not only great for the future economy but more importantly, also opens up doors for us all to explore our own mental wellbeing.

For our business, by the time Coronavirus hit, we had booked a sold-out CPD event series across eight UK-wide locations and the challenge of lockdown came into play just nine days ahead of our first scheduled event. We didn’t want this community that depended on us, that we had worked hard to nurture, to then suddenly disappear or feel abandoned at such a crucial time. We felt we had no choice; we had to innovate. With everyone still wanting to learn and stay connected we knew there was still a need for The CPD Revolution events to take place, especially with mental wellness being a key component of the event, but what should they look like?

How do you run a live CPD event during lockdown?

The simple answer is… you don’t. Just like the 2020 Olympics, Wimbledon and Glastonbury, for the safety of all involved, our CPD Revolution live events would have to be postponed…twice as it happens.

Rather than draw a line under it, we immediately started thinking of innovative ways we could maintain our CPD Revolution community and the most obvious option was to deliver it online. Internally, our staff were already staying connected remotely with daily stand-ups on video calls. However, there were also new ‘pandemic world’ challenges we would face in presenting an external event online. This would no longer be the ‘hands-on’ experience we had marketed – how could we still create the sense of interaction, connection, and socialising people experienced at our live events? Would people even want to attend now?

We started with clear communication, sharing honest updates on email and social media, keeping our community informed. We were aware that many people who would like to attend may now be juggling other commitments such as caring for ill family members or home-schooling young children. We therefore made it easier to attend by splitting the day into two halves. This allowed people to choose to attend as much, or as little, of the event that time permitted.

It wasn’t just a case of moving all the offline content online. The topics covered would have to differ slightly to reflect the world we were now living in. DSA assessments and AT training were now moving to a remote setting, something that many assessors, trainers and students have rarely experienced before. We made this the main focus and ensured all the partner-delivered content related back to the main theme of assessing, training, working and learning remotely.

We were also acutely aware that people were now, more than ever, becoming concerned about their (and their loved ones’) mental health. We worked with our keynote to create a headline address for the conference that would give attendees motivation and resources to support their mental health and wellbeing during lockdown.

To encourage people to interact and feel engaged, even while attending remotely, we would pose questions, using live polls and the chat feed. This really gave a sense of being part of the event, even when you may be sat in a flat, 300 miles away, living completely alone.

Furthermore, to help attendees feel valued and connected, we also ended the final session of each day with 15 minutes where attendees could use the platform to simply network and talk to each other. 

Overall, there was a 27% increase in the amount of people that attended compared to the amount signed up to our live events – and one event even sold out (the platform wouldn’t allow for more sign ups!) This told us that not only had we managed to maintain our events community, but we had also grown it during what has been an incredibly difficult time for all.

What will the future hold?

I think it is safe to say that no one is quite sure what the answer to this is and actually I quite like the challenges that brings (on most days of the week). I doubt anyone a year ago would have predicted what 2020 would hold and probably just as well, but the truth is, we have all found out how resilient and resourceful we really are. There is no denying that this year has seen us all adapt in our personal and work lives whether it be working remotely whilst home schooling, queuing to enter the supermarket or seeing loved ones online rather than in person. The majority of these changes will eventually become a distant memory, but some are here to stay, and we can and MUST embrace that. I, like many of you, have used this time to attend webinar after webinar for my own personal development, not all great but always useful to see what others do. One quote that was mentioned on one of the early webinars I attended stuck with me throughout lockdown and will remain in my thoughts well beyond… ”Be the change you wish to see” – Mahatma Gandhi. We must ensure we find a way to use this crisis as a real catalyst for change and re-invention in both our personal and professional lives. Let’s keep the good things we have learned during lockdown and use our experiences to ensure we continue to make changes for good and don’t just slip back to “the norm”!

I believe the complement of in-person and digital connections in our working, learning, training and personal lives will continue on. Our business evolution into an online programme of CPD has grown an even stronger sense of community, on a platform that was not even part of our plan six months ago but is certainly now here to stay. 

We look forward to holding our live CPD events, but only when it is safe to do so. Our aim is to retain the user experience of previous CPD live events as much as possible, as well as incorporating the new rules of social distancing. We will also use this as an opportunity to think ‘outside the box’ (yes, I hate that phrase too but it works well here) and come up with new additions that we previously just wouldn’t have thought of. There are going to be many issues to take into account, some of which we have never considered before when facilitating a live event. Precautions we are already implementing include all venues having clearly marked walk-ways, replacing a buffet style lunch with pre-plated food and spacing all seating. So that attendees know what to expect, we will communicate the new health and safety measures prior to the event. And just as we adapted earlier in the year, I am confident we can adapt once again to produce effective, safe, live events.

Like any other business it’s important to use the changing times to innovate, whilst ensuring staff, customers and stakeholders all stay connected and feel valued. If the pandemic has taught me one thing, it is to cherish the new sense of community and connection we now have. Whilst there has been extreme isolation and fracturing of communities in our society, there has also been an abundance of inspiring stories and new opportunities, and I hope we can cling to those as we move into the undetermined future.

With dates commencing November 2020, sign up to the live CPD events for DSA professionals here: www.cpdrevolution.com.

The new science of e-learning: This time it’s personal.

Personalisation is everywhere. It has become so engrained in our everyday that we probably don’t even recognise it anymore. Amazon recommending products you may like – personalisation. Every marketing email you receive that uses your first name – personalisation. Generation Z or the iGen (people born between 1995 and 2012) are even more familiar with personalisation. They have grown up with social media, online shopping and even their university intranet will be personalised within their own profile.  

Why is personalisation so important when it comes to learning?  

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Learning is very different to shopping on Amazon. Learning is all about forming long-term memories. One of the most important areas of the brain that does this is the limbic system, which includes the amygdala and the hippocampus. For long-term memories to be formed, they have to pass through the amygdala to reach the hippocampus, where they can be sent to long-term storage.  

A recent study took three websites, the Facebook newsfeed, entertainment-orientated Yahoo and the heavily informational New York Times. The study found that “memory scores tend to be higher when stimuli are personally meaningful and provide opportunities for learning”. 

The study concludes by saying that “online activity, which is both personal and social is more immersive, more emotionally engaging, and more cognitively stimulating”. 

Due to the personalisation of the Facebook newsfeed, more memories were generated from this website than the other two, as the content was relevant and meaningful to users’ lives.  

This echoes the reasoning behind personalisation in Learning Labs. We believe our learners must become key drivers in their learning so that it becomes meaningful, valuable and personal to them – and therefore they engage with the portal more. Learning Labs already gives students the chance to learn the same thing in different ways with our Do, Watch, Read, and (more recent) Quiz Labs. However, we wanted to take the personalisation further.  

My most effective way of learning is different to yours

When we started developing our new personalisation features, it was important that the student was always in control and that any new features fitted in with the latest learning design theory and neuroscience findings.  

Many studies have shown that cognitive overload can hinder a student’s learning experience. As is the case when several people talk to you at the same time, having a mix of information on the same page can make it difficult to concentrate. However, it is also important to realise that what could cause cognitive overload for one student may not affect another.  

When students log into Learning Labs, they are now greeted by ‘My workspace’ – a personal learning environment, which they can tailor to meet their needs. The learner has the power to select which Labs are relevant to them based on the Assistive Technology they have been recommended. This drops the relevant Lab suites into their workspace and avoids cognitive overload of unnecessary and irrelevant content.   

Their personal workspace also includes the new ‘engagement dashboard.’ Here the student can see dials and percentages not only to help motivate their learning, but also to show which Lab type they have engaged with the most. This gives the student a clear and concise snapshot into how their learning is developing and helps them to feel a sense of achievement. 

Having this information at their fingertips means the student can personalise their learning experience. They can see particular categories of Lab that they have not engaged with, prompting them to try this learning type rather than continuing to work through the same style of Lab. 

To help the uninterrupted flow of learning (you may recall that feeling when you zone-out and have to take a step back to find your place again), Learning Labs also has a ‘Resume last Lab’ and a ‘Next suggested Lab’ button within ‘My workspace’. This enables the student to jump back in to their learning from where they left off or continue on without distractions in the learning content. These functions emulate social media such as YouTube, Instagram and the latest bite-sized video channel, TikTok. 

The learner is in the driving seat 

No alt text provided for this image

From our knowledge of cognitive overload, we know that these features may not be beneficial to all students all of the time. The human brain is more unique than a fingerprint, so it was important that our new features could be controlled by the user. Students can now add/remove menu and content items at the flick of a switch, creating a unique learning experience for every user. As easily as they are turned off, they can be turned on again.  

Unlike social media, Amazon and those ‘Hey Chris! We thought you might like…’ marketing emails, we want our personalisation to create a truly beneficial experience for the end user. Our personalisation features assist users in achieving their academic potential, which will benefit them beyond their current course. 

See for yourself 

Throughout April and May, Learning Labs is hosting a series of CPD Revolution Online events, which will feature a live demo of our new personalisation features. Click the link below to book your free place on one of these dates and see personalised e-learning in action. Oh, and hear more about the science too. 

https://bit.ly/CPDRevonline  

To read more on the study mentioned in this article, ‘The Premium Experience: Neurological Engagement on Premium Websites,’ click here

Why invest in accessibility? Because we all matter.

Imagine visiting your favourite website. Maybe this means searching for the latest tech gadget or you want to look up that banana bread recipe everyone’s been baking during lockdown. Now imagine you’re on that website but you can’t read the text, or you can’t click a relevant link. Unfortunately, this is too often a reality for the 13.9 million people living with a disability in the UK.  

That’s a total of 22% of the UK population living with a disability. Therefore, for some of the people reading this blog, you will have already experienced a barrier to your online browsing in some form.

Accessing opportunity during lockdown

When the word ‘accessibility’ comes up many people will immediately think of the physical aspects such as wheelchair ramps into buildings or signage in braille. Less people will think about the digital world.

No alt text provided for this image

Even less will think about hidden disabilities and how these can affect day-to-day life and be further amplified during this time of restriction. As a father of two children, who both have hidden disabilities, I’ve seen first-hand how a lack of awareness and accessibility can impact the affected individual and their family.

The current global pandemic is forcing us all to rely on digital resources more than ever. Yet 70% of UK websites are still not fully accessible. It is no surprise then, that 90% of disabled users click away from a website rather than report accessibility issues.

This is why now, more than ever, is a good time to focus on developing the accessibility of our digital landscape and, ultimately, opening our minds to a truly inclusive society.

No alt text provided for this image

Our commitment to supporting accessibility

For me, Global Accessibility Awareness Day is always an ideal time to take stock and set some new goals to actively improve any areas of accessibility within our business.

  • Promoting an inclusive culture at work

As a business that operates in the Disabled Students Allowance (DSA) sector, we are lucky to be right on the pulse of new assistive technology launches or updates that can support accessibility.

Plenty of this stuff also makes for brilliant workplace tools and it’s not just for people with specific disabilities – and that’s the key – assistive software publishers have designed their products with total inclusivity in mind from the start. Real design accessibility means a product should be usable by everyone – it does not mean it is designed for one specific disability.

Our staff always use the latest assistive technology to support them at work; for instance, I like to use mind mapping tools when we are coming up with product development ideas. You can put everything down in one diagram and it’s easy to share with the team.

We also run a monthly Lunch ‘n’ Learn programme with workshops often led by staff members for staff members. This has included a sign language workshop, which we recently put into practice to help celebrate Deaf Awareness Week. This was a lot of fun and helped bring the team together whilst we are all working remotely (you can watch a video of our efforts here, which proudly for me includes a guest appearance from my kids).

Our CPD Revolution Online programme has been running for the last two months whilst in lockdown for DSA professionals, this has offered over 6 hours of free CPD on nine different assistive technologies, plus a keynote on mental health. Thankfully, mental health is starting to become a much more prevalent area for people to talk about but is another area which we will be continuing to put a particular focus on in terms of raising awareness in the coming months. Over 95% of our staff were able to log in and attend themselves, helping them to better understand the mental health & accessibility needs of the end users we are supporting every day. 

  • Supporting end-user accessibility

There are a multitude of tools available to disabled internet users. Since 2009, mobile screen reading usage has increased by 70%. It is therefore important our e-learning portal is designed to enable these devices to interpret content correctly. Imagine walking into a cinema and joining a film halfway through or, more likely in my case, being woken up half way through by your disappointed Son. You’ve no idea who is who or what is happening – is the person on screen a hero or a villain? You lack context to understand what is taking place. Website page headers, hover descriptions and alt text provide users with the purpose and context of that particular webpage and of its content. Screen readers can communicate this information to the user aloud, supporting them in their decision making on the page.

The last few years has seen a significant rise in the popularity of video content, but how effective is it if only 78% of your audience can engage with it? This is why captions are so important, and if this isn’t possible then an equally informative, alternative content option should be easily accessible.

At Learning Labs, we don’t want to just tick a box and assume our portal is accessible. We are constantly looking at functions we can add that will support diverse needs. When users now log into the Learning Labs portal they are greeted with their own personal ‘My workspace’ page, as well as personalisation settings to further customise their experience. You can read more about the science behind this personalisation in Chris Collier’s latest blog. Although we are proud of these latest developments, we will never be ‘finished’ because there is no end point to true accessibility – we see our responsibility towards accessibility as a long-term commitment.

No alt text provided for this image

Our team is currently undertaking a project that identifies areas of weakness in the Learning Labs portal and will be working on these to increase our accessibility. For instance, over the coming month we plan to improve the user experience for users where keyboard only navigation is essential with the introduction of consistent shortcut keys, improved tab ordering and active focus indicators.

We know, just like anything in life, there is always room for improvement. We are committed to consistently improving our accessibility and that includes only developing new features in Learning Labs that are inclusive.

How to support Global Accessibility Awareness Day 2020

From our own research into accessibility we know what a complex subject digital accessibility can be. That is why we have put together our ‘is it accessible?’ checklist for use when assessing a digital resource’s accessibility. We also have the CPD Revolution running today, which you can still sign up for, plus there are endless webinars, downloadable documents and conversations happening online that anyone can access.

  • Enquire about our free ‘Is it accessible?’ checklist to help you determine if an AT product meets your requirements. Email info@learninglabs.co
  • Today we are running a live demo of Learning Labs as part of our CPD Revolution Online – this is the final day of the series and you can still sign up here: https://bit.ly/BookCPDOnline
  • Join the accessibility conversation on social media using the hashtag #GAAD today.

There’s no denying the internet is rooted in all that we do. I challenge you to go a day without using it; there would be no Netflix, no social media, no supermarket delivery. In fact, you’d have to stop reading this blog. I also challenge you to try accessing a website for 10 minutes without the use of a mouse just to get a different perspective on accessibility. When something is so engrained in our everyday lives it can be difficult to see its weaknesses or see it from other people’s viewpoint – we just get used to it. Global Accessibility Awareness Day does a great job of highlighting issues, so if you are able to take an action (no matter how small) that generates further awareness, or improves digital accessibility for someone, then I encourage you to do so. If you can’t think of anything else, maybe just share this article with ten friends or have a five minute conversation about accessibility with your family at tea time. Because ultimately, we are all different and we all matter.

The CPD Revolution live event series

Book your free place on the interactive CPD workshop event series.

Returning for a second year to a rescheduled time of November 2020 – February 2021, The CPD Revolution continues to innovate with five fresh workshops including a new Mental Health First Aid CPD session. 

From listening to our attendee feedback gained at our 2019 event series, there will be an NMH focused keynote address at each location. 

All attendees receive new training in areas of HI, VI, ergonomics, e-learning and mental health, all in one day. Plus, an all-new software exhibition this year will showcase the latest updates from the leading AT software programmes. Take home free AT resources, share ideas with your peers and have fun!

The new science of e-learning: This time it’s personal.

Personalisation is everywhere. It has become so engrained in our everyday that we probably don’t even recognise it anymore. Amazon recommending products you may like – personalisation. Every marketing email you receive that uses your first name – personalisation. Generation Z or the iGen (people born between 1995 and 2012) are even more familiar with personalisation. They have grown up with social media, online shopping and even their university intranet will be personalised within their own profile.

Why is personalisation so important when it comes to learning?

Learning is very different to shopping on Amazon. Learning is all about forming long-term memories. One of the most important areas of the brain that does this is the limbic system, which includes the amygdala and the hippocampus. For long-term memories to be formed, they have to pass through the amygdala to reach the hippocampus, where they can be sent to long-term storage.

A recent study took three websites, the Facebook newsfeed, entertainment-orientated Yahoo and the heavily informational New York Times. The study found that “memory scores tend to be higher when stimuli are personally meaningful and provide opportunities for learning”.

The study concludes by saying that “online activity, which is both personal and social is more immersive, more emotionally engaging, and more cognitively stimulating”.

Due to the personalisation of the Facebook newsfeed, more memories were generated from this website than the other two, as the content was relevant and meaningful to users’ lives.

This echoes the reasoning behind personalisation in Learning Labs. We believe our learners must become key drivers in their learning so that it becomes meaningful, valuable and personal to them – and therefore they engage with the portal more. Learning Labs already gives students the chance to learn the same thing in different ways with our Do, Watch, Read, and (more recent) Quiz Labs. However, we wanted to take the personalisation further.

My most effective way of learning is different to yours

When we started developing our new personalisation features, it was important that the student was always in control and that any new features fitted in with the latest learning design theory and neuroscience findings.

Many studies have shown that cognitive overload can hinder a student’s learning experience. As is the case when several people talk to you at the same time, having a mix of information on the same page can make it difficult to concentrate. However, it is also important to realise that what could cause cognitive overload for one student may not affect another.

When students log into Learning Labs, they are now greeted by ‘My workspace’ – a personal learning environment, which they can tailor to meet their needs. The learner has the power to select which Labs are relevant to them based on the Assistive Technology they have been recommended. This drops the relevant Lab suites into their workspace and avoids cognitive overload of unnecessary and irrelevant content.

Their personal workspace also includes the new ‘engagement dashboard.’ Here the student can see dials and percentages not only to help motivate their learning, but also to show which Lab type they have engaged with the most. This gives the student a clear and concise snapshot into how their learning is developing and helps them to feel a sense of achievement.

Having this information at their fingertips means the student can personalise their learning experience. They can see particular categories of Lab that they have not engaged with, prompting them to try this learning type rather than continuing to work through the same style of Lab.

To help the uninterrupted flow of learning (you may recall that feeling when you zone-out and have to take a step back to find your place again), Learning Labs also has a ‘Resume last Lab’ and a ‘Next suggested Lab’ button within ‘My workspace’. This enables the student to jump back in to their learning from where they left off or continue on without distractions in the learning content. These functions emulate social media such as YouTube, Instagram and the latest bite-sized video channel, TikTok.

The learner is in the driving seat
No alt text provided for this image
From our knowledge of cognitive overload, we know that these features may not be beneficial to all students all of the time. The human brain is more unique than a fingerprint, so it was important that our new features could be controlled by the user. Students can now add/remove menu and content items at the flick of a switch, creating a unique learning experience for every user. As easily as they are turned off, they can be turned on again.

Unlike social media, Amazon and those ‘Hey Chris! We thought you might like…’ marketing emails, we want our personalisation to create a truly beneficial experience for the end user. Our personalisation features assist users in achieving their academic potential, which will benefit them beyond their current course.

See for yourself

Throughout April and May, Learning Labs is hosting a series of CPD Revolution Online events, which will feature a live demo of our new personalisation features. Click the link below to book your free place on one of these dates and see personalised e-learning in action. Oh, and hear more about the science too.

https://bit.ly/CPDRevonline

To read more on the study mentioned in this article, ‘The Premium Experience: Neurological Engagement on Premium Websites,’ click here.

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Why invest in accessibility? Because we all matter.

Imagine visiting your favourite website. Maybe this means searching for the latest tech gadget or you want to look up that banana bread recipe everyone’s been baking during lockdown. Now imagine you’re on that website but you can’t read the text, or you can’t click a relevant link. Unfortunately, this is too often a reality for the 13.9 million people living with a disability in the UK.  

That’s a total of 22% of the UK population living with a disability. Therefore, for some of the people reading this blog, you will have already experienced a barrier to your online browsing in some form.

Accessing opportunity during lockdown

When the word ‘accessibility’ comes up many people will immediately think of the physical aspects such as wheelchair ramps into buildings or signage in braille. Less people will think about the digital world.

No alt text provided for this image

Even less will think about hidden disabilities and how these can affect day-to-day life and be further amplified during this time of restriction. As a father of two children, who both have hidden disabilities, I’ve seen first-hand how a lack of awareness and accessibility can impact the affected individual and their family.

The current global pandemic is forcing us all to rely on digital resources more than ever. Yet 70% of UK websites are still not fully accessible. It is no surprise then, that 90% of disabled users click away from a website rather than report accessibility issues.

This is why now, more than ever, is a good time to focus on developing the accessibility of our digital landscape and, ultimately, opening our minds to a truly inclusive society.

No alt text provided for this image

Our commitment to supporting accessibility

For me, Global Accessibility Awareness Day is always an ideal time to take stock and set some new goals to actively improve any areas of accessibility within our business.

  • Promoting an inclusive culture at work

As a business that operates in the Disabled Students Allowance (DSA) sector, we are lucky to be right on the pulse of new assistive technology launches or updates that can support accessibility.

Plenty of this stuff also makes for brilliant workplace tools and it’s not just for people with specific disabilities – and that’s the key – assistive software publishers have designed their products with total inclusivity in mind from the start. Real design accessibility means a product should be usable by everyone – it does not mean it is designed for one specific disability.

Our staff always use the latest assistive technology to support them at work; for instance, I like to use mind mapping tools when we are coming up with product development ideas. You can put everything down in one diagram and it’s easy to share with the team.

We also run a monthly Lunch ‘n’ Learn programme with workshops often led by staff members for staff members. This has included a sign language workshop, which we recently put into practice to help celebrate Deaf Awareness Week. This was a lot of fun and helped bring the team together whilst we are all working remotely (you can watch a video of our efforts here, which proudly for me includes a guest appearance from my kids).

Our CPD Revolution Online programme has been running for the last two months whilst in lockdown for DSA professionals, this has offered over 6 hours of free CPD on nine different assistive technologies, plus a keynote on mental health. Thankfully, mental health is starting to become a much more prevalent area for people to talk about but is another area which we will be continuing to put a particular focus on in terms of raising awareness in the coming months. Over 95% of our staff were able to log in and attend themselves, helping them to better understand the mental health & accessibility needs of the end users we are supporting every day. 

  • Supporting end-user accessibility

There are a multitude of tools available to disabled internet users. Since 2009, mobile screen reading usage has increased by 70%. It is therefore important our e-learning portal is designed to enable these devices to interpret content correctly. Imagine walking into a cinema and joining a film halfway through or, more likely in my case, being woken up half way through by your disappointed Son. You’ve no idea who is who or what is happening – is the person on screen a hero or a villain? You lack context to understand what is taking place. Website page headers, hover descriptions and alt text provide users with the purpose and context of that particular webpage and of its content. Screen readers can communicate this information to the user aloud, supporting them in their decision making on the page.

The last few years has seen a significant rise in the popularity of video content, but how effective is it if only 78% of your audience can engage with it? This is why captions are so important, and if this isn’t possible then an equally informative, alternative content option should be easily accessible.

At Learning Labs, we don’t want to just tick a box and assume our portal is accessible. We are constantly looking at functions we can add that will support diverse needs. When users now log into the Learning Labs portal they are greeted with their own personal ‘My workspace’ page, as well as personalisation settings to further customise their experience. You can read more about the science behind this personalisation in Chris Collier’s latest blog. Although we are proud of these latest developments, we will never be ‘finished’ because there is no end point to true accessibility – we see our responsibility towards accessibility as a long-term commitment.

No alt text provided for this image

Our team is currently undertaking a project that identifies areas of weakness in the Learning Labs portal and will be working on these to increase our accessibility. For instance, over the coming month we plan to improve the user experience for users where keyboard only navigation is essential with the introduction of consistent shortcut keys, improved tab ordering and active focus indicators.

We know, just like anything in life, there is always room for improvement. We are committed to consistently improving our accessibility and that includes only developing new features in Learning Labs that are inclusive.

How to support Global Accessibility Awareness Day 2020

From our own research into accessibility we know what a complex subject digital accessibility can be. That is why we have put together our ‘is it accessible?’ checklist for use when assessing a digital resource’s accessibility. We also have the CPD Revolution running today, which you can still sign up for, plus there are endless webinars, downloadable documents and conversations happening online that anyone can access.

  • Enquire about our free ‘Is it accessible?’ checklist to help you determine if an AT product meets your requirements. Email info@learninglabs.co
  • Today we are running a live demo of Learning Labs as part of our CPD Revolution Online – this is the final day of the series and you can still sign up here: https://bit.ly/BookCPDOnline
  • Join the accessibility conversation on social media using the hashtag #GAAD today.

There’s no denying the internet is rooted in all that we do. I challenge you to go a day without using it; there would be no Netflix, no social media, no supermarket delivery. In fact, you’d have to stop reading this blog. I also challenge you to try accessing a website for 10 minutes without the use of a mouse just to get a different perspective on accessibility. When something is so engrained in our everyday lives it can be difficult to see its weaknesses or see it from other people’s viewpoint – we just get used to it. Global Accessibility Awareness Day does a great job of highlighting issues, so if you are able to take an action (no matter how small) that generates further awareness, or improves digital accessibility for someone, then I encourage you to do so. If you can’t think of anything else, maybe just share this article with ten friends or have a five minute conversation about accessibility with your family at tea time. Because ultimately, we are all different and we all matter.

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