Monday, March 11, 2013

A Comparison of Learning Management System Accessibility

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 vendor and open-source developer partners, many LMS vendors have begun to understand the need for universal usability of their tools. LMS vendors have begun providing accessibility features that allow users with disabilities access, but we are still far from achieving full accessibility of learning management systems.

Although significant progress has been made, intuitive and effective utilization of LMS 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, 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.

We have tested and evaluated four major LMS namely Blackboard, Desired2Learn, Moodel, and SAKAI
for accessibility/usability in 2010 and 2012 and published the results in CSUN and Midwest Educause conferences respectively.

We have been observing 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 evaluation. In light of this recent interest and activity, we have revised and enhanced our evaluation criteria based on common features, streamlined our evaluation process, and rescored our LMS systems.

We have 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 at CSUN 2013.

To learn more about the result, please visit and study the following documents:

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  1. A Comparison of Learning Management System Accessibility: Blackboard, Desire2Learn, Moodle, SAKAI (CSUN 2013 PowerPoint file)
  2. A Comparison of Learning Management System Accessibility (full report HTML file)
  3. Comparison data (full testing and evaluation results Excel file)Comparison data (full testing and evaluation results Excel file)
    To utilize the full feature of interlinking between different sheets in this document, you might want to open the file in Microsoft Excel program and not in the browser.

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