Accessibility means having access to the course materials. Students can have problems with accessibility in your course for many reasons. One of those reasons is a technology issue.
There are two main operating systems that most of your students will be using: Mac and Windows. The Windows operating system has a huge number of security components that can sometimes make use of certain files types (e.g. those with an ".exe" extension) unavailable or unreadable. In addition, all files must have appropriate extensions to be read effectively by a Windows machine. Mac is a bit less suspicious of files. A few of your students may even be using an alternative operating system (such as Linux), which can cause additional compatibility issues.
While the different operating systems may be able to read certain documents, the student may not actually own the software (or the more recent version of that software) that would allow them to do so. Some things will run directly in ANGEL without the need for additional software, but others will not. This is something that you should consider when determining the types of files that you will be posting or the kinds of resources that you will be using.
Universally Accepted File Formats and Other Solutions
There are a number of options available that can provide universal access to your course elements:
- Choose Hypertext Markup Language (i.e. HTML), a format that can run directly in ANGEL:
- ANGEL has some internal software that can display documents that have been written in html format. These documents usually have a .html or .htm extensions.
- You can also create html format pages directly in ANGEL using the Add Content link (discussed in Module 5 of this training series).
- SoftChalk Lesson Builder software (which has been used to make these training materials) creates documents in html format that can run directly in ANGEL.
- Post documents in Portable Document Format (PDF): Not all students have Microscoft Office on their computers or have older versions that cannot open the documents created by newer versions. Posting a document as a Word or Excel document may create problems. PDF files are compatible with virtually all operating systems and most computers come with the reader already installed. In addition, that PDF format will ensure that the student will view the document exactly as you saw it (i.e. with the same paging, font, margins, etc.). Posting the .doc or .xls documents does not ensure that. This can be especially important if you have charts or images in your documents.
- Provide links for document viewers so your students can download software that will allow them to view documents written in software that they do not own. These viewers are free and generally are both Mac and Windows compatible. Readers are available for a number of document formats:
- PDF Reader: at the Adobe.com website
- Microsoft Word Viewer: on the Microsoft.com website -- reads word processing documents (i.e. .doc, .docx, .rtf, etc.)
- Microsoft Compatibility Pack: from the Microscoft.com website (must be installed with the Microsoft viewer) -- reads spreadsheet (i.e. Excel) and multimedia (i.e. PowerPoint) files.