A framework for improving accessibility in massive open online courses

Scheduled at 2:15pm in Lakehouse on Wednesday, November 15 (2017).



  • Kyle Shachmut, Manager, Digital Accessibility , Harvard University

Session Details

  • Length of Session: 1-hr
  • Format: Lecture
  • Expertise Level: Intermediate
  • Type of session: General Conference


MOOCs provide unique challenges and opportunities to provide accessible online learning experiences. This session will discuss some of the ways accessibility can be ensured through the entire course development cycle--from proposal to delivery--along with practical tips to ensure quality learning experiences.


Creation of a massive open online course differs in several key ways from the traditional higher education course with an online component. Given the affordances and constraints of the delivery method, course staff--faculty, instructional designers, and technical staff--can reap massive gains for accessibility by investing effort toward accessible curriculum design from the start. Background information will be provided to familiarize the audience with MOOCs in general and methods of delivery. The framework used to develop courses at HarvardX will be discussed as well as touch points where accessibility is integrated into the course development framework. Tools, tips and methods used by course staff to create more accessible content from the start will be shared. Live and simulated recreation of accessibility improvements made to in-house developed tools and instructional materials will be demonstrated from within the edX learning platform.


  1. different considerations for building a MOOC as opposed to a traditional online course
  2. where and how HarvardX uses a development lifecycle framework to embed accessibility checks into the process
  3. resources and workflows created to aid in accessible mooc creation

Disability Areas

Deaf/Hard of Hearing, Mobility, Vision

Topic Areas

Accessible Course Design, Administrative/Campus Policy, Teaching about Accessibility in Curriculum, Uncategorized

Speaker Bio(s)

Kyle Shachmut

Kyle Shachmut is the Manager of Digital Accessibility at Harvard University with focus on providing strategic direction to digital accessibility efforts across all of Harvard’s schools. His role works collaboratively with Harvard University Information Technology and University Disability Services. One major area of focus includes Kyle’s oversight of the universal design approach that integrates accessibility into online learning experiences through HarvardX—Harvard’s initiative that creates massive open online courses MOOCs available on edX. Kyle speaks frequently on issues related to technology, accessibility, online learning, and higher education. His works have been featured widely including The Boston Globe and The Chronicle of Higher Education.