Benchmark for using Online Assessments and Forums

In designing an online course, one has to be mindful of several factors. The online student is not in contact with the lecturer in a physical way. With this concept, the thinkers in the field no longer embrace lecturer to describe the role being played by the person offering the course because the technology is now the medium through which the content is presented. So the facilitator, once called lecturer, has to ensure that the student learns what is needed through their guidance and use of technology. The design of the online course has to be closely aligned with the learning principles and practices in the field of education. Such a design should cause meaningful learning to happen and enhance student engagement and knowledge building. It is true that online course design comes with great challenges, but all can be overcome through proper planning and employment of online learning tools.

Online learning does not seek to replicate face-to-face lectures, which in themselves can be grossly inadequate to meet the unique needs of each learner. Some aspects of the classroom delivery will never happen in online delivery. For example, student will not be subjected to didactic teaching and lengthy lectures. Online learning is flexible, interactive, engaging, gives opportunity for problem-solving and knowledge building. However, it is expected that online students be given equivalent learning activities, assessments and opportunities to interact with the content, as their colleagues in face-to-face setting.

In light of the unique learning experiences in the online environment, what would you suggest as best practice for handling online assessments?

Should online students be given more graded assessment pieces than their on campus counterparts?

How many forums should be placed on a course? What method would help to determine a number that could be used as benchmark? Explain your rationale.



Introduction to Accessibility

What is Accessibility?

Accessibility means that persons with upper body impairments, blind and those with visual impairments, with visual or cognitive /learning disabilities and hearing impairments can have ease of access to online course content (Coombs, 2010). Accessibility is important so that all users have equal opportunity to interact with whatever is being offered. The designer, in making a website accessible, must make an effort to capture all opportunities that exist to reach those with disabilities. A Learning Management System (LMS) should be easily accessible to learners, with or without disability, and empower the learners with all that is needed to successfully complete the course.

What is Universal Design?

The Disability Act 2005, defines Universal Design, or UD, as the design and composition of an environment so that it may be accessed, understood and used to the greatest possible extent, in the most independent and natural manner possible, in the widest possible range of situations, without the need for adaptation, modification, assistive devices or specialized solutions, by any persons of any age or size or having any particular physical, sensory, mental health or intellectual ability or disability (National Disability Centre, 2015).

Our online courses or modules should therefore be accessible to students who have auditory, visual, cognitive, and/or physical disabilities (Blackboard, 2017), so that they can fully participate in every aspect of the offering. Learners who enroll in any of our modules, whether fully-online, blended or web-assisted, need a rich and fulsome experience that is more than just being technology-mediated. UTechOnline aims to give each user a great learning experience that is focused on their achievement of their educational goals.

Universal Inclusive Design (UID) Approach

Universal Design engages tools known as assistive technologies which range from screen readers to touch screens and head pointers. Inclusive design emphasizes equal participation and recognizes that all students have varying abilities and needs. UID aims to:

    • Make each teaching method accessible to all students
    • Consider a wide range of abilities, interests, learning styles, and experiences
    • Speak content presented visually
    • Use large visual and tactile aids
    • Use manipulatives to demonstrate content
    • Make visual aids large for example use large, bold fonts

As we begin to explore how best to satisfy learners with diverse characteristics, here are some guidelines to follow to ensure that modules reflect Accessibility Principles or Universal Design (UD) for online.

Severe Visual Impairment

Individuals with severe visual impairment may rely on a screen reader to access Web sites. Use visual cues, such as images, section divisions or table headers with descriptions. Low vision users need a mechanism to zoom in on content on a computer screen, sometimes to a great extent. Zooming works well for vector-based text and graphics in PNG format.

Hearing Impaired or Deaf

These users need to be provided with amplified sound or alternate ways to access information through vision and/or vibration. Aids would include hearing technology, alerting devices and communication software supports.

Accessibility or UD Guidelines

Guideline #1

Do not add flashers that blink more than 3 times in a second


Content that flashes at certain rates or patterns can cause photosensitive reactions, including seizures (, 2016). Flashing content is ideally avoided entirely or only used in a way that does not cause known risks.

Guideline #2

Use distinguishable content since it is easier to see and hear. Such content displays features, such as:

    • Colour is not used as the only way of conveying information or identifying content
    • Default foreground and background color combinations provide sufficient contrast
    • Text is resizable up to 200% without losing information, using a standard browser
    • Images of text are resizable, replaced with actual text, or avoided where possible
    • Users can pause, stop, or adjust the volume of audio that is played on a website
    • Background audio is low or can be turned off, to avoid interference or distraction
    • Descriptions of all images and photos
    • Where possible, the photos may be enlarged on clicking for better viewing
    • Use closed captioning and script for videos

Meeting this requirement helps separate foreground from background, to make important information more distinguishable. This includes considerations for people who do not use assistive technologies and for people using assistive technologies who may observe interference from prominent audio or visual content in the background. For instance, many people with color blindness do not use any particular tools and rely on a proper design that provides sufficient colour contrast between text and its surrounding background (Web Accessibility Initiative, 2016) . For others, audio that is automatically played could interfere with text-to-speech or with assistive listening devices (ALDs).
The visually impaired user will be able to hear the description if a reader is used.
Those who cannot hear will read the script.
The reader will play the audio of the script for those who are visually impaired.

Blackboard (2017). Strategic Planning for Accessible eLearning. Retrieved from (2016). Canvas Voluntary Product Accessibility Template. Retrieved from

Coombs, N. (2010). Making online teaching accessible: Inclusive course design for students with disabilities. Jossey-Bass. San Francisco: CA. Retrieved from

National Disability Centre (2015). What is Universal Design. Retrieved from

Web Accessibility Initiative (2017). Abou-Zahraname, ed. Web Accessibility Standards. Retrieved from

DL Conversation Series: Dean E. Grizzle – College of Health Sciences

Hello there,

For your viewing pleasure, here’s an interview with the Dean of the College of Health Sciences about the online Post Diploma in Pharmacy programme offered to students across the Caribbean.


“If you want to get something done, just do it! The UTech, Ja. community must realize that there’s an impending change in terms of teaching and learning and provide the necessary resources and plans in place to support distance and online delivery.”


Students from the first cohort graduated in November 2015.

-ODL Team-

Basic Training in Designing a Moodle Course is online!

Let’s Go BTO!!

Course Overview

The course is competency-based, tutor facilitated and is somewhat self-paced. All work will be completed and submitted online but will be assessed by the course facilitator and feedback sent to participants. The course takes approximately four (4) hours to complete but will remain open for two weeks after the start date. The course setting includes activity completion, that is, some activities must be marked complete before others can be accessed. The competencies are based on the activities required to complete a basic three unit MOODLE course populated with resources and one activity.
The skills and knowledge areas are assessed and badges are awarded for submitted pieces that have met the criteria stated in the rubric. The affective domain is noted through the participant’s expression in the forums and reflections.


The competencies for the course are clearly outlined on the course page and the rubrics are presented as a part of each assignment.
1. Initialize an online course by editing the required and desired features in the structure of the course (writing on the course presentation area)
2. Populate the course with resources
•embed a video on both a page and a label
•add labels
•compose a webpage
•link to a webpage by adding a URL page
•add files to the appropriate course unit
•create a folder and populating with multiple files
3. Apply Interactivity to course
•create a forum
•locate, edit and save student enrolment key
•assign role and add teacher or non-editing teacher to course


On successful completion of each unit a badge is awarded. On obtaining a pass mark on the quiz, a badge is also awarded. The certificate will not be issued unless the badges have all been earned. Whereas, the participant is free to download a certificate at the end of the course, the Office of Distance Learning will be responsible for producing the authentic copy of the certificate.


Click to enter the course!

From Design to Delivery

The Office of Distance Learning is ready to support all lecturers who would like to adapt their face-to-face sessions to the online environment.

The steps you take will depend on how you want to use the online environment. Web-assisted or web-enhanced modules are used to share information with students and there is little interaction online.

On the other hand, you may want to use the online environment to assess students, provide a wide range of resources and provide opportunities for them to interact with each other. Modules with a high level of interaction online range from blended to fully online.

The first chart describes the steps to be taken for web-assisted and web-enhanced modules. The second chart outlines the steps for blended and fully online modules.

The steps are highlighted here:
Web-Assisted Design to Delivery
Blended Design to Delivery