A Comparison of Learning Management System Accessibility
Learning management systems have become the primary delivery platform in most higher education systems for course-related activities such as lecture presentations, readings and assignments, discussions, and quizzes. Until a few years ago, access for learners and instructors with disabilities was either poorly supported or not considered at all in many popular tools. Due to lack of, or limited, accessibility in learning management systems, students were not able to fully or independently participate in key course activities.
Thanks to the hard work of various LMS accessibility working groups and their open-source and vendor developer partners, many LMS vendors have begun to understand the need for universal usability of their tools. Although LMS vendors have begun providing accessibility features that allow users with disabilities access, we are still far from achieving full accessibility of learning management systems.
While significant progress has been made, intuitive and effective LMS utilization by users with disabilities is still a future goal. We believe much more needs to be done. For instance, discussion boards need to be made more functionally accessible. And built-in authoring tools need to be enhanced so that accessible content is created by default, the authoring process is more intuitive, and the authoring tools themselves become more accessible. On the whole, the accessibility of learning management systems is improving, but they still pose significant challenges for users with disabilities.
In 2010 and 2012, we tested and evaluated four major LMS for accessibility/usability: Blackboard, Desired2Learn, Moodel, and SAKAI. The results have been publicized in CSUN (2010) and Midwest Educause (2012) conferences.
Since then, we have observed that LMS vendors have continued to strengthen the accessibility and usability of their systems, while also working to incorporate some of the features suggested in our evaluations. In light of this ongoing interest and activity, we have revised and enhanced our evaluation criteria based on common features, streamlined our evaluation process, and rescored our LMS systems.
At CSUN 2013, we presented a high-level overview of the results of our new evaluation, along with side-by-side comparisons that support our recommendations for improving learning management systems for users with disabilities.
To learn more about the result, please see the following documents:
- A Comparison of Learning Management System Accessibility: Blackboard, Desire2Learn, Moodle, SAKAI (CSUN 2013 PowerPoint file)
- A Comparison of Learning Management System Accessibility (full report HTML file)
- Comparison data (full testing and evaluation results Excel file)
NOTE: To fully utilize the interlinking features between different data sheets and data-specific commentary in this document, you may wish to open the file in Microsoft Excel and not in the browser.