Pedagogy & Design

[Action Lab] Inclusive design of OERs using co-design

Jess Mitchell and Michelle D'Souza

Inclusive Design Research Centre OCAD University

Inclusive design of OERs using co-design an Open Education Action Lab Michelle D’Souza, Senior Inclusive Community Developer, IDRC, OCAD Univ Jess Mitchell, Senior Manager R&D+Design, IDRC, OCAD University Most education technology and content aims to reach an imagined, average or typical learner. But our experience tells us that few learners are typical; we all learn differently and we all have preferred ways of learning (e.g. videos with captions, digital text we can annotate, both, etc.). We have an opportunity to remedy this predicament, largely afforded by the flexibility inherent in the digital domain. By using digital devices and open education resources, educators, learners, developers, designers, researchers and others can personalize content to fit the needs and preferences of individuals. Rather than ask individual learners to adapt to interfaces, we can request that the platform and content adapt to meet the individual’s needs. We have the ability to customize so many things in our lives (our living space, our cars, our seats, our kitchen appliances, etc.), why can’t we customize the interfaces, applications, and content we use? The Floe Project team is working to enable the personalization of the learning experience.

The project is creating tools, documentation, how-tos, and methods for empowering users (learners) to discover, declare, and reuse the way they would like to learn. This project is part of a larger initiative called the Global Public Inclusive Infrastructure (GPII) that is architecting the platform upon which users can save individual preferences and needs to the cloud and then reuse them on everyday digital devices. Floe is focusing on creating that functionality in the learning domain while also assisting the OER community in meeting the commitment to provide inclusive learning for all learners. Personalized interfaces have the potential to eliminate barriers to access for all users. To solve this problem we need a one-size-fits-one approach to learning and to web accessibility in general. This requires tools that help transform the content on the Web and enable users to declare their own needs, authoring tools that allow users to more easily create accessible materials, and policy changes that reflect this novel approach to content and the web in general. This approach is technically possible because of the inherent plasticity of digital material. It can meet the individual needs of learners rather than guessing or generalizing about their needs, and it is future-proof, allowing for inevitable innovations in technology. There are a number of factors that can affect user interactions with digital systems: – Environment (noisy bus station, bright sunlight shining on a screen, etc.) – Unique user abilities (age, digital literacy, comfort with technology, mobility, dexterity, preferred and necessary means of computer interaction, cognitive needs, etc.) – Operating system and application variability – Learning styles (preferred ways of consuming content)As is clear from this list, all learners potentially face barriers to learning. Like barriers faced by people with disabilities these can be seen as a product of a mismatch between the needs of the learner and the learning experience and environment. And where there is a mismatch, Floe Project tools can bridge the gap, creating a match. Using this framing an accessible learning experience is a learning experience that matches the needs of the individual learner or the learners within a group. Thus a match requires that we know the context and the learner/s. This framing merely adds an additional critical impetus to the broader goals and values of the OER community.

The added push recognizes that some learners are more constrained than others and are therefore less able to adapt, needing a more flexible learning environment or experience. It’s a call for tools that allow users to describe what works for them. To achieve this flexibility an accessible or inclusively designed OER system requires the capacity to match the learning needs of individual learners. This requires OER resources that are amenable to reuse and a large, diverse pool of OERs. If the default OER is inaccessible to a specific learner the inclusively designed system would either: a) transform the resource (e.g., through styling mechanisms), b) augment the resource (e.g., by adding captioning to video), or c) replace the resource with another resource that addresses the same learning goals but matches the learner’s specific access needs. To achieve this requires: 1. information about each learner’s access needs 2. information about the learner needs addressed by each resource 3. resources that are amenable to transformation, and a pool of alternative equivalent resources. 4. a method of matching learner needs with the appropriate learning experience Floe Project has developed a number of tools to complete this experience including the ‘learner options’ tool that allows users to discover, declare, and save for reuse any need and preferences they have for interacting with content. In this Action Lab, the Floe Project team will work with educators, content creators, researchers, designers, developers, and learners to explore how to make OERs more inclusive.

The team will demonstrate how to use Floe Project tools for integrators and will explore ways to make content more inclusive at the point of authoring, after the content has been created, from a design perspective, and with respect to development decisions. The team will also lead participants in a co-design process that will yield further thinking in how best to meet learners wherever they are, answering “how can we participate in the designing of inclusive tools and techniques?”

● Participants will learn how to create, transform, and modify OERs to make them more inclusive

● Participants will learn how to participate in a co-design process that they can use within their own work

● Participants will understand some of the barriers some experience using OERs The Floe Project team has begun using a process that borrows from agile, iterative, and participatory processes.

This process departs from standard enterprise project management principles in that the full set of end users, project approach, milestones and final outcome are not pre-defined. In this way, it is a process that emerges as the work is done. The research is not divided into consecutive stages of design, development, implementation, and evaluation. The process engages in iterative cycles that produce small iterations on design that can be tested by end users. End users and other stakeholders participate as co-designers in the process from the very start and engage the larger community in helping to refine the outcomes. The products and processes grow from small successes that can be deployed early to garner interest and further input. This method also creates a strong sense of community within the team. This approach enables the research team to determine what works and what doesn’t and respond accordingly by following promising leads and innovative new ideas, and it enables end users to verify the utility of each successive iteration of the outcomes. Thus there is no transition to research dissemination or transfer of research as end users and stakeholders required for implementation are involved from the start. Also demonstrable early successes garner enthusiasm and recruit further participants to the process. The most powerful dissemination channel is through end-user recommendations, the chosen method enables this form of dissemination. Participants will learn how to conduct co-design and will be able to bring this “method” back to their own work. The Floe project is led by the Inclusive Design Research Centre (IDRC), at OCAD University. The IDRC, established in 1994, is an internationally recognized centre of expertise in the inclusive design of emerging digital systems and practices. With more than 30 interdisciplinary researchers, the IDRC has pioneered broadly-implemented technical innovations that support inclusion. All results of IDRC research are open source and open access. Many of the research results of the IDRC have been tested and implemented in large-scale education programs that require production level quality and reliability.


Co-designing using Inclusive Design Practices from Open Education Consortium