Federal Student Aid, FSA, is an office of the U.S. Department of Education. They conducted an Instructor-Led Training to help employees improve their critical thinking skills. Participants enjoyed the seminar and learned new ways to approach and solve problems, so FSA wanted to deliver the content to new-hire employees and anyone who missed the training. However, it would be costly to invest in the 8-hour classroom training repeatedly in the future.
FSA hired Designing Digitally, Inc. to create an online course presenting the critical thinking content. The project had to fulfill three equally-important goals: teach the content to an audience who has never seen it before, provide a refresher for employees who attended the training, and uphold 508 compliance. Plus, it would be the first course FSA offered that is accessible on mobile phones.
Designing Digitally, Inc. used Adobe Captivate 9 to build a responsive mLearning module. It has a non-linear structure so learners can use menus to quickly navigate to a topic of interest, allowing it to be effective for both audience groups. The course records and bookmarks which topics and slides the learner has viewed.
The course has a mobile-first approach, meaning all of the buttons are large enough to use easily on a smartphone, the onscreen content is minimal, and the images can load quickly on a data connection. However, the design translates well for learners accessing the course on a desktop or laptop computer.
Upholding 508 compliance on mobile phones created a big challenge. After extensive testing, we concluded that while mobile devices do provide tools for accessibility, such as text-to-speech, they do not provide a true screen reader. And, smartphone screens do not provide physical keys for a visually-impaired learner to knowingly press. Designing Digitally, Inc. and FSA collectively shifted their focus to make the desktop/laptop version of the course fully 508 compliant, and keep the mobile version as a helpful tool that provides just-in-time training for learners who do not require assistive technology.
The online course for improving critical thinking skills fulfills all of FSA’s goals. There is no longer a need to conduct an all-day Instructor-Led Training to present the content. Now, all of their employees can access the material at any time and can work through it at their own pace. There is no longer a need to schedule a specific time for everyone to physically be in one location to hear the information. And, they can pull up the content on their mobile phones to reference the content when they are away from their desks, such as during a team meeting. FSA created internal marketing materials to showcase the course and the new mobile platform including videos, posters, emails and handouts.