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Sandra Sanchez-Gordon, Sergio Luján-Mora. Accessibility considerations of massive online open courses as creditable courses in engineering programs. Abstract Book of the 6th International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation (ICERI 2013), p. 643, Seville (Spain), November 18-20 2013. ISBN: 978-84-616-3849-9.
This paper proposal is to include MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) as creditable courses in engineering programs at the National Polytechnic School of Ecuador. Currently, the curriculum of all the engineering students at the National Polytechnic School includes an elective subject of three credits chosen from the course offer of the university. The idea is to expand the options of elective subjects the students can choose from with lists of selected MOOCs from global providers such as Coursera and Udacity. In addition to fulfilling a number of requirements related to the content and duration of the courses, one important challenge is that these selected MOOCs should comply with web accessibility requirements specific for the special needs of non-native speakers.
Web accessibility is the property of a website to support the same level of effectiveness for people with disabilities as it does for non-disabled people. As an accessible website is designed to meet different user needs, preferences, skills and situations, this flexibility also benefits people without disabilities in certain situations, such as MOOCs students who are non-native speakers.
MOOCs do not differ much from online courses that have existed for many years: a syllabus, a calendar, educational materials (mainly videos), some activities or projects, quizzes (usually multiple choice questions) to assess students’ learning, and a forum to discuss with instructors and fellow learners. Their main interest lies not so much in the courses that offers, which are courses in a broad variety of topics endorsed by recognized educational institutions, but in the fact that MOOCs can build learning communities across a common field of study globally, massively and openly. Hence, instructors, teacher assistants and students come from diverse cultures and speak different native languages.
Unfortunately, MOOCs rise new challenges on web accessibility. For example, cultural differences and background knowledge has to be taken in account when choosing contents, examples, and learning activities which might be unfamiliar or even offensive to certain cultures. Also, user interfaces requires special adaptations for non-native speakers.
In this paper we will present a preliminary list of web accessibility requirements, we will highlight the challenges, and we will comment possible paths of solutions with the goal to a better understanding of the special needs of non-native speakers using MOOCs. This understanding will be the base for establishing criteria for a preliminary selection of MOOCs as creditable courses in engineering programs at the National Polytechnic School. Nevertheless, this criteria can also be useful for other higher education institutions interested in including MOOCs in their official programs.