Why Accessibility and Usability is Crucial to Online Study Platforms
Online learning is a big deal these days, with many great educational establishments offering all kinds of resources to let people pick up new skills, practice existing ones, or even gain major qualifications by studying online. Whether it’s a full online business degree, a fun way to practice foreign language skills, or a revision tool for students, however, these kinds of resources all share the same significant needs for good accessibility and usability in their design, and good testing to ensure they deliver it.
Why Is Accessibility So Important for Online Learning Sites?
Accessibility has always been important on the web, however for some resources and services it is absolutely essential. While a business may lose out if its site isn’t user-friendly, or people with disabilities are unable to use it, for some sites there are far bigger problems if users are not able to properly understand, see or take in the information, and educational sites fall into this category. As an example, while online video can be a great way to show how to do something, it is limited because it requires the user to both have sound and be able to hear. For a deaf person or someone who simply doesn’t have speakers or headphones, a video is far from useful if all of the info is spoken, so they need a transcript or subtitles. However, for a blind person, the video may also not be useful even with sound, so they may need an alternative that describes what is happening. If you are selling something then you may not mind losing out on this part of the audience, but when you are providing learning resources, it is a different matter.
What About Usability?
Accessibility affects more people than you might think, but usability affects everyone. A site that is hard to navigate or confusing, or which doesn’t work properly on a certain type of device, is a major frustration, and when people are trying to learn new skills or even take something like an online business degree, they shouldn’t have to be concerned with figuring out how to use the site or tools for hours before actually being able to study. Good usability in design, and good usability test strategies, then, are critical.
Making Usability and Accessibility Priorities
When online learning sites want to win over more people, whether as casual users of a learning tool like an app to help develop language skills or as fully fledged students of things like online business programs, they need to put these two highly connected areas at a high priority in their design and QA. Only by having sites that are easy to use and don’t limit people with disabilities or technology limitations can these sites succeed in their missions to make education easier to obtain for everyone.
With that in mind, if you work in online education or are interested in online study design, keep accessibility and usability at the forefront of your mind!
Featured image: Steinar La Engeland