edX to Improve Access to MOOCs for People With Disabilities

Under a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice announced on Thursday, edX, the nonprofit MOOC provider created by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has agreed to make its offerings more accessible to people with disabilities.

The settlement agreement, which marks the department’s first effort to challenge the accessibility of massive open online courses, affects the colleges that are members of edX as well as the nonprofit consortium itself.

The agreement calls for a number of changes, such as making edX’s website, mobile applications, and learning-management system fully accessible in the next 18 months; providing guidance to course creators on best practices for making online courses fully accessible; hiring a web-accessibility coordinator with specific responsibilities; and developing a web-accessibility policy.

The settlement notes that edX maintains that it was not inaccessible to people with disabilities and that the group did not admit any wrongdoing.

The changes were prompted by a compliance review begun by the Department of Justice.

“We were very aware in 2012 or so about the emergence of MOOCs and the importance, or the potential importance, that they offer to students who have distance barriers and cost barriers to getting good educational content,” said Eve L. Hill, the department’s deputy assistant attorney general for civil rights. “And they offer a potentially really good avenue for students with disabilities.”

But if those platforms are inaccessible, she added, it closes off that opportunity for students with disabilities.

To read the rest of this article, published in The Chronicle of Higher Education, please click here.