Improving accessibility and usability of FORRT’s Open Educational Resources
Funding Area: Critical shared infrastructure / Infraestructura compartida critica
Problem Statement: Open science (OS) encompasses a set of practices which aim to ensure that the whole research lifecycle is transparent, robust, reproducible, and rooted in social justice. OS is increasingly being adopted across academic disciplines. Teaching students about OS could expedite its adoption through bottom-up culture change. However, busy educators are unlikely to prioritise embedding OS into their curriculum, particularly in under-resourced regions and communities. FORRT aims to support educators in this transition by providing a comprehensive framework to embed OS into their curriculum. To achieve this, FORRT provides a wide range of open educational resources (OERs) centred on OS. These include static web content and interactive web apps, which are publicly hosted on the FORRT website (forrt.org). However, the website is maintained entirely through ad hoc volunteer work, resulting in slow updates which follow inconsistent practices. This has resulted in a website which is overflowing with OERs and information, but is not easy to navigate, loads slowly, and does not conform to accessibility standards. Additionally, FORRT volunteers contribute their time and expertise to create OERs, yet credit is not always clearly assigned. We hope that we can continue to expand our reach to scientists, educators, policymakers, students, and the general public by improving the FORRT website in four key areas: usability, accessibility, reliability, and clarity of how we assign credit.
Proposed Activities: At present, over half of visitors to the FORRT website leave after reaching the homepage, suggesting that the majority of visitors do not benefit from the current structure of the FORRT website. We aim to increase visitor retention through four interlinking goals. 1. Usability and Accessibility. Our first proposed goal is to improve the usability of the FORRT website, which we aim to achieve through a three-pronged approach. Firstly, we intend to restructure the website navigation to centre the OERs by switching to a more visual format (e.g. callout boxes) and grouping OERs by target audience. Secondly, we aim to support FORRT’s interactive content (e.g. Shiny apps) by funding their maintenance and integration into the website. Finally, we hope to create more engaging media formats, such as video summaries or podcast-style recordings of papers. Our second proposed goal is to increase accessibility of the FORRT website. We aim to ensure that a greater proportion of the FORRT website adheres to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) requirements, namely by converting PDFs to HTML pages. These are more easily accessed by screen readers and machine translation tools. This will improve the accessibility of the FORRT website for disabled users and those from LMICs. Improvements to usability and accessibility are a longer-term commitment which will require dedicated personnel hours from someone with knowledge of FORRT’s OERs and Hugo-based static site generation. Ideally, this would be individuals who have prior knowledge of the FORRT website infrastructure. We are therefore seeking 10,400.00 USD to cover the salary of a project manager at 0.2 FTE for one year, with the intention to complete this work by the end of the contract. This individual would also be responsible for updating the FORRT website with new content and facilitating the website working group, which would reduce strain on volunteers within the FORRT community. 2. Reliability and Clarity of Assigning Credit. Improvements to reliability and clarity of assigning credit will require input from specialised web engineers, as the community currently lacks skills or resources to develop this. We aim to assemble a working group of 3-5 individuals with expertise in this area. Within the first four months, the working group would develop a plan for the new website infrastructure. The working group would then implement these changes over the remaining eight months. We hope to incentivise this work by offering honoraria to each individual at each stage of the project. To support the inclusion of FORRT community members who may not otherwise be able to join this working group, we are also requesting 500 USD to cover costs of a professional course for website development and optimisation for up to two individuals. Finally, we are requesting a maximum of 530 USD to cover website maintenance costs (e.g. dedicated web hosting, domain renewal).
Openness: All FORRT content and resources are licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0, and are transparently published on the website and/or Open Science Framework. The website code is openly shared via GitHub (https://github.com/forrtproject/forrtproject.github.io). Reuse and adaptation of our content, resources and code according to individual needs is actively encouraged, such as across different course curricula or for meta-research. Where FORRT projects lead to academic publications, we strive to share an openly available preprint and prioritise open access journals. In this way, we aim for our projects and outputs to be accessible to all who will benefit from them. Similarly, FORRT projects are community-sourced, meaning that they are open for contributions from anyone within the FORRT community. Calls for project contributions are normally requested via our free-to-access Slack workspace. Our projects are centred on using OS to promote social justice, so we actively engage researchers and educators from LMICs and under-represented backgrounds (e.g. neurodivergent individuals) to get involved. However, we are aware that this approach risks overburdening scholars from marginalised backgrounds. We hope that by introducing honoraria and therefore compensating for the time and expertise contributed to FORRT projects, we will reduce the burden of service on marginalised scholars in particular.
Challenges: We anticipate that developing a new structure which meets the needs and expectations of the users and the stakeholders will prove challenging. At present, the FORRT community lacks the technical expertise needed to implement this. However, this challenge can be mitigated with good communication practices. The project manager will be responsible for liaising between different FORRT projects and the website working group to ensure that technical needs are met, while also considering the needs of the users and reflecting FORRT’s values. We also expect initial difficulties in ensuring that website updates are applied consistently, on a regular timeline, and according to best practices. This can be addressed through the development of guidelines and policies for website updates. These guidelines will specify how often the website should be updated, what kind of content should be added or removed, how to ensure the accuracy and relevance of the content, pull request processes, and how to manage infrastructure failures. These will be created in consultation with the website working group. Finally, making a website that is truly accessible and inclusive for all users is itself a challenge. This requires adopting a user-centered design approach that considers the needs, expectations, and experiences of different user groups. These principles will be embedded into the website update guidelines, such as through the use of user feedback, to ensure they are consistently applied.
Neglectedness: To the best of our knowledge, funding schemes in the Open Science domain are largely focused on the creation and development of new infrastructures, such as open dataset repositories, or alternative incentive structures for researchers. Few funding opportunities are related to Open Educational Resources or relate to the promotion of OS among students. In recent years, FORRT has applied to several grants focused on developing new Open Educational Resources, one of which has recently been funded by the Dutch Research Council (NWO) Open Science Fund (the grant proposal can be read here: https://doi.org/10.53962/r4qf-7peg). This is the first grant we applied to with the focus on improving the usability and accessibility of our existing Open Educational Resources. While we commend such funding initiatives, we think it is equally important to allocate funding to increase the reach and accessibility of existing Open Educational Resources. Unfortunately, funding schemes focused on the sustainability of grassroots Open Science communities and organizations are rare. When existent, they are substantial funding schemes that require years of grant writing expertise (e.g. Horizon Europe). These are mostly inaccessible to Open Science communities such as FORRT, which is overwhelmingly composed of early career researchers.
Success: We will measure success through the following metrics. 1. Usability and accessibility 1.a. The proportion of PDFs converted to HTML on the FORRT website. We are aiming to convert 75% of PDFs within the year. 1.b. Creation of video and audio formats for four key FORRT resources, with priority decided by FORRT community managers. 1.c. Alt text on 90% of images on the FORRT website. 1.d. Website visitor retention reaches at least 50%. Although this will not form a direct measurable, we will also solicit informal feedback from website users via a survey. This will be distributed to FORRT community members via the Slack workspace. The feedback collected will direct the restructuring of the website. 2. Reliability 2.a. Version 1 of guidelines for updating the FORRT website. 2.b. Reduce the average website loading time to two seconds or less. 3. Clarity of Assigning Credit 3.a. Create a central profile on the FORRT website for each individual who contributes to FORRT projects. 3.b. Publish dedicated pages for FORRT project teams whose work does not lead to published outputs (e.g. the social media team, the website working group). 3.c. Create an automated crediting process, which links individual contributions to projects to their central FORRT profile.
Total Budget: 14430.00
Budget File: pdf
Affiliations: This proposal is affiliated with FORRT, the Framework for Open and Reproducible Research Training (forrt.org).
LMIE Carveout: The project fits into the category “services that are widely adopted by communities in LMIEs”, as we actively strive to include and promote work from individuals of LMIEs. Many of our active FORRT members and project contributors come from LMIEs, and FORRT’s Open Educational Resources are used by educators in LMIEs.
Team Skills: FORRT is an award-winning interdisciplinary international community of 750+ scholars at all career stages, which aims to integrate Open Science into higher education. The FORRT community has collaborated to create a range of pedagogical resources, including a self-assessment tool, ready-to-use lesson plans and syllabi, and resource databases for educators. The FORRT community also collaborates on meta-research, such as a recent review of the impact of Open Scholarship on students’ outcomes (https://doi.org/10.1098/rsos.221255). Bethan Iley and Helena Hartmann are community managers at FORRT. They have been involved in multiple FORRT projects, and have both led highly productive project teams. They both have an understanding of Hugo, have contributed to the FORRT website, and have developed accessible content for FORRT’s social media. This combined project management and technical experience will guide management of the overall project. Flavio Azevedo is the co-founder and director of FORRT, where he has co-led the production of numerous Open Educational Resources. His contributions to Open Science have been acknowledged through multiple awards, including a UKRN Dorothy Bishop Award which he accepted on behalf of the FORRT community. All team members have extensive experience with teaching, producing accessible content, and applying Open Science in their own research. The wider FORRT community includes individuals with a wide range of expertise and experience.
How Did You Hear About This Call: Word of mouth (e.g. conversations and emails from IOI staff, friends, colleagues, etc.) / Boca a boca (por ejemplo, conversaciones y correos electrónicos del personal del IOI, amigos, colegas, etc.)
Submission Number: 177