Meet Learner Needs and Preferences

Article Contents

The key principle behind inclusive learning is the ability for learning resources to be malleable and transformable with respect to learner needs and preferences. This enables learners who have articulated their particular needs and preferences (whether implicitly or explicitly) to be given learning content in a format that they can fully interact with, understand, and consume (see Accessibility principles for perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust content).

Learners should be able to articulate their needs and preferences, and have returned to them content packaged in a way that meets those requirements.

Take Away

Content Malleability

In practice, this translates to at least three levels of malleability in the content: tweaks and adjustments, supplementation, and recreation.

Tweaks and adjustments: At this level, default (i.e., the original) content is in a medium that is consumable by the learner, but some tweaks are needed to make it fully perceivable and understandable. Changes at this level of malleability do not happen to the content proper, but rather to its presentation.

Examples of tweaks and adjustments include text size changes, and colour contrast changes

Screenshot of learner options text presentation controls

Figure 1: A screen from Learner Options’ text presentation controls.

Supplementation: Some learning resources are not consumable in their default (i.e., original) medium, but can be easily converted into a medium that is consumable. In these cases, a natural translation of the content into an alternative medium is needed.

See also: The importance of natural language

Examples of supplementation include:

Screenshot of Video player with transcript on

Figure 2: A screen of the Floe Video player with transcripts displayed

Recreation: Not all learning resources can be naturally tweaked or supplemented to provide good learning experiences Some learning resources are in a medium where no natural translation exists. For instance, there is no easy way to translate a symphony orchestra performance into a non-aural experience. In these cases, a revisit of the content’s intent and meaning is needed to provide an interpretation of the content into a different medium.

Examples of recreation include:

The Importance of Natural Language

One of the key principles behind providing transformable learning content is ensuring that all the base content is accompanied with a natural language equivalent. Natural language content is immensely malleable and functional in many different contexts, since text can easily be both visual and aural, and conversions between the two can be automated. Because of this, text often acts as the lowest common denominator for learning material.

Take, for instance, an image. In and of itself, the image is only of use to those with the complete combination of: a) sufficient vision ability, b) vision ability that can be used at the time to see the image (e.g., the learner isn’t distracted by something else visual, like the road while driving), and c) has no cognitive difficulty understanding the image. A textually well-described image, however, can provide alternatives to learners lacking in any of the said requirements. For learners with insufficient vision ability or whose vision ability is distracted (e.g., while driving , the text can be automatically and cheaply converted to speech. For learners with cognitive difficulty understanding the image, the text description of the image provides an alternative or supportive description.

The same idea of natural language supplementation can be applied to any piece of content: audio content (see Audio content and learning); video content (see Video content and learning); interface elements (buttons, form fields, drop-downs, etc.); diagrams and figures; and more.

List of Example Alternatives and Preferences

The following list is not exhaustive:

Mind map of Floe transformation space

Figure 3: This diagram shows possible alternatives, transformations and customizations for different kinds of content.

Ideally, the software we use to create learning resources should allow for and promote content alternatives and preferences.

Case Study: Floe Learner Options

Floe’s Learner Options (also referred to as User Interface Options) provides learners with an easy way to make tweaks and adjustments to their content. It takes existing content, and instantly applies preferences to it in real-time.

The current version of Learner Options provides the following preferences:

Some upcoming Learner Options features include:

Also see: demo of the current version of Floe Learner Options.

Screen shot of Learner Options navigation controls

Figure 4: Learner Options navigation controls

Screen shot of Learner Options TTS and content simplification panels

Figure 5: Learner Options TTS and content simplification panels


Text Simplification