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Online Teaching, Learning and Assessment: Advice & Guidance for Staff

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This web resource provides academics with an overview of accessibility in teaching and assessment and general “getting started” strategies for making learning resources, tools, experiences, and opportunities accessible to all learners. Creating an accessible learning environment for your students is part of an inclusive practice. If you’re interested in learning more about inclusive teaching in general, please see the Inclusive Learning Information on making your teaching and assessment inclusive.

Trinity guidance on creating online accessible materials

Trinity guidance for Inclusive Teaching, Learning and Assessment

Our Guidelines for Inclusive Teaching Methods provide comprehensive advice on course content, learning outcomes, assessment, supervision, and physical environment.

When creating your own learning materials, setting up your Virtual Learning Environment in Blackboard(VLE), consider the points below. These recommendations take into consideration students who encounter your online materials through technology in ways that you may not anticipate, by using a screen reader for example, or accessing the material through dated devices.

Content within Blackboard needs to be accessible for all students, whether or not the content was created or designed by the academic lecturer.

1. Blackboard Ally

A added resource to Blackboard for all academics to view how usable and accessible their course material is within Blackboard - click here for Blackboard Ally support

Many of the same techniques used to ensure that in-person course materials are accessible apply to those delivered online. Some accessibility concerns are particular to hybrid online courses. The following tips are specific to hybrid or online-only classes:

2. Top 10 tips for Accessible Online Content:

  1. Make sure to use a sans serif font (e.g. Arial, Verdana, Calibri) and minimum size of font on slides (24) and written word or pdf documents (12).
  2. Use consistent layouts and organisational schemes to present content, and make the organisational system obvious to students. This can serve as a roadmap for the course, and help students understand where they have been and where they are going in terms of learning. Accessible information is information provided in a clear and easy to follow format.
  3. Use heading styles, and use them in an effective hierarchy in both Word and web pages, and create bookmarks and document structure tags when creating PDFs. 
  4. Add descriptive Alternative Text to images in all documents to help those who use screen readers (and if an image is purely decorative, use Alt=””). Alt-text helps students accessing your material with a screen reader understand what images are on the page. Most software programs that allow images to be embedded also allow you to create alt-text associated with the image. In Blackboard, the “embed image” dialog box gives a space for alt-text, as does PowerPoint.
  5. Use Left Justified paragraphs, and one and a half spacing to improve readability. 
  6. Use colour contrast and patterns to convey meaning as well as colour. Avoid using red, green and pink to convey information. Print colour items in black and white to see how the contrast works.
  7. Don’t underline text or it will be confused with links. 
  8. Use descriptive and embedded hyperlinks to direct your audience to other content instead of web address links. Never use ‘click here’(e.g., use “Trinity Academic Practice” rather than “click here” or the full URL “www.tcd.ie/CAPSL”). This makes the destination of the link clear to all students, and makes the links easier to scan, find, and use for students using a screen reader. An exception to this rule is when listing email addresses; in this case, type out addresses rather than embedding them (e.g., “academicpractice@tcd.ie” rather than “Academic Practice”) because screen readers may not recognize the descriptive text as an email address. 
  9. Use bullets and numbered lists to break up text and use punctuation at the end of each item. 
  10. Run the 'Check Accessibility' tool on your Microsoft Office files. It will highlight areas for improvement.

3. Captions assist students and staff with audio processing issues and those listening in their non-native language.

Trinity College IT Services support the following tools :

  1. Panopto - The Panopto Lecture Capture Service allows you to record, edit, share and stream video, audio, Powerpoint and screen capture content for audiences such as your staff colleagues, your students, and other third parties or the public. It manages your recordings for you using a cloud based content management storage system. You can also record from within Blackboard (mymodule.tcd.ie) and post directly to your module. For support on editing captioning provided by this service view this link Panopto - captions support
  2. Blackboard Collaborate-Blackboard Collaborate is Trinity's supported web-lecture software for holding real-time online ‘virtual classroom’ sessions with your students, wherever they are located. You can run interactive seminars, tutorials or meetings with your students. These sessions are usually called webinars.  The webinars are set up, accessed and delivered from within the Blackboard virtual learning environment. Moderators must make attendees captioners. Captioners type what is being said during a session. Other attendees can view what is being typed in real time. You can have multiple captioners for multiple languages. There is no automatic capturing of captioning from this service. For more information on captioning in this service please view - Blackboard caption support page
  3. Microsoft Teams - Teams is a collaboration app available through Office 365 which has been designed for maximum 250 attendees of people who work together regularly; its largest benefit is instant communication amongst a small group and the ability to share information and files easily all in one centralised place. Automatic captioning is provided by this service. For information on how to activate this function please view - Microsoft Teams Caption support page
  4. Microsoft Powerpoint - Live Captions and Subtitles in PowerPoint can provide captions for your presentation in the same language you are speaking or translate it into another language in real-time! This feature is only available when using PowerPoint in Office 365 or in the app downloaded from Office 365. For support on how to caption within Microsoft Powerpoint please click on this link.

Non TCD Supported Captioning Tools:

Zoom - Zoom does not offer automatic captioning as per MS Teams. Zoom have collaborated with a number of 3rd part vendors such as Otter.ai or rez.com that allow a user to purchase a plug-in to allow this automatic captioning service. Please note these tools are currently not supported with IT Service. Similar to Blackboard collaborate Zoom provide in formation on how to manually provide captioning. For further support information from Zoom on this service please click on this link.

TCD Procurement Captioning services - Human Generated Captions:

TCD Procurement do have a preferred supplier in purchasing human based captioning services - Premier Captioning & Real Time ltd - category code 82111604. For further information on there services please view this link

Transcripts can help students who wish to review audio content separately from the audio or visual medium. A way to quickly generate an audio transcript is to upload the audio to YouTube, download the automatically generated caption file, and then edit that file.

Accessible file formats ensure that files are available for students who may not have access to or who cannot use some software packages. Formats that are generally accessible are: .pdf for documents, .jpeg for images, .mp3 for audio, and .mp4 for video. Note: For text documents, we recommend offering files in two formats (.pdf and as a Word document) because some document formats cannot be accessed by all screen reading software (used by students with visual impairments to read documents aloud).

Accessible online meetings for disabled students

Hosting inclusive meetings is more important than ever if all students are to have access to the same learning opportunities. Social media is an incredibly important and useful tool for communication, instruction and promotion yet accessibility on these platforms can be a significant issue for individuals with disabilities. Accessibility features do exist for each social media platform and this webpage will provide tips to help you make your social media posts more inclusive. Please see the guides below for ensuring full inclusion in meetings, tutorials and forums.

CAPSL guidance on inclusive supervision

Ergonomics for study

  • Read our Guide to Good Ergonomics for some tops tips on creating a comfortable study space that supports physical and mental health.

Advice and guidance for staff for remote assessment

Exam Accommodations for Alternative Assessments

Exam Options What this is Disability reasonable accommodations and considerations
Continuous Assessment (CA) CA component and convert it into a grade for the module. CA can also be considered on a case by case basis for individual students as an alternative to an exam. This can be considered a Non Standard Reasonable Accommodation
Assignment Convert final examinations to written assignments. This is where the assignment is of a different type to the exam, such as a single essay – i.e., it is not just a take-home exam paper.

For Assignments the amount of time being given is designed to take account of all students’ personal circumstances, including those who would normally be offered extended time in exams. No additional time will therefore be offered to these assessments. The use of the disclosure of disability sticker in exams does not apply for assignments.

Take-Home Offline Exams Take-home exams are open-book exams that are given a longer deadline to submit the answers. These could have a deadline set in the same day or over a number of days. For Take-home Offline Exams please ensure to add extra time stated on the student LENS (Learning Educational Needs Summary). If a student has been granted extra time for exams on their LENS, their exam must be extended to allow for these exam accommodations. Additional time of 10 (15, 20 or 30) minutes per hour will apply to all timed exams and assessments of different durations. For example, for exams and assessments of different durations, 10 minutes per hour is applied as follows:
  • 48 hours + 8 hours
  • 24 hours + 4 hours
  • 3 hours + 30 mins
  • 2.5 hours + 25 mins
  • 2 hours + 20 mins
  • 1.5 hours  + 15 mins
Disclosure of disability in exams – see below*
Real-Time Online Exams Real-Time Online Exams refer to a timed exam offered remotely, where students interact continuously with the online platform. These are not invigilated and so are effectively open book.

This exam type will be open for several hours. The recommended duration is like that of the normal exam, with some additional buffer to allow for students to navigate the system.

For Real-Time Online Exams please ensure to add extra time stated on the student LENS (Learning Educational Needs Summary). If a student has been granted extra time for exams on their LENS, their exam must be extended to allow for these exam accommodations. Additional time of 10 (15, 20 or 30) minutes per hour will apply to all timed exams and assessments of different durations. For example, for exams and assessments of different durations, 10 minutes per hour is applied as follows:
  • 48 hours + 8 hours
  • 24 hours + 4 hours
  • 3 hours + 30 mins
  • 2.5 hours + 25 mins
  • 2 hours + 20 mins
  • 1.5 hours  + 15 mins

Guidance on adding extra-time is linked here.

Where students have use of additional supports such as technology, alternative venues or other arrangements, the Disability Service will be in touch with these students to assist them in setting up these supports for themselves in their own venues.

Please see table below: https://www.tcd.ie/disability/services/exam-accommodations.php

Disclosure of disability in exams – see below*

Real-Time Online invigilated Exams / Proctored Exams Real-Time Online Invigilated Exams refer to timed exams offered remotely for which students may not use any materials.

These exams are conducted through online examinations in Blackboard and they are timed, live sessions.

This exam type will be open for several hours and the recommended duration is like that of the normal exam, with some additional buffer to allow for students to navigate the system.

For Real-Time Online Invigilated Exams please ensure to add extra time stated on the student LENS (Learning Educational Needs Summary). If a student has been granted extra time for exams on their LENS, their exam must be extended to allow for these exam accommodations. Additional time of 10 (15, 20 or 30) minutes per hour will apply to all timed exams and assessments of different durations. For example, for exams and assessments of different durations, 10 minutes per hour is applied as follows:
  • 48 hours + 8 hours
  • 24 hours + 4 hours
  • 3 hours + 30 mins
  • 2.5 hours + 25 mins
  • 2 hours + 20 mins
  • 1.5 hours  + 15 mins

Guidance on adding extra-time is linked here.

Where students have use of additional supports such as technology, alternative venues or other arrangements, the Disability Service will be in touch with these students to assist them in setting up these supports for themselves in their own venues.

Please see table below: https://www.tcd.ie/disability/services/exam-accommodations.php

Disclosure of disability in exams – see below*

*Students with dyslexia and students who are deaf or have a hearing impairment may opt to disclose their disability on their examination scripts in any of the examination modalities listed above. It is the students responsibility to copy the link to the disclosure of disability linked here https://www.tcd.ie/disability/services/exam-accommodations.php#id  The Disability Service will provide this link to all students with this accommodation and will guide on its use.

The Disability Service can be contacted with any queries in relation to the provision of exam accommodations for timed, online or take home exams: askds@tcd.ie

adapting-assessment -process map

CAPSL guidance for online assessment and examination

Allocating extra time for remote assessments

If a student has been granted extra time for exams, your online exam must be extended to allow for these exam accommodations. Additional time of 10 (15, 20 or 30) minutes per hour will apply to all timed exams and assessments; from 1 hour up to 48 hrs. For exams and assessments of different durations, 10 minutes per hour is applied as follows:

  • 48 hours + 8 hours
  • 24 hours + 4 hours
  • 3 hours + 30 mins
  • 2.5 hours + 25 mins
  • 2 hours + 20 mins
  • 1.5 hours + 15 mins

Disability Liaison Officers (DLO), Directors of Teaching and Learning (DTL) and Module Co-Ordinator's can view lists of students with exam accommodations within SITS and share this information with academics as required. Information on how to do this can be found here. Guidance on how to extend time in Blackboard is provided here. Additionally the Test availability exceptions feature within Blackboard allows you to give additional time or change the availability of tests for students.

Remote Viva Voce examinations

Zoom or Microsoft Teams are the two recommended online platforms to be used. In particular, no viva is to be conducted using audio or phone. In each location, measures should be taken such that appropriate conditions are in place ensuring minimal disruption, security and integrity of the examination.

Procedures for the Operation of a Virtual/Remote Viva Voce Examination