Quick Guide to Instructional Tools Standards

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What are standards?

Standards are a certain way of creating and saving files that enable compatibility between different programs created by different developers.

Why follow standards when using instructional tools?

So students can see your online content! Our students come to class with a variety of operating systems, software installations, devices and internet connection speeds. If standards are not followed, hardware and software incompatibilities can keep students from being able to open or view their coursework. Following standards will also cut down on time spent troubleshooting technical issues!

Standards for Web Tools

What tool are you using? Standards to follow:
MyPCC Course Tools
  • Make sure any files you upload are optimized for the web (see file types in table below).
PCC/WebEasy website
  • Go through the webpage authoring checklist - this will maximize your site's compatibility.
  • Go through each of the web accessibility guidelines and make sure your site meets any guidelines that apply - this will help your content be accessible to students with disabilities.
Spot website
  • Go through each of the web accessibility guidelines and make sure your site meets any guidelines that apply - this will help your content be accessible to students with disabilities.
  • Use of Adobe Flash should be limited to video players (such as the Camtasia player).
Camtasia
Collaborate
  • Have students go through the requirements checklist on the Collaborate page to make sure their system meets the requirements for participating in a Collaborate meeting.
Voice Tools
  • Have students run a diagnostic check to make sure their computer has adequate connection speed and the required software.

Standards for File Types

What type of file
are you posting?
Standards to follow:
Image
  • Use the appropriate file type:
    • for photographs use .jpg
    • for illustrations use .png or .gif
  • Resize the image so that it is only as big as it needs to be (for the web, 500px width is considered big enough for most images).
  • Don't save text as an image - write the text out using a text tool.
  • Supply alternative text for those who can't see the image.
Audio
  • Use a widely-supported format: .mp3 is preferred, .wav or .ogg also acceptable.
  • Set the encoding bitrate to 128kbps for music, 32kbps for speech.
  • Provide a transcript or text summary of the content.
Video
PDF
  • When posting a PDF, it should first be optimized for the web - this will keep the file size down and make it compatible with different versions of Adobe Reader. For instructions on saving MS documents as web-optimized PDFs, see Microsoft Office file types, below.
  • If you intend for your PDF to be viewed online only (as opposed to printed out), consider posting the material as a webpage. Webpages are easier to view and are more accessible.
Scanned images and documents
  • Scanning in a document saves the document as an image - saving text as an image should be avoided. If you don't have the source file for the document (i.e. you only have a paper copy) then you could try scanning it in and using an OCR program to recognize the text.
  • Scanning in images - use the appropriate file type and size (see images, above).

Standards for Microsoft Office Documents

What type of file
are you posting?
Standards to follow:
All Office Files
  • In general, MS Office files should be converted to PDFs before distributing to students. Many students do not own MS Office, or may own a different version. PDFs are the de facto standard for documents on the web - they can be opened on almost every system and device! Luckily, in Office 2010 it's easy to convert to web-optimized PDF:
    1. Click on the Acrobat tab and hit the Preferences button
    2. Adjust these settings:
      • For conversion settings, select "smallest file size"
      • Check the "enable accessibility and reflow with tagged Adobe PDF" option
      • Under advanced settings, for compatibility, select "Acrobat 6"
    3. Click okay and then hit the Create PDF button
  • If you must post a document in an Office format, consider linking to a free alternative for viewing the content, such as PowerPoint Viewer or OpenOffice.
PowerPoint
Word
Excel
  • Convert to PDF before posting to the web (instructions above).

Don't see your media type or tool listed above? You can check standards by thinking about whether your file can be accessed by students with different systems. Keep in mind the following situations:

Different operating systems:
make sure the file can be opened with different platforms (Windows, Mac, etc.).
Low connection speeds:
don't make students download huge files.
Assorted browsers:
check your content on different browsers with images and JavaScript turned off.
Diverse abilities:
make sure your content is accessible to students with disabilities - see Web Accessibility Guidelines for more.
Device capabilities:
attempt to make your content available across as many devices as possible. For example, support for Word documents is spotty on smart phones and tablets, but support for PDFs is widespread, which is one of the reasons we save Word docs as PDFs before posting.