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E-Text Platform Provider's Accessibility Announcement

Last week, Courseload, an e-text platform provider that has consistently participated in the EDUCAUSE/Internet2 E-Text Pilot Series, announced that it had achieved major progress in making its platform's collaboration functions (e.g., peer and faculty highlighting and annotation) accessible in line with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and the technology accessibility guidelines established for federal agencies under Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act.

The E-Learning Policy Environment (Updated 02/14/13)

I presented a session entitled "The E-Learning Policy Environment" this January at the EDUCAUSE Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference (MARC) and just last week at the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative (ELI) 2013 Annual Meeting. In the presentation, I review the factors I see as major drivers of the increased policy and regulatory focus on e-learning over the last few years, the key impacts and community responses to that increase in policy and regulatory activity, and some of the issues likely to rise in importance in this policy space in the near term. The slides from those sessions, which vary slightly due to some updates I made for the ELI conference, are available (under the session "Resources" tab) at:

Distance Ed Regulation Commission’s Work Continues

As highlighted before the holidays, in both a blog post and an EDUCAUSE Live! online presentation, the Commission on Regulation of Postsecondary Distance Education, chartered by the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU) and the State Higher Education Executive Officers (SHEEO), has been actively exploring the potential of a state authorization reciprocity agreement (SARA) model for right-sizing the burden of state regulation on online learning programs. The Commission will hold its final face-to-face meeting on Monday, January 14, in Washington, DC, to review and discuss a draft set of recommendations.

Federal Report Highlights The Economic Case for Higher Education

The U.S. Departments of The Treasury and Education recently announced the release of a joint report highlighting the economic value of higher education achievement for individuals and the country as a whole. Entitled The Economics of Higher Education, the report confirms the continuing importance of postsecondary success to economic progress, including key findings such as the following:

· There is substantial evidence that education raises earnings. The median weekly earnings of a full-time, bachelor’s degree holder in 2011 were 64 percent higher than those of a high school graduate ($1,053 compared to $638).

Comment on U.S. Dept. of Ed. Learning/Academic Analytics Report

The U.S. Department of Education has released a request for public input on a new report, Expanding Evidence Approaches for Learning in a Digital World,  addressing how institutions, policymakers, and learning technology developers can advance and capitalize on learning analytics and academic analytics to increase the sucess of individual learners as well as the learning enterprise as a whole.

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Google Response on NFB Google Apps Concerns

Earlier in the week, I posted a review of the most recent concerns about the accessibility of Google Apps for Education expressed by the National Federation of the Blind (NFB). In that piece, I noted the NFB view that "there is no indication yet that Google intends to address accessibility problems that arise from users accessing Google Apps via other market-standard browsers (e.g., Internet Explorer, Firefox) and assistive applications (e.g., the JAWS screen reader, the Dragon NaturallySpeaking speech recognition application)." Google has since provided the following clarification of its plans for Google Apps accessibility in non-Google browsers and assistive applications, which I quote in its entirety:

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NFB Google Apps Concerns Continue

Via email, Dan Goldstein, outside counsel for the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), was asked to address NFB’s current views on the accessibility of Google Apps for Education. (Thanks go to Terry Thompson, accessibility technology specialist at the University of Washington and immediate-past leader of the EDUCAUSE IT Accessibility Constituent Group, for initiating the dialogue.) In his response, Dan noted that the concerns NFB raised at the start of 2012 about Google’s approach to addressing Google Apps’ accessibility problems have only grown over the course of the year.

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ARL Report: A Great Overview of Print Accessibility

Comprehensive overviews of accessibility issues that one can still read relatively quickly don’t often appear. However, the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) has produced just that in its November 2012 report, Report of the ARL Joint Task Force on Services to Patrons with Print Disabilities (http://www.arl.org/accessibility/). The report concisely reviews the legal and regulatory provisions that colleges and universities face in relation to accessibility for persons with disabilities generally. It then discusses how those requirements apply in the context of the digital information resources and services that research libraries provide.

Latest News on State Authorization

Russ Poulin at the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies (WCET) released a blog post this morning with significant updates on the state of play concerning state authorization. Major topics covered include:

Penn State's Progress on its NFB Agreement (EDUCAUSE 2012)

At last year's EDUCAUSE annual conference, EDUCAUSE Policy hosted a panel discussion on technology accessibility for persons with disabilities in higher education. During that session, Dan Goldstein, outside legal counsel for the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), stated that the NFB viewed its then-recent agreement with Penn State to resolve concerns about the inaccessibility of the university's technology environment as a model for all of higher education.