Standards for Design: Part 42 – Alternative Means of Access to Course Materials

Welcome to the forty-second blog post in a forty-four week series walking through and explaining the Quality Matters standards.

This is the third standard in the eighth general standard of the Fifth Edition, 2014, Quality MattersTM Higher Education Rubric focusing on Accessibility and Usability. This post continues our discussion about what to consider to assist learners and to make your course start to meet accessibility standards.

Standard: 8.3 The course provides alternative means of access to course materials in formats that meet the needs of diverse learners.

This standard is quite simple: can students access the course materials in a variety of formats? If you include a video, are captions and a transcript available? If you have an image, do you have descriptive “alt” text to correspond with the image? The “alt” next to the image should have an equivalent text description of what the image represents. Are you using headers in your tables and headings for text? You should be using them both in the HTML and Word Documents, PowerPoints, PDFs, etc. When you use PDFs, are the text searchable and readable and not just a scanned image?

The main idea behind this standard is to make documents available and understandable for all kinds of learning styles. I will use myself as an example. I will admit that I am not a strong reader. I learn better by listening and “doing”. So in a class I am currently taking, I have a lot of readings. While just reading the text doesn’t help me, I found an app on the iTunes Store that will read eBooks and PDFs aloud. Because the PDFs have searchable and selectable text, the app is able to read the articles to me. What I have been struggling with all semester now takes me significantly less time to get through, and better compression of the material.

Not only is this important to accomplish because it helps different learning styles, it can also help avoid potential lawsuits.

A great resource at the Office of Distance Education and eLearning to use when we talk about Universal Design and Accessibility is the ODEE Community for Universal Design and Accessibility Blog and the Accessibility section of ODEE Resource Center. This is not only is this an essential QM standard and a great course design practice, but it is also starting to become the law!

Contact The Ohio State University Quality Matter Coordinator, Tim Lombardo at to learn more about Quality Matters and learn more how OSU faculty and staff can be compensated for the cost of training through the ODEE Quality Matters Grants.

The ODEE Quality Matters blog can be found at the ODEE Quality Matters Blog


Adapted from the Fifth Edition, 2014 Quality MattersTM Rubric © by The Ohio State University

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