Kenneth Chapman is adamant. “There is nothing wrong with you.”

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The face of one of the most public and coherent advocates of accessibility wants you to go further. At D2L, the multi-layered message about accessibility doubles as one about diversity. One that encompasses traditional ideas, but goes deeper. Let’s begin by recognizing our different genders and ethnicities. Of course, let’s follow with awareness of how we’re differently abled. But let’s also realize how we “consume” learning in different ways. Even among those who share a race or an impairment. This message isn’t lost in Chapman, ever so willing to go the distance.

The pandemic thrust us into a new normal. For Chapman and D2L, it’s a unique opportunity to reflect on business as usual. If some of us have fared better, how can we learn to extend our privilege? The annual D2L Fusion event goes now online, redesigned for a global audience. A new dynamic ensures D2L fans and elearning pros alike find something worth looking out for.

Beyond the aria labels

We can forget about the different physical abilities and limitations as students. We can instead focus on how “functional” a system is, and still address everyone’s needs. It becomes clear that ticking WACG 2.0 boxes would only take you so far. Chapman shares about the time when, as part of a D2L team, faced the “audio-based LMS” challenge. All members, regardless of their own abilities, must navigate Brightspace LMS using JAWS. The popular screen reader follows the accessibility labels on HTML elements. A voice processor speaks the labels outloud. To follow WACG guidelines, all elements must have labels. But there’s a long way between labeling divs and making a page (functionally) navigable.

Good usability is caring

The experience was revealing in more ways than one. If all this time we’ve been doing “tick-box elearning,” aren’t our students missing out big time? How can we make sure our elearning experiences are “speaking” to our students? Do they feel heard and understood? Or at the very least, do they reveal a genuine intent to learn more about them?

There is a systemic problem in our industry. One made worse by “well-meaning” ideas, like growth mindset or learning styles. More to the point, our herd tendency to assume that we can rely on these broad representations. Our wishful thinking about how our students think, offsetting a genuine understanding. In the “LMS Space Race,” it is inevitable to stay in-the-loop about what everybody else is doing. In general, it is in fact a healthy thing to do. But relying on somebody’s PR to define a development roadmap is dangerous. Early on, D2L realized that aiming for the most users would not really serve learners any purpose.

D2L Fusion 2020 ‘Heroes Unite’ — What to expect

Understanding that improving education is a group effort, one that requires learning heroes to come together to achieve a goal none could accomplish alone, the revamped “Fusion” program focuses on innovation through the “hot topics” affecting the elearning conversation today.

“Fusion” will cover all realms of elearning —K-12, Higher Ed, Corporate—, offering over 70 hours of content. It will be completely free for D2L clients and non-clients alike. Highlights include:

  • Keynote by John Baker, CEO of D2L. Baker will share his unique insight on the future —and present— of learning, our industry’s role against the world’s challenges, and the desired —and deserved— role of education and elearning.
  • An Accessibility Lab. Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is the unifying thread between D2L and the Accessibility community at large. Expect critical advice for online learning —and transitioners— and hands-on sessions where participants will be able to dive deeper into these important topics.
  • Gamification. Expert sessions, that nevertheless will shed light on the “infancy” of the practice, will focus on learned and shared experiences, within a larger discussion of what the future of gamification holds.


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