Color My World . . . or Not
Effective online instruction must be understandable and engaging. In the announcements portion of my online courses, I employ brevity and succinctness, primarily stating facts, avoiding obscure lingo and innuendo to ensure that students comprehend my intended meaning. To catch their attention so that they are enticed to read the announcement, I use a variety of vivid color combinations. For example, royal blue text stands out well on both electric yellow and hot pink. Some combinations actually produce a 3D appearance. Who could miss that? I never gave this practice a second thought until I recently heard a couple of colleagues discussing compliance with the American Disabilities Act in online education with regard to color-blindness. While I like looking at my color schemes, my priority is meeting the needs of my students. Thus the next logical step was to gather information regarding strategies for not putting color-blind individuals at a disadvantage in an online learning environment.
I discovered that there are commercially available software applications that can assist in this regard, examining developed content and providing for correction of material that would compromise the instructional effectiveness for students who are colorblind or have other visual limitations. Fortunately, there are some simple guidelines that anyone can use to prevent placing any students at a disadvantages when view digital content. First, don't rely on color alone to convey meaning. For instance, the following could be totally useless to an individual with colorblindness: "For each module, reading assignments are located in the blue folder, quizzes in the red folder, and lab assignments in the green folder." To ensure that all students will be able to find the appropriate information, each folder should have a written label that clearly identifies the content. A second strategy is to use high contrast. Simply put, use either a very dark background with white or very light letters or vice versa.
Care must also be taken in the use of graphics that contains text. So long as the contrast rule is followed, real text is not a problem. However, text that is part of a graphic image has become pixelated. If that graphic is then enlarged significantly, its visual clarity is diminished and, for those with visual difficulties, it may likely become meaningless.
This is a new topic to me and I "see" that I have much to learn. Nonetheless, it is imperative that make every effort to improve the effectiveness of my online instruction for all of my students.
About Rita Waller
I am a respiratory care educator in a two-year associate degree program. I have over 30 years experience as a respiratory therapist and 17 years as an educator. I love both professions, but my passion is education. I do some on-line teaching, and I enjoy developing interactive tutorials.