The primary beneficiaries of the projects are learners with disabilities and other learners who have been marginalized by traditional education environments because they have learning needs that differ from the norm. The modifications and learner scaffolds developed however, benefit all learners. An associated group of beneficiaries are educators of students with special needs. The project results allow educators to customize learning material to meet the individual learning needs of their students.
The project results can be used in any educational sector including: preschool to high school, college and university, vocational training and upgrading, professional development and life long learning. The application of the project results would help these sectors to meet their human rights commitments and legislative obligations. Application of the project results would assist private enterprise developing and marketing e-learning products to meet procurement requirements regarding accessibility.
The project is intended to give learners with disabilities access to learning opportunities they have not had access to. Examples include:
It is also intended to support learners who require additional support to integrate new concepts. These improved and increased learning opportunities have to potential to improve vocational opportunities, health and quality of life for the learners. If these learners can meet their educational potential they will not be dependent on social support systems but contribute to Canadian social and economic systems.
Canadian e-learning developers who create inclusive products will improve the marketability of their products to markets in Europe, Australia, New Zealand and the US, who each have procurement guidelines that dictate inclusive educational tools and content.
For beneficiaries who did not participate in the project, the intended benefits are beginning to appear. The models, data structures and functionality modeled in the Barrierfree project are now in draft international specifications and accessibility guidelines. A number of developers have begun to integrate similar functionality into their tools and content offerings. The Barrierfree models have made their way into policy documents such as the National Centre for Accessible Media policies, and the Learning Federation accessibility policies. Educational institutions, which have not known how to meet their accessibility obligations when using rich media, are using the Barrierfree results as exemplars. These include Canadian institutions as well as education systems such as the Texas Education Agency, the Chancellors Office of California Colleges and the State of Florida.
Contribution to Technical Research, Organizational and Pedagogical Innovation
The Barrierfree project has raised the bar for inclusive learning. It has demonstrated that even a media, such as video, that is least amenable to personalized transformation can be enriched in such a way that the learning experience is engaging, supportive and accessible to all learners. The project has not simply implemented existing technologies in a new way in an e-learning domain, it has developed new and innovative technologies. It has modeled data structures to enable the transformation of linear video into non-linear, interactive learning objects. By doing so it has set new standards for learner-centric education.
The forums created by CANARIE which brought the various projects funded within e-learning and others interested in e-learning together were invaluable. These meetings created a community of interest on the topic of broadband on-line learning in Canada. They provided an opportunity for the Barrierfree project to advocate for accessible design practices in other projects. The forums also encouraged collaboration and the adoption of standard practices. Partly because of this strong community of interest encouraged by CANARIE, other initiatives have developed including the Industry Canada Eduspecs office, collaboration with like communities worldwide, and strong Canadian involvement with the IMS Global Learning Consortium. The efforts of CANARIE represent one of the few initiatives concerned with education that span all provinces and territories and therefore provide a rare opportunity for pan-Canadian discourse on the future of education in Canada.
To further support collaboration between projects CANARIE could establish a mechanism for conducting and billing for collaborative work. The Barrierfree deliverables will be further developed and implemented in the ABEL project also funded by CANARIE. An efficient mechanism whereby ABEL can incorporate billings for this work would assist in this collaboration.
Streamlining of the reporting mechanisms would assist the CANARIE projects. The rigorous project management practices encouraged by CANARIE should be maintained but there is redundant or unused information that is required that could be eliminated or replaced with more useful information.