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Discover New Features in ThingLink ensuring Accessibility for All

Louise Jones

Creating accessible learning experiences is critical for educators, trainers and student creators, but it need not be daunting! ThingLink is a platform that allows anyone to create interactive and immersive learning experiences that can be acessible to everyone, not matter what their requirements are. Multiple accessibility features are built in to the platform, and there are continually new developments and updates which enhance the accessible experience.

In this blog we’ll provide a summary of the main ways that ThingLink can ensure you are creating accessible online learning course materials. We’ll also signpost some helpful further resources, and we’ll share some creative content demonstrating best practice and innovative approaches to creating great accessible content.

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Interactive visuals for enhanced engagement and improved understanding

ThingLink lets you transform your images, videos or 360 content into interactive and immersive learning experiences. By adding annotations, links, videos, 3D models and audio descriptions to your base media you can instantly create more engaging material. This interactivity is especially beneficial for learners who benefit from multimodal learning content to reduce cognitive overload and/or multiple ways to receive information.

Visuals can often convey complex information more effectively than text alone. ThingLink’s interactive images, scenes and tours can provide context and clarity to difficult concepts, making them easier to understand for learners with diverse cognitive abilities. This is particularly true for 360 images, which can create a virtual learning environment that replicates the real-world context.

Published academic research into the efficacy of ThingLink as a learning and teaching resource highlights its ability to increase accessibility and inclusivity:

“This type of resource has positive implications for the flexibility, inclusivity, and accessibility of teaching materials.”

A flexible, open, and interactive digital platform to support online and
blended experiential learning environments: ThingLink and thin sections
Adam J. Jeffery et al, Geoscience Communication, Vol 4, Issue 1

You can read further details of this research here.

ThingLink supports accessibility for all

ThingLink supports the principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL), catering to a wide range of learning preferences and needs. Some of the main features and assistive technologies that are included in every ThingLink plan include:

  • The ability to add audio descriptions and text annotations to images, which makes content more accessible to students with visual or hearing impairments. Audio content can be added to all base media images, as well as to individual text and media tags, by uploading audio files, or by directly recording your own narration in the ThingLink editor.
  • Microsoft’s Immersive Reader, an integrated reading and automatic language translation tool. It can read text aloud, change the formatting to make it easier to read, or highlight certain parts of the text for you.
  • In 2023 ThingLink added an Accessibility Player. This is a separate web page that shows the transcript and content of all tags in plain view with a special widget that allows the viewer to change the page appearance and use the built-in screenreader.
  • Alt text for background images, videos and 3D models is generated automatically using the scene’s title. You can also add your own alt text descriptions to individual images or 3D models inside a text and media tag.
  • Captions and subtitles:
  • You can also change the color of your tag icons, for improved color contrast against your image or video.

Automatic Content Translation

Starting February 29, 2024, your standard ThingLink content (images, videos, 360° images, and 360° videos) can be automatically translated into 24 different languages! Support article here. Also recently added was the ability to edit the translated text, simply click on the Translate option in settings and edit the JSON file directly in the tag!

Click the Translation Icon on this Interactive Growth Sequence! Notice how Guided and Locked Mode guide the viewer reducing cognitive overload.

Continuous improvement and updates

ThingLink is regularly updated with new features and improvements, ensuring that the tool remains at the forefront of accessible online learning technology. For full details on ThingLink’s Accessibility Statements (WCAG 2.2 and VPAT 2.4 Rev 508). please visit our dedicated support article here.

Customizable for a wide range of subjects, levels and languages

ThingLink’s versatility allows it to be used across different subjects and educational levels. Whether it’s a detailed anatomy diagram, an interactive map or infographic, or a 360 image or video of a work environment, ThingLink can be tailored to fit your learners’ needs and the course or syllabus. The ease by which you (or your colleagues) can clone your content means that you can edit and adapt the same base media with different levels or types of annotations using different types of multimedia approaches.

The Immersive Reader integration has always allowed learners to translate the content of text boxes into their preferred language (currently over 120 languages and increasing all the time). In addition, ThingLink now provides you with the ability to add translations to your learning content, in 24 different languages. You can also change the main editor interface and the user interface into one of 20 languages – and that number is set to increase.

Analytics for insight into learner engagement

ThingLink provides a range of different levels of analytics on how learners interact with the content. This data can be invaluable for trainers and content creators to understand what works, what doesn’t, and how to improve their course design for greater accessibility.

Ease of use and integration

ThingLink is user-friendly and integrates seamlessly with various Learning Management Systems (LMS) and websites. This ease of use and integration ensures that educators can quickly adopt and implement it in their training strategies. ThingLink resources can be easily shared and reused, expanding their reach to a broader audience.

Useful resources

The following are links to more information about accessibility standards and guidance on improving usability.

  • UDL (Universal Design for Learning) Guidelines on the CAST Website, which has links for to further learning and training opportunities
  • In our ThingLink Certified Creator Course we have devoted one whole module to helping you create accessible content. The course is included in all ThingLink plans and is accessed via the “Information” icon towards the bottom of the sidebar in your account home page.
  • Reducing Cognitive Overload this is a poster resource to help understand Cognitive Load Theory by Jamie Lee Clark – Dylan Wiliam said that Cognitive Load Theory is ‘the single most important thing for teachers to know’. This poster summarises some key ideas from CLT and offers 6 strategies to optimise instruction and maximise learning.

Enhancing the learning experience

Consider ThingLink as a powerful ally in the quest to create equal access to online learning for all. Its ability to make content more interactive, engaging, and inclusive addresses many of the challenges faced in online training today. By leveraging ThingLink, you can significantly enhance the learning experience for all trainees, regardless of their individual needs and preferences.

Further inspiration

  • Go to our YouTube channel for easy-to-follow tutorials and webinar recordings

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