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An international peer-reviewed journal

Online Learning: Designing for All Users

Cindy Poore-Pariseau

Journal of Usability Studies, Volume 5, Issue 4, August 2010, pp. 147 - 156


During the fall of 2008, 4.6 million students pursued their education in online environments in the United States (Allen & Seaman, 2009).  Considering that students with disabilities represent nearly 10% of all U.S. college students (National Council on Disability as reported by Frieden, 2003), one can see a need to disseminate information regarding how to best meet the needs of this population as they look to further their education by taking advantage of online learning opportunities. Through this paper, the reader will learn about Universal Design for Learning (UDL), accessibility laws, how the laws affect online education, and how instructional design can be implemented as a way to increase access to education for college students with disabilities. Finally, there will be an exploration of the impact accessibility laws have on instructional design and how an increase in accessibility can improve motivation for all segments of the population.

Note: Although the statistics cited are based on U.S. postsecondary education student populations, the ideas outlined herein can be applied beyond the U.S., as the needs of disabled students are universal.

Practitionerís Take Away

As the number of students choosing to complete their studies in online environments continues to grow, so will the number of disabled students enrolling in online courses continue to grow. The following points must be considered when an online course is being developed:

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Online Learning: Designing for All Users