The first annual FIU Online All Access Day took place in Spring to help faculty increase accessibility in their online courses. The event took place on Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD). This inaugural event offered faculty members one-on-one Zoom sessions or in-person tutorials at the Modesto Maidique, Biscayne Bay, and Engineering Center campuses.
“As our remote world becomes ever more reliant on digital solutions for learning, living, and livelihoods, organizations are taking stock of their digital accessibility to increase inclusion for those who may be differently abled,” says Lia Prevolis, interim assistant vice president of FIU Online. “For FIU, this effort is part of the institution’s ongoing mission and helps create more opportunities for our online learners.”
Hundreds of universities worldwide participated in GAAD events like the FIU Online All Access to improve accessibility for all students. GAAD focuses on digital access and inclusion, and the world’s more than one billion people with disabilities/impairments.
Equity is paramount when serving a diverse student population like FIU’s. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 61 million adults in the U.S. live with a disability. Many of these individuals are also studying at universities.
“We’re doing our part to help our instructors with their courses, which helps every student,” says Valentine S. King, Instructional Design Consultant at FIU Online. “It may be as easy as creating a meaningful description for a photo. We want our digital courses to be accessible for learners of all abilities.”
Robert Parhizgari, Director of Technology Services for FIU Online, explains that Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance is not new to FIU Online.
“In 2012, we first implemented a closed captioning feature in the video player used for media content at FIU Online,” points out Parhizgari. “The FIU Online goal is to make 100 percent of all media, online courses, and our websites equally accessible through closed captions and new technology.”
For years, FIU Online has threaded awareness of its diverse learners in many of its efforts, says Prevolis. She notes that it is important to be mindful of the needs of all students, as FIU Online grows. Despite the effects of the pandemic, FIU Online enrollment numbers for fully online students continue to grow. This means there may be more students with accessibility needs.
“Our growth is a testament to the quality of our programs and courses—we serve a great and growing need. But we must continue to innovate to ensure our programs serve the greatest number of students as possible, anywhere, anytime,” highlights Prevolis who mentions the university’s No. 1 status in the world for Quality Matters certified online courses.
“We want to ensure that the benefits of online learning are designed and built so all can participate. Through ongoing training and consultations, we collaborate closely with our instructors to adopt global best practices in accessibility,” King states. “These ‘fixes’ in courses may seem time-consuming and simplistic. However, they are powerful changes moving the needle closer to fully inclusive and equitable opportunities, for those who teach and are learning with us.”
For more information, email or contact the FIU Online Learning Design team.