[Athen] Publisher websites integrated in to Canvas

Deborah Armstrong armstrongdeborah at fhda.edu
Fri Sep 13 12:34:50 PDT 2019

*** Rant mode ON****

In California, most community colleges have adopted Canvas, because it is accessible.

When my new dean asked me about Canvas, I assured her it was. She is very concerned about the LACCD lawsuit and wanted to know how accessible our registration and library databases are. I told her in general a screen reader user should have little or no trouble registering for classes or doing library research.

But an issue I tried to explain with minimal verbiage is that our instructors don't really use Canvas. A student might log in to Canvas to answer a class discussion question or upload homework to the instructor, but for most of my students' classes, they are using publisher sites integrated in to canvas.

Here's a student-centered help screen on how to get support from the various publishers:

And my concern is not whether our campus tools are accessible because nothing there will ever be perfect, but whether all this publisher content is going to cause us future problems. There's the Pearson MyLab series, the Cengage Mindtap, McGrawHill Connect, Wiley Plus, Vista Higher Learning, , Each instructor picks his own publisher platform, and so there's no standardization. And nobody seems to get that this could be a big problem.

For some students, some of these sites are accessible, but trying to figure out what will work for which students is like herding cats because the interfaces are being updated all the time.

And even for a student who isn't dependent on access technology, the layout of each interface is different, making the experience confusing. Plus, besides paying for tuition and books, the student now has to pay an extra fee to simply complete homework!

All these textbook companies, as an effort to combat the switch to online texts, have all adopted new price models in which purchasing the physical book requires some extra fee be paid in order to complete assignments. And until you actually try the platform with your access technology and/or your particular disability's limitations, you don't really know if it's going to work for you. Plus you cannot try it before you start your course.

I'm not a luddite; I love taking online courses and trying out new learning platforms. I do see how the immediate feedback from online learning enhances my ability to retain information, and I love technology in general. But I have a steady paycheck and am not chasing education to acquire employable skills. When a book or course isn't accessible for me, I just don't waste my time on it!

No longer will a student be able to do homework on the bus or on his break at his minimum wage job if he has to be online for everything, and that too is kind of discriminatory.

I wonder if there is any group who is going to try to review some of these sites so we can make recommendations (thumbs up and thumbs down!) to instructors. This is the kind of thing I'd like to see more of at CSUN instead of so many vendor presentations where a particular product is touted.

Ideally there'd be an online rubric similar to epubtest.org where a document could evolve rating these systems for simplicity, ability to use offline and of course various accessibility metrics!
Rant mode off!

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