With the creation of its series of open textbooks on digital accessibility, The Chang School itself has developed two continuing education course offerings based on the textbooks. The ultimate goal in developing these courses, is to introduce accessibility into computer science curriculum, and to use OER to accomplish that.
With the help of the Pressbooks team at Ryerson, a plugin was created that allows pages from the textbooks to be embedded with an iframe into pages of an LMS, with the Pressbooks navigation hidden away. This creates a seamless integration of book pages within the LMS. Developing the courses was a matter of creating a framework of topics in the LMS that matched the topics in the textbook (for the most part), then copying the URL to each book page, into the placeholder pages. Compared to a typical course development, that can take weeks or even months to put together, with the integrated OER the development time was cut to just a couple days.
The first session began running in January of 2020, with a small, but sufficient to cover costs, enrollment. The second will run in the fall of 2020.
Though both of these courses are being offered currently as non-credit computer science courses, the next step is to apply to have them become electives for credit, then ultimately become required credit courses for the computer science program at Ryerson. Starting as non-credit is the “foot in the door” for these courses. Though it makes them less attractive to credit seeking students, they are available to a broader audience without the academic prerequisites typically associated with registration in a university program. Thus, they are open to anyone local or international, who wants to develop their accessibility expertise.
The Chang School is continuing to build on, and refine the courses and textbooks, first looking at a subscription service that local and international students can subscribe to on a monthly basis to earn microcredentials on specific accessibility related topics (among other subject areas), which together could contribute toward a broader professional development certificate.
The Chang School has also partnered with OERu to produce four unmoderated open courses on their platform, based on four of the open textbooks. Students are able to study the content on their own, and with others there for self-study, after which they can apply for Prior Learning & Recognition (PLAR) credit to earn the same microcredentials, and professional development certificate, that those with the subscription service might earn, completing the same associated exams and/or projects.
OERu Open Courses (https://oeru.org/web-accessibility)
Looking Ahead 20 Years
Thinking back to the Open Source project that created the model accessible LMS (see Part 1), with time the goal there was reached, with most of today’s LMSs greatly advanced in their accessibility support.
Hopefully, it does not take another 20 years to make accessibility standard practice when teaching computer science and other related disciplines. Using OERs and publicly accessible open courses, as well as a small number of instructor led courses from the few institutions currently looking at integrating accessibility into IT programs, we will bring up the next generation of developers and computer scientists in an environment where accessibility is much more in the public consciousness. When they themselves become instructors, accessibility is more likely to be a natural part of what they teach.
Greg Gay is the IT Accessibility Specialist at the G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education, at Ryerson University. He led the projects to develop the OERs and Open Source software described here, and is the primary author of the books and game content. He’s been in the accessibility field since 1995, as a web developer with a formal background in disability and adaptive instruction, and has been developing and teaching online since 2000.