In the ever-evolving landscape of Philippine education, the integration of technology has been both a boon and a challenge.
While educational technology solutions such as Learning Management Systems (LMS) have enhanced learning experiences, accessibility remains a significant hurdle.
When it comes to education, accessibility encompasses a broad spectrum of equality and equity. Adding alternative text to images or redesigning a course are small yet impactful actions that enhance student engagement and learning outcomes.
According to a 2022 report by the World Bank on the digital transformation of Philippine higher education, 87 percent of private and 67 percent of public higher education institutions (HEIs) have integrated an LMS into their classrooms to create a more cohesive learning environment.
These findings are echoed by the recent global study “2023 State Of Student Success & Engagement in Higher Education,” conducted by Hanover Research for Instructure, the maker of Canvas LMS.
Filipino respondents reported that their institutions are using the LMS to increase accessibility by providing course materials and support (83 percent), virtual collaboration to engage students (67 percent), and accessibility features or tools (61 percent). Additionally, more than two-thirds of respondents pointed out that a fully integrated LMS platform is crucial for enhancing collaboration, providing feedback, and communicating important announcements.
Accessibility ensures consistency in the student experience
While learning preferences vary, educational technology can help teachers and learners in any education environment—be it in-person, online, or hybrid. The key to accessibility in education lies in providing equal learning opportunities for all.
For students to take more ownership of their learning journey, they need to be offered variable options to choose courses, activities and resources that are engaging and compatible with their needs, lifestyle, and available time. Educators use an LMS, such as Canvas, to tailor-fit learning programs and tools for their students. These systems provide access to functionality, such as recorded lectures, interactive videos, amplified audio, closed captions and translation scripts.
Adopting an LMS allows institutions to offer online access to educational materials and maintain consistency, not only in the student learning experience among the different learning environments but also to empower students to independently progress or revisit previous learning. This ensures an uninterrupted flow of education, even in the face of disruptions such as inclement weather, social unrest, or strikes.
Notably, half of Filipino students surveyed access their institution’s LMS via mobile phones, while the other half use desktops, laptops and tablets. HEIs need to pay attention to the devices students use and optimize course design, as well as ensure they have access to tools and apps that are mobile-native, not just adapted from the web. Developing flexible learning programs and resources that accommodate different learning paces and styles can play a crucial role in making education more accessible.
Enhancing accessibility in education
Despite the availability of LMSs and other educational technology, there remains a notable accessibility gap: not everyone can access these tools. An overreliance on free educational materials (74 percent among educators, 64 percent among students) highlights inequality in resource availability. Moreover, the concept of “learning deserts”—areas with limited access to educational opportunities—is particularly pronounced, with 44 percent of educators and 39 percent of students feeling underserved by available resources.
Increasing accessibility requires a multifaceted approach. It isn’t just about having the right gadgets but also about ensuring that every student and educator has equitable access to the resources they need to succeed. HEIs must optimize teaching and learning experiences for desktop and mobile devices. This entails not only having a strong and reliable internet connection but also keeping the network in good shape with regular maintenance.
Canvas LMS will shortly be introducing a new capability with the Canvas Student App for offline support, allowing users to access the app and use its core functions at any time; regardless of their internet connection. This elevates the app’s convenience and accessibility and improves equity for all in learning.
It’s crucial to evaluate current teaching tools for accessibility, ensuring they cater to a diverse range of needs, including those with special requirements. Offering comprehensive training and guidance for both students and educators in using digital and physical resources is another key strategy that HEIs must prioritize and implement effectively now.
The expansion of technology in education in the Philippines has opened new doors for student empowerment. By continuing to address and bridge the accessibility gap, HEIs can ensure that the benefits of education extend beyond the physical classroom, enabling every student to reach their full potential.
This journey toward truly accessible education is not just about technology; it’s about shaping a future where every student can succeed, regardless of their circumstances. Ensuring this vision becomes a reality requires concerted efforts and innovative thinking from all stakeholders in the educational sector. —CONTRIBUTED INQ
The author is Managing Director of Asia Pacific at Instructure