(464e) Developing Online Teaching Resources to Enhance Accessibility in Higher Education | AIChE

(464e) Developing Online Teaching Resources to Enhance Accessibility in Higher Education


Bhute, V. - Presenter, Imperial College London
Player, E., Imperial College London
Pramanik, A., Brunel University London
Engineering courses include a lot of equations and abstract concepts. These equations are often coded in LaTeX and they are distributed as PDF copies to students. These PDF versions are not readily accessible to all students. Some students who use assistive technologies like screen readers rely on reading out loud or alternative representation of content. Using student-staff partnership, we have developed online teaching resources to improve accessibility as well as facilitate learning by providing an interactive and engaging online environment.

Based on student responses to a survey on relevance of supplementary resources, we found that course textbooks provided by instructor forms the primary source of information outside of lectures. Therefore, we transformed the traditional PDF based course notes for 2nd year Engineering Mathematics course into a website with LaTeX rendering and screen reader compatibility. We have added appropriate resources and links to allow for easy navigation between chapters and used uniform colour coding to separate theorems, definitions, and examples. We also included drop-down solutions for examples to provide students an opportunity to try the examples before looking at the solutions. The embedded images can be zoomed in and the text and equations are set up to fit the screen size and hence, can be read via devices including phones, tablets, and laptops. We included Google analytics functionality to assess student engagement with the website and used few surveys to assess student perception of the implemented changes. This transformation can allow easy integration of visual aids and several online resources to elucidate abstract mathematics concepts to students.

While course notes are essential resource for learning concepts, students rely on problem sheets and past exam papers for applying these concepts. Problem sheets can also serve as formative assessments if graded and feedback is provided in a timely manner. Often these are PDF based problem sheets and suffer from similar accessibility-related limitations. Additionally, owing to large class sizes, it can be difficult from an instructor’s point of view to provide detailed feedback to students. To overcome these challenges, we implemented an online math-aware platform, WeBWork, to deliver problem sheet and exam-style questions. This platform can recognize mathematical notations and provides instant feedback on the correctness of the solutions. After a deadline, the detailed solutions are presented within the question as a hyperlink. Students reported increased number of attempts on a question and found this technology-based intervention to be beneficial for their learning. Data analytics from the platform also allowed instructors to identify difficult concepts and address them in real-time either during a lecture or by providing more support.

Both a course website and an online math-aware platform were implemented for the first time during the academic year 2020-21 during the pandemic-led restrictions and were well-received by the students with highly positive feedback and reviews. Future work will be aimed to incorporate student feedback and improve the quality of content and to embed more relevant resources to make Mathematics more interactive and accessible to all students.