:async: Insights from Stakeholders on Designing Accessible MOOCs

Author: Francisco Iniesto
Institution: The Open University
Country: United Kingdom

Topic: Innovation through MOOCs practices
Sector: Lifelong Learning
UNESCO Area of Focus: Inclusive OER
Session Format: Presentation


A fundamental characteristic of MOOCs is the high degree of interactivity that facilitates and reinforces the communication between learners. An accessible open e-learning environment should consider each learner’s abilities, learning goals, where learning takes place, and which specific devices the learner uses. Unfortunately, technologies used in MOOC platforms are not necessarily accessible; it has proven challenging to legislate. Literature tells us that there is a lack of understanding of what disabled learners expect from MOOCs. Disabled learners can face difficulties in accessing and using the distinct types of technologies that they come up against, as well different MOOC designs may be affecting their engagement, causing them to miss out on opportunities offered by MOOCs. Unfortunately, extensive studies reporting demographic data in MOOCs seem not to be including disabled learners into consideration. This doctoral research has investigated the current state of accessibility in MOOCs. It involved: (1) Interviews with 26 MOOC stakeholders, e.g. instructional designers and learning media developers who produce the educational resources and accessibility specialists who are part of the platform software development team. (2) Comparative quantitative survey data involving disabled and non-disabled learners participating in 14 FutureLearn MOOCs presentations from the OU; interviews with 15 FutureLearn participants which captured disabled learners’ experiences. (3) An accessibility audit was conducted to evaluate MOOCs from FutureLearn, edX, Coursera and Canvas Network. This audit comprises 4 components: accessibility, user experience (UX), quality and Universal Design for Learning (UDL); experts were part of its design and validation. This research programme has yielded an understanding of how MOOC providers cater for disabled learners, the motivations of disabled learners when taking part in MOOCs, and how MOOCs should be designed to be accessible for disabled learners. A range of barriers to accessibility in the design of MOOCs have been identified and developed recommendations for accessible development of MOOCs. These barriers are not necessarily technical, but include the learning design too and, in addition, these barriers can account for many factors which are not necessarily related to disability. For example, from the learners’ perspective, it is the lack of time to perform the tasks assigned each week; this barrier may be related to a very busy personal life which may affect learners, or it could be due to mental health problems which influence their ability to concentrate on those tasks. Another barrier is related to the different approaches learners have to interact with other peers, something highly influenced when the learner has low self-esteem and is particularly sensitive to receive negative feedback. One of the most common issues raised by providers is the limitation to support learners experiencing accessibility barriers once a MOOC is already online and being run.


Accessibility, inclusive design, disabled learners

You can find my presentation recorded:

The presentation handout:
OEG2020 Iniesto.pdf (444.1 KB)

Key publications:

Iniesto, Francisco (2020). An Investigation Into The Accessibility Of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). PhD thesis The Open University.

Iniesto, Francisco; McAndrew, Patrick; Minocha, Shailey and Coughlan, Tim (2019). Auditing the accessibility of MOOCs: a four-component approach. In: EC-TEL 2019 Fourteenth European Conference on Technology Enhanced Learning , 16-19 Sep 2019, Delft (Netherlands).

Iniesto, Francisco; McAndrew, Patrick; Minocha, Shailey and Coughlan, Tim (2017). What are the expectations of disabled learners when participating in a MOOC? In: L@S '17 Proceedings of the Fourth (2017) ACM Conference on Learning @ Scale , ACM, New York, NY, USA, pp. 225–228.

Iniesto, Francisco; McAndrew, Patrick; Minocha, Shailey and Coughlan, Tim (2016). Accessibility of MOOCs: Understanding the Provider Perspective. Journal of Interactive Media in Education , 2016(1), article no. 20.

Happy to discuss any aspect regarding accessibility of MOOCs during the conference.

Thanks Francisco for your pesentation! I’d like to know if there is any good example of a cognitively accesible MOOC course. I have one at MiríadaX and I’m interested in Easy to Read format. :slightly_smiling_face:

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Hola! many thanks for your comment, I am afraid I don’t have any suggestion that comes into my mind, Easy to Read is a great approach :blush:. Regarding accessibility aspects, in general, you may enjoy the MOOCs from UNED Abierta with the partnership of Fundacion ONCE.

Hola Francisco. Thanks for your advise. I’ve visited Uned Abierta, the course ‘Materiales accesibles’ and I’M in touch with them.
Enjoy this conference!!

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Please send Alejandro and Emilio regards on my behalf, enjoy it too :slight_smile:

Ok!! Les comento de tu parte!!

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Hello Francisco,

My country India started developing MOOCs in 2015. I have also developed three MOOCs. But the inclusive aspect, that is, ensuring that the disabled persons also benefit from the MOOCs, has not been taken into consideration at all. You have set my mind thinking in a new direction. Also, from my experience of running three MOOCs, I have seen that the discussion forum, which is meant for peer to peer interaction, remains totally unused.
I have an anytime presentation here - MOOCs and Personalized Learning Experience. Please take a look and share your thoughts.

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Hi Subha,
Many thanks, I am glad to hear my presentation was useful. It is a general aspect in both software a pedagogical design to miss accessibility needs we should consider. Forum should be designed as a place for interaction and consider as well different types of conversations.
I will definitely look at your presentation!

Thanks for your prompt reply. Your comments on my presentation will be valuable for me. And your accessibility idea has set me thinking.