Monday, November 27, 2006

Multimedia tools and their accessibility

A case study.
With the increasing use of online learning resources in Higher Education comes a need to evaluate these resources in terms not just of accessibility but also usability. Many resources may include accessibility features but it is how the students employ these and if they are useful that will be essential to its successful use to increase student understanding.
At the University of Leicester we have three tools for producing multimedia online resources: Macromedia Breeze, Impatica and Macromedia Flash. Macromedia Breeze provides a set of tools for online communication and is a networked solution which can produce stand alone or networked resources. Impatica is a stand alone product. Both tools are primarily used to enhance PowerPoint slide presentations by adding notes, visual navigation controls and audio. A third tool, widely used for presentation of rich media online, is Macromedia Flash.
Our internally funded project aimed to evaluate and compare these three products in terms of their SENDA compliance for student users who may be required to view the resulting files as part of their undergraduate courses. A pilot study was set up to create teaching materials using each of these tools. Two groups of undergraduate students tested these materials to compare the three products. All from the Faculty of Medicine and Biological Sciences, one group of students all had registered accessibility issues, such as dyslexia and/or learning difficulties and the second group provided a matched control with no registered accessibility issues. Our aim was to concentrate on the usability of these products from the student perspective.

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