MOOC’s global reach, access, and altruistic goals of transforming education are ideal but are we there yet? My current opinion is no, at least not right this moment, maybe in two to three years from now. One common goal of MOOCs is to provide quality education for individuals who are ill served in society. This makes me wonder how successful this has been, especially in addressing the learning needs of individuals with permanent or temporary disabilities. From what I have seen in a few highly produced courses, costing between $20-$30K per course, there are not many features have been incorporated into the design of the curriculum or the web platform that is friendly for the disabled.

I should not generalize, but the MOOCs I have seen do not have Universal Design for Learning (UDL) in mind or as a standardized norm. There are features here and there, such as closed-captioned transcriptions of video lectures or audio option equivalents to fulfill federal disability requirements. But beyond these mandated web accessibility guidelines, MOOCs have not fully incorporated UDL into the development life cycle. What is there feels more like an afterthought that was added later. Given the cost to produce a single course, I wonder if the MOOC providers are willing or prepared to invest additional funds to include features that addresses all three UDL network principles: recognition, affective, and strategic. The very nature of a virtual platform can be a safe environment where physical barriers and prejudices are reduced because all students are on the same equal footing. Content can be tailored and delivered as per an individual’s preference; enabling students more time to interact with the materials presented. There are definitely many potentials and benefits of MOOCs for the disabled, but until there are standardized UDL mandates, MOOCs might not be universally equal for everyone.

Pouncey, Ian. “Web accessibility for cognitive disabilities and learning
difficulties”, August 4, 2010.