Accessible Dartmouth

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Just like a building’s architecture, a website’s structure should provide access for all.

When architects design a building, they should consider everyone who may enter the structure. If it’s a public, commercial, or institutional building they MUST consider all, as this is part of Life and Safety code. Ramps and the width of doorways ensure passage for those in wheel chairs; brail helps the blind locate specific rooms; the heights of switches, water fountains, and handrails accommodate all potential users. Even the profiles of handrail components must meet usability requirements in order to pass life and safety code inspections before a building can be certified for occupancy.

Such considerations should be equally important when web teams build a site.

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Dartmouth launched a new web design in 2013.

When accessing content, web users with vision loss may use screen readers such as JAWS to listen to it; those with hearing loss may use captioning to read it; and people with physical disabilities may use Dragon voice software to create and access it. Websites should be able to support all of these applications and should also be able to display and operate equally robustly on different devices, such as smart phones and tablets.

Dartmouth’s web strategy goes beyond making sites “technically” accessible with separate content; the College wants its sites to work for everyone and every device. “We’re striving for the lofty goal of ensuring the websites we create are accessible to all users,” says Susan Lee, Director of Web Services.

In 2010, the College set forth a Web Accessibility Initiative whose recommendations included assessing the Dartmouth website template, studying Dartmouth’s digital environment (including elements such as maps and forms), and taking stock of captioning used on YouTube videos.

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User Experience Designer Matthew Richardson

Since then, the College made several strides in that enterprise: it launched a new website in spring 2013, captioned all videos under 15 minutes, and guided academic departments in website creation. The College adopted standards set by the Worldwide Web Consortium and the U.S. Federal Government and is committed to having its web presence meet accessibility standards as outlined at the Rehabilitation Act Section 508 or WCAG 2.0 AA Standards.

User Experience Designer Matthew Richardson joined Dartmouth’s Web Services team as a web accessibility specialist in 2011. Richardson’s first job out of college was as a web designer for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, one of the strictest government agencies on accessibility. When Dartmouth’s website was overhauled last year, Richardson assessed its templates for accessibility, running them through a JAWS reader to make sure they were compliant. He says that even though there are some “fancy elements” on dartmouth.edu, the fact that it is built in CSS, html, and javascript, makes it accessible by screen readers, speech recognition software, keyboard overlays, and other modes.

Lee says that anyone struggling to use the Dartmouth website using JAWS, a smartphone, or in any other way should let her team know: “We will investigate each problem and come up with a solution that makes the Dartmouth website a better place for everyone.”

Contact Web Services at web.support@dartmouth.edu

Back to BASIC: Computing’s future was born at Dartmouth

In 1964, mathematics professor and future Dartmouth president John Kemeny and math professor Tom Kurtz, along with a handful of Dartmouth undergraduates, revolutionized computing with the introduction of time-sharing and the BASIC programming language, opening the door to computing for all Dartmouth students and faculty, and soon after, for people across the nation and the world.

Dartmouth is celebrating the anniversary of their achievement with a BASIC at 50 public event on Wednesday, April 30, recognizing the enduring impact of BASIC, showcasing innovation in computing at Dartmouth today, and imagining what the next 50 years will hold.

Read Bill Platt’s full article on Dartmouth Now.

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Teaching with Technology

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Josh Kim, Director of Digital Learning Initiatives at DCAL

Even when Director of Digital Learning Initiatives at DCAL (Dartmouth Center for the Advancement of Learning Initiatives) Josh Kim was a student, he became interested in how he could use technology to become a better teacher.

“In grad school I never really learned about how people learn,” Kim says. “I learned about my disciplines.” But he says the experience made him interested in pedagogy. “I discovered that the best way to understand something is to actually do it, and that the best way to foster experiential learning is through technology.”

Kim is well versed in the confluence of technology and education: He blogs regularly for Inside HigherEd, which receives over one million page views per month. Before becoming DCAL’s Director of Digital Learning Initiatives, Kim was the Director of Learning and Technology for Dartmouth’s Master of Health Care Delivery Science (MHCDS) program, where he helped build Dartmouth’s first graduate online/blended degree designed for working professionals. Prior to joining Dartmouth in 2008, he helped build the education division Brittanica.com. He also has a background as a sociology professor, in which he incorporated student digital, media, and web projects in his teaching.

In his new position at DCAL, which he began in December 2013, Kim is developing digital learning programs across the College. He works closely with Academic Computing, the Library, schools, departments, and directly with faculty to apply technology to teaching. His key collaborators include Information Technology Services’ Director of Academic and Campus Technology Services Alan Cattier and  the entire ITS Educational Technology team.

“At Dartmouth, we have this wonderful position of being number one in U.S. News and World Report for national universities in teaching and learning,” Kim says. “And that’s an incredible honor and privilege that really speaks to our close-knit community and our scholar-learner model.” The challenge, he adds, “is how to take the College’s strong tradition of scholarship and learning and invest appropriately to continue to stand out as more information appears on the Internet, especially in the form of MOOCS (massive open online courses), iTunes U, and YouTube where anyone can now go online and follow free lectures from top institutions.”

In January, Dartmouth announced it joined edX, the nonprofit online learning platform founded by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. As part of edX, Dartmouth will offer its first MOOC in fall 2014.

Kim sees the move as a way for Dartmouth to highlight its fine teaching: “showing the world and lifelong learners, what’s happening here on campus,” he says. He also believes the service will provide valuable feedback. At a recent Dartmouth Communicators gathering, Kim explained how edX will serve as “a laboratory for learning about learning,” since the platform retrieves data, not just from Dartmouth courses, but from all the universities involved in the nonprofit platform.  “When we put lots of material online, we’ll learn what works and can use the findings in our classrooms here at Dartmouth,” Kim says.

Another recent technology initiative was Canvas, an online learning management system Dartmouth launched in December 2013, which enables faculty and students to exchange ideas and information through media including video, images, text, calendars, and hyperlinks. Canvas is efficient: since it is cloud-based and continuously updates automatically, it allows Dartmouth’s educational technologists to work on education goals instead of spending time on system upgrades and testing.

“It’s also a great opportunity for instructional designers to work with faculty to discuss how they can meet their teaching objectives,” Kim says. “I believe that authentic learning involves strong relationships between our educators and students. Our opportunity is to leverage technology to bring our faculty and students together.”

A Web for Everyone: Designing Accessible User Experiences

Guest post by Sarah Horton

Sarah Horton is the co-author, with Whitney Quesenbery, of A Web for Everyone: Designing Accessible User Experiences, which was released in January 2014 by Rosenfield Media. Previously, Horton was an instructional technologist at Dartmouth before becoming Director of Web Strategy and Design, where she led the Web Services team and was on the leadership team in the Office of Public Affairs. She is currently Director of Accessible User Experience and Design for the Paciello Group.

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Accessibility is typically considered at the end, if at all, of a design process. It might be addressed during quality assurance, by checking a website or application against a list of standards or success criteria. Some issues identified in QA can be corrected in the code of the product. But the best fix might mean design changes, or changes to interaction patterns and functionality. These types of changes have a significant impact on timelines and processes, and are typically not welcome at the end of a product development process. The end result of this type of after-the-fact accessibility is that issues remain unresolved. At best, the product offers people with disabilities a compromised experience—at worst, the product is impossible to use. When accessibility is approached in this way, very little consideration is given to the quality of the experience for people with disabilities.

User experience is a design discipline focused on creating products that are easy and enjoyable—even delightful—to use. Good experience is good business, because we are more likely to repurchase and recommend products that we can use successfully, and that we enjoy using.

A Web for Everyone: Designing Accessible User Experiences, by Sarah Horton and Whitney Quesenbery, combines the disciplines of accessibility and user experience design by broadening the concept of “user” to include all users, including people with disabilities.

The book builds from a foundation design principles and methods: the Principles of Universal Design, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, and Design Thinking. It puts people first, using eight personas—fictional but realistic characters—to keep the focus on people in discussing the impacts of design.

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Steven, one of the personas in A Web for Everyone
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The chapters on accessible user experience principles and guidelines take up the main part of the book. Each chapter starts with a real-world example to demonstrate how the principle plays out in the physical world, and to help understand why it’s important on the web. After that follows “how-to” guidelines related to strategy, design, content, and coding, with information about who is responsible. Each chapter concludes with an interview from a leader in accessibility and user experience. The accessible UX principles are:

  • Clear Purpose: Well-Defined Goals
  • Solid Structure: Built to Standards
  • Easy Interaction: Everything Works
  • Helpful Wayfinding: Guides Users
  • Clean Presentation: Supports Meaning
  • Plain Language: Creates a Conversation
  • Accessible Media: Supports All Senses
  • Universal Usability: Creates Delight

The penultimate chapter covers how to build an accessible UX practice within an organization in a way that achieves and sustains accessibility over time. And the final chapter takes a look into the future of web accessibility, with input from accessibility advocates and practitioners worldwide.

A Web for Everyone is for content producers, designers, programmers, strategists, managers, leaders—anyone who is making decisions that affect how people with disabilities experience digital products and services. It provides a framework for taking accessibility from a compliance concern held by few to a shared concern that is the responsibility of everyone within an organization. Only in this way can the web be truly inclusive of everyone.

On Joining edX

Dartmouth announced today that it has joined edX, the nonprofit online learning platform founded by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Here, Director of Academic Computing Alan Cattier shares his thoughts on the decision.

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There is always an attendant excitement when a new technology announcement is made. Today’s news of Dartmouth electing to join the edX consortium is one of these moments, but I’d like to take the occasion to focus on it as a pedagogical moment as opposed to a technological one.

The first question one might ask is, Why make the distinction knowing that the two are irretrievably linked together? And the reason is to remind ourselves that everything about technology influences the moment. That is, the software that provides the environment for teaching online, the data collection that allows us to better understand the experience of the learner, the tools that allow students to collaborate with each other over great distances; all of these are an always-evolving codebase as Dartmouth begins with the edX consortium. In a technological life cycle, I think we’re at a very early moment in the evolution of these tools, and as such, our interaction with them is all about learning—learning ourselves, through experimentation—what these technologies might provide in the learning environments of the future.

And if it is everything about technology influencing the moment, it is always teachers and students that make the moment. That seems a critical distinction to make because it ties the choice to experiment online to the long tradition of innovating in pursuit of excellence in the classroom—something that Dartmouth has always held as its mission. In this sense, online is a variation on classroom design and discussion boards, a permutation of the seminar table, in pedagogical approaches that emerge from the technologies that teachers choose for their learning environment.

But make no mistake about it: this moment is pedagogically unique. First, it is Dartmouth’s opportunity to experiment within a pedagogical approach that grows from and is built for the global intranet. Before efforts like edX and Coursera, we simply didn’t have the tools (or the connected learners) to imagine a potential classroom this large or a community of learners this diverse, all engaged in the pursuit of a common course. That is surely an exciting pedagogical development, especially for institutions such as Dartmouth that want to have students and faculty ask questions that are truly world-changing. The second reason is that as much as online environments look like their pedagogical power is in distributing content, it is not.  Their true innovation is in offering a network of systems for forming ad hoc communities of learners, who might be looking at local questions just as easily as the global ones. Whether it is a community of students, alumni, neighbors, or visitors, they all can be potentially welcome if they are interested to enter this new shapeshifting digital classroom. The world, as they say, is outside the door.

Further Reading: Q&A with Cattier and Josh Kim, director of digital learning programs

Administrative Computing Featured in Dartmouth Now

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Reed Wommack ’14 leads an admissions tour group through Baker-Berry Library. (Photo by Eli Burakian ’00)

“The firestorm that’s surrounded the Affordable Care Act’s website in recent months has highlighted the importance of making sure Dartmouth’s admissions website operates properly.

Because many applicants will be logging on at the same time to check the status of their applications, it is vital that they are able to get on the website and get correct information regarding their admission and financial aid decisions.

To make sure the secure website works correctly, the Office of Admissions works with the Administrative Computing team and with computer network administrators.”

Continue reading Keith Chapman’s Dartmouth Now article, “Dartmouth Accepts 469 Early Decision Applicants,” to learn how ITS Administrative Computing makes the process run smoothly.

Information Technology Backup Test 12/21 & 12/22

Notice to Dartmouth faculty, staff, and students:

On the weekend of December 21 and 22, Information Technology Services (ITS) will conduct a test to ensure that critical computer applications and services have a sufficient level of redundancy or backup. The timing of the test, during the first weekend of the holiday break, is meant to minimize the impact of any potential service disruption. It is, however, possible that users could experience an interruption of some systems, including email, MyFiles/OurFiles, and Banner. See below for a complete list.

For more than a year, ITS has been developing the infrastructure, capacity, and documentation to provide redundancy for Dartmouth’s 30+ critical IT applications and services between our on- and off-campus data centers. Redundancy ensures that if we ever lose power or connectivity to the primary data center we can switch Dartmouth’s critical computing systems over to the secondary data center and keep them running smoothly.

We have identified the start of the holiday break as the best opportunity for this operation, given that many departments are closed and a majority of our community is off campus at that time.

The plan involves cutting the link between our primary and secondary data centers on December 21 at 5 a.m., and then bringing the 30+ critical systems back online in our secondary data center to ensure they are working appropriately. We will then switch back to the primary data center later that day and again test the systems to ensure they are fully functional.

During this period, all non-critical systems (such as the campus map, many facilities systems, the Hood museum’s catalog system, Documentum, IRA reporting environment) will be unavailable. Internal phones, 911, and Safety and Security phones will all continue to work, although there will be reduced inbound and outbound call capacity during the test period.

We expect that all will go smoothly, and ITS staff will be on duty to address any disruptions that could occur. We anticipate that normal services will resume Monday morning, December 23.

Please contact joseph.r.doucet@dartmouth.edu with questions.

Dartmouth computing systems deemed critical:

 

Active Directory Greenprint Oracle Database
Advance Health services Oracle EBIS
Audience View Identify and access management OurFiles
Banner Student (Appworx, Inferno) Informant Phone Service
Blackboard LDAP Rapport
COEUS Library catalog Sharepoint
Echo360 MyFiles Tuckstreams
Email (Mailhub) Network Services Web presence
  OnBase  

Three Steps for Staying Safe on Facebook

Samantha Oh ’14 is a sociology major who gave a presentation on Facebook settings during last month’s cyber security awareness seminars. In this guest post on Interface, Oh shares simple steps you can take to stay safe after Facebook’s latest changes.

Remember when Facebook used to let you opt out of Facebook Securityconnecting your Timeline to Facebook Search?

Well, they revoked this option last month, which means that anyone who has a Facebook account can be searched by the other 1.26 billion account holders in the world. Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean that your co-workers or stalkers will be able to see everything that’s on your profile; there are still Privacy Settings that you can utilize to limit the information that you make available to the public.

However, there is no longer a way for you or for some of your personal information to be invisible to the rest of the Facebook world.  According to the Facebook Help Center, “Your name, gender, username, user ID, profile picture, cover photo, and networks are available to anyone since they are essential to helping you connect with your friends and family.” If this is true, it is imperative to make sure you understand the reality of the situation, the possible consequences, and the ways you can limit the information you share.

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Now, I can use this time to go through each and every setting with you, but here are my three takeaways:

1. Take five minutes out of your day to sit down and actually go through your account and privacy settings, each and every single one of them. Determine whether you’re sharing posts to “Public” or “Friends.”  Understand options like that box that says, “Share photos with friends of anyone tagged” or “Let other search engines link to your timeline.”

2.  Explore tools like Activity Log and View As. Activity Monitor allows you to keep track of your personal activity like what is showing up on your Timeline and other people’s Newsfeeds.  It’ll also keep a record of things that you’ve hidden or blocked. View As is great because it shows what your profile looks like to the public and to your specific friends. I use this all the time so I’m aware of what information is shown to strangers on the web but also to my mom or my grandpa.

3. Read the fine print about Apps and Third Parties. Most people are concerned about the information that’s being shared with other Facebook users but forget to think about the private information they’re releasing to non-accounts. Facebook apps grab all the permissions they can, including access to your personal information and the ability to post photos and status updates “on your behalf.”  The best way to enhance your Facebook privacy is to delete the apps since users have no way of knowing what the information includes or how it will be used.  Lastly, make sure that you check “Apps others use” since you can unknowingly be letting your friends share your personal information with the apps that they use.

That’s just a basic overview of some changes you can make. If you have any questions, feel free to send me an email at samantha.oh.14@dartmouth.edu

Want to learn more about Facebook? Watch the FREE lynda Facebook course with your Dartmouth login credentials.