Update to online accessibility service brings improved layout for instructors

A key online information system that aids students living with a disability or an ongoing medical or mental health condition has received a winter upgrade.

With Winter Term classes now underway, Brock’s online accessibility service information system (OASIS) is introducing a more streamlined layout for instructors based on feedback received over the past year.

The new updates, which went live Wednesday, Jan. 27, focus on the presentation of accommodation information, making the system more user-friendly for instructors. Content has been rearranged and expanded to provide more information about each student’s accommodation, with better descriptions, space for instructor actions, accommodation explanations and information on each student’s role in the accommodation process.

There are also suggestions and options for how to implement Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles into a course by offering learners course material in a variety of formats as well as providing the opportunity to demonstrate their learning in several different ways.

David Standish, Student Accessibility Service’s (SAS) Assistive Technologist and Technical Analyst said a main focus of the updates was clarity for instructors.

“We see instructors as partners and with this update, we want them to know that we hear their feedback, and where appropriate, we take the next steps to make changes to ensure that using OASIS is a positive experience,” he said.

The feedback led to simplifying the way the accommodation list was displayed to instructors.

“Many instructors with large courses reported concerns with the amount of time that it took to review all the accommodations — sometimes there were multiple pages of text to go through,” Standish said. “I had to spend some time to pull apart all the pieces and figure out a way to rearrange them so that the information was still available, but the experience of viewing it needed to be simplified.”

After building multiple alternate prototype designs, Standish found one that seemed to hit the mark.

“I’m really happy with the new design changes,” he said. “Instructors can now quickly review and respond to each accommodation using the new single-page list format, and we were able to add more detail on demand for those instructors who want to be informed about the accommodation.”

Lisa Peso, Student Accessibility Case Manager with the Student Wellness and Accessibility Centre, said clarity was further enhanced for users through revised descriptions of accommodations.

“The new format is designed to take the guesswork out of implementing accommodations,” she said. “While each course and student is unique, straightforward guidelines can help with implementation of accommodations in a timely manner for most students.”

To achieve this goal, Peso emphasized the importance of students and instructors using the system to work together.

“Accommodations are a shared responsibility between students, instructors and the SAS office,” she said. “The new approach we are using communicates how accommodations create equitable opportunities for all. In this way, we are able to increase partnership and reduce barriers to participation.”

Along with SAS, partners from across the University are excited for the equity OASIS brings to students.

Lianne Fisher, the Centre for Pedagogical Innovation’s (CPI) Manager of Education Development, said that in addition to the simplified layout, the enhanced system presents new opportunities for instructors to make their classes more accessible by using UDL.

“Over the past few years, the OASIS system has brought us together to think about the ways in which we can really support faculty members and learners,” she said. “Making one or two adjustments to a course from a UDL perspective can have important positive consequences for many learners. We hope the information about UDL in the updated OASIS supports instructors in thinking about UDL-informed course design and lets them know that members of CPI want to support them in this process.”

Anna Lathrop, Brock’s Vice-Provost and Associate Vice-President, Students, said the updated system reflects the University’s overall commitment to delivering a superb student experience.

“The upgrade to OASIS is a prime example of how academic and administrative services have come together to improve the student experience and ensure that our instructional faculty have the information they need to support students with the appropriate academic accommodation,” said Lathrop. “SAS, CPI and the many faculty who volunteered to help refine and improve this service delivery over the period of this project are to be commended.”

As the system comes online, Standish said Brock could not have become a leader in accessible learning without internal support.

We couldn’t have accomplished any of this without the coding expertise of Information Technology Services turning our ideas into reality,” he said. “Years ago, with support from the University, SAS decided to build OASIS at Brock, and I think that decision helped to advance Brock’s accessibility significantly.”

To learn more about the OASIS system, students can visit the SAS website, while faculty members can visit the SAS SharePoint site.

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