Five College Consortium

A UMASS Amherst student perspective on Moodle

Joshua Pearson, a UMASS Communications student, did a review of the UMASS Moodle instance on June 5, 2012

(For the full report, please see the attached PDF file)


Evaluating Moodle 2.0 on its accessibility with screen-reading software and three Web browsers allowed me to get an in-depth look at how Moodle was structured prior to the start of next fall when I’ll be required to use it. Moodle is designed very well; it is easy to navigate, and it was interesting learning workarounds for accessibility issues. I hope that this guide is useful to future users, and allows them to learn basic JAWS navigation of the site. Keep in mind that this was not an evaluation of an actual course set up on Moodle, but merely an analysis of how screen-reading software performs with many of Moodle’s key functions.

Below, you will find what I feel are the most important take-away points for a JAWS user accessing Moodle 2.0 for coursework:

  1. JAWS announces My Home as "Moodle My Home."
  2. The Navigation and Settings Blocks present some clickable items as non-link text.
  3. Help links are not tagged as "Help". (Example: Screen Reader Help is rendered "link screen reader".)
  4. Hitting Enter on Move to Dock and Undock All will dock/undock Blocks. Undock All is then a graphic at the bottom of the page.

The My profile settings that work best for a screen-reader user are the following:

  1. Email format – Pretty HTML format
  2. When editing text – Use HTML editor (some browsers only)
  3. AJAX and Javascript – No: use basic web features
  4. Screen reader – Yes

Moodle particulars:

  1. Moodle does not separate Forum posts with Headings. However, there is one graphic per post which allows one to navigate posts using the g key.
  2. Moodle uses the same alt-text for files, no matter what the file types (For sighted users, file types are indicated by unique icons.).
  3. When you hit enter on a file link, you're asked if you'd like to Open/Save the file. “Force Download” is a UMass custom Moodle setting that stops files from being opened in inaccessible file-viewing modules within Moodle. Perhaps this could be a default setting in future versions of Moodle.
  4. Uploading a file such as an assignment can be difficult because of the lack of announcement of the File Picker modal window after clicking the "Choose a file" button. File Picker code is added to the bottom of the page without an announcement by JAWS. However, a user can navigate from the page bottom up to the "Upload a File" link in the File Picker modal window. Expecting a JAWS user that is new to Moodle to figure this out is unreasonable.
  5. Students who have double time on the Quizzes will be given unlimited time and may need to track their allotted time determined as a reasonable accommodation. JAWS users will likely want to track their time independent of the Moodle timer module.
  6. "More Accessible Chat" option is the better way to use Chat. However, it would be even better to have just one Chat option that is accessible to all.
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