Latest News from W3C WAI

There’s a lot going on over at the W3C WAI (World Wide Web Consortium Web Accessibility Initiative), with current guidelines being updated and new ones being developed. So here’s a brief overview of what’s happening.

* ATAG (Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines) 2.0 – These guidelines are currently at Working Draft level. ATAG 1.0 is still the stable version which should be used.

* EARL (Evaluation and Report Language) 1.0 – The public comment period for the “Representing Content in RDF” and “HTTP Vocabulary in RDF” companion documents has recently finished (29th September 2008). Once the comments have been addressed, these documents will be published as Notes rather than Recommendations. (EARL 1.0 is currently has the status of Working Draft.)

* Shared Web Experiences: Mobile and Accessibility Barriers – This draft document gives examples of how people with disabilities using computers and people without disabilities using mobile devices experience similar barriers when using the Web. Comments on this document closed on 20th August.

* UAAG (User Agent Accessibility Guidelines) 2.0 – This version is currently at Public Working Draft status and is at this stage for information only.

* WAI-AGE Addressing Accessibility Needs Due to Ageing – This project is currently at the literature review stage and aims to find out whether any new work is required to improve web accessibility for older people.

* WAI-ARIA (Web Accessibility Initiative Accessible Rich Internet Applications) – The Working Draft has recently been updated and comments on this update closed (3rd September).

* WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) 2.0 – After a lot of to-ing and fro-ing, WCAG 2.0 finally looks as though it’s going to finalised for public use by the end of the year. Data from the implementation of trial WCAG 2.0 websites has been gathered and whilst the status is still “Candidate Recommendation”, this status is likely to be updated in November.

Using Video to Provide Feedback on Students’ Work

Russell Stannard, a lecturer at the University of Westminster, has just been been given the JISC/Times Higher Outstanding ICT Initiative of the Year award for using video to provide training in multimedia and Web 2.0 applications.  As well as using video to produce online training videos, he has also been using video to provide feedback on students’ work.  His website on multimedia videos includes an example of using video to mark a student’s work.

The THES (Times Higher Education Supplement) wrote about Stannard’s use of video for providing feedback on students’ work in 2006 and described the process involved.  Using video (or rather screen recording software with an audio track) to provide feedback means that a tutor can explain both verbally and visually any corrections that a student needs to make.  Instead of handwritten notes in margins or a page of comments attached to a student’s work, the video feedback approach can be used to give more lengthy feedback. 

Of course, this approach means that both the tutor and the student have to go through the whole video sequence each time they want to review their feedback rather than quickly glancing through a static set of pages.  However, this approach might be of value to some students with disabilites.  We often tend to concentrate on making online resources accessible, but perhaps we do not always think about how the feedback itself can be made accessible or value added, particularly for those students with learning disabilities or particular learning styles.  The video feedback approach will not be appropriate for all students, tutors or assignments, however, it is an alternative way of presenting information, which some students may find beneficial.