Research Experiences and Perspectives of inclusive Virtual Learning Systems
Authors: Alessia Brischetto, Ester Iacono
Abstract: In contemporary society, the spread of media and online learning has generated on one hand new forms of complexity and opportunities for the development and dissemination of knowledge, on the other, new forms of social exclusion. Learning in the digital age means having user-friendly and interactive systems capable of creating a series of new relationships between man and technology. In this regard, the Design is called to face, more and more strongly, with different disciplines, from the engineering-informatics to the humanistic-social ones. Therefore, it is necessary to adopt a bottom-up multidisciplinary approach, within which the design field interfaces with increasingly complex design dimensions. In recent years, computer accessibility and aspects regarding the use, distribution and visualization of contents, not only informative but also educational, became issues of great importance within the technology market, particularly within the Educational Technologies sector. The objective of this work is the presentation of a design tool useful for the development of an e-learning platform (i.e. Virtual Learning System) for the university educational sector. The work focused on an exploratory analysis phase of the current e-learning systems through the application of Human-Centred Design evaluation methods to identify critical issues and to define design and tools assessment requirements for Inclusive Design studies. In particular, User Observation, Heuristic Evaluation and exclusion calculator were the methods used during the evaluation sessions. The latter involved a sample of 100 users between 19 and 24 years of age, affected by specific learning disabilities (SLD) and visual and hearing disabilities of medium severity. Subsequently, through co-design activities involving users and education experts, functionalities and new design solutions were developed. The final result of the work is to illustrate an operational strategy of evaluation and design and an experimental platform for inclusive learning. The research has highlighted the need to strengthen educational tools in terms of accessibility and usability, and in particular collaborative learning. The assessment of many tools for specific categories of users has led to enhance and develop in key for all integrated functionalities to stimulate and support all students, regardless of their individual condition. Moreover, the research highlighted the need for systems based on social networking, supporting not only accessibility but also autonomy, socialization and the ability to collectively build new meanings.
Keywords: Virtual Learning System, Human Centered Design, Inclusive Design, Universal Design for Learning, Educational Technologies
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