Universal Instructional Design Principles: Usability, Accessibility, Evidence In Moodle vs MOOCs

Universal Instructional Design Principles: Usability, Accessibility, Evidence In Moodle Vs MOOCs

Are MOOCs really open? We have witnessed its rise in past years. We have also witnessed the wave of backlash in many of its aspects. Content, engagement, completion rates and churning in particular. These issues cannot move forward without actual empirical research.


An article from the recent release of the Proceedings from the 2016 Conference of the Human Computer Interaction (HCI) Society of Korea, that took place last January, brings new evidence to the table. From a Universal Design for Learning (UDL) standpoint, it evaluates popular MOOC platforms (Coursera, edX and Khan) to find barriers to openness.

Design Principles as measuring stick in online education is not a new concern. A 2010 research paper by Tanya Elias, published in Athabasca University’s The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, formulated a set of guidelines to apply Universal Instructional Design (UID) principles in Moodle.

Elias provided 40 categories wrapped around 8 UID principles:

  1. Equitable use
  2. Flexible use
  3. Simple and intuitive
  4. Perceptible information
  5. Tolerance for error
  6. Low physical and technical effort
  7. Community of learners and support
  8. Instructional climate

An interesting result from the comparison between the 2010 and the 2016 articles is the compatibility of Moodle with the frameworks at least since 2010. The MOOC platforms, on the other hand, receive poor ratings, with a joint 52% grade. These scores are lower for their mobile versions.

An important part the UID and UDL frameworks share is the focus on accessibility. It concludes that the MOOC platforms have a long way to cater with people in special circumstances. A concern that Moodle has addressed early on, and from which they could only learn.

If you are interested in development for Moodle, the Elias article is still a relevant read. It is not complicated, and it gives a “ready to tackle” approach to accessibility issues in Moodle.

The HCI Korea 2016 paper is behind a paywall.

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How will you apply Universal Instructional Design principles to Moodle? Tell us in the comments below!