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Customising Student Forums

Jenny Lee Building
 

Accessibility problems with the O U forums

There are a number of accessibility and usability problems with the OU's online student forums.

One that causes major difficulties for many students is the message indentation, that is, the way each message is offset to the right of the message it is replying to.

Another problem is the difficulty of identifying the parent message that a message is replying to within a discussion thread. Each message has a unique number assigned to it in sequence. Displaying the current and parent message numbers with each message helps with following the flow of the conversation in a discussion.

There are fixes for both of these problems. Although they don't solve all the accessibility problems that prevent students from taking part in the forums, they allow some students to take part who otherwise would not be able to and make using the the forums easier for many others.

Following the instructions listed below to install the styles in the downloadable text files in your browser installs the following fixes for the OU forums

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Fixes for SeaMonkey and Firefox users

First download and install Stylish Add-on for SeaMonkey or Stylish Add-on for Firefox, depending on which of these browsers you are using. Follow the instructions on the website and the instructions which appear during installation.

Next download the text file containing the styles which best suit your needs from the following:

Open the downloaded text file with a text editor and install the styles it contains as follows:

  1. Within your browser select Add-on Manager/Add-ons from the Tools menu.
  2. Highlight Stylish.
  3. Select the Options button on the left.
  4. In the big box on the right select Write New Style. A dialog box should appear.
  5. Enter a name for the style in the Name field.
  6. Highlight and copy all the text in the downloaded style text file.
  7. Paste the copied text into the text box of the New Style dialog box.
  8. Select the save button.
  9. Close the dialog box and add-on manager.

If you are using an older version of SeaMonkey, steps 2 and 3 will be different. You will need to highlight the Extensions option at the top of the box, highlight Stylish in the list of extensions, then select the Options button. Then follow the rest of the instructions above.

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Fixes for Chrome users

First download and install Stylish Add-on for Chrome. Follow the instructions on the website and the instructions which appear during installation.

For the current version of the O U S A forums

download the text file containing the styles which best suit your needs from the following:

Open the downloaded text file with a text editor and install the styles it contains as follows:

  1. Within your browser select click on the Stylish icon Stylish to the right of the address bar.
  2. Select Manage installed styles.
  3. Select the Write new style button on the left.
  4. Enter a name for the style in the Name field on the left.
  5. Tick the Enabled box.
  6. Highlight and copy all the text in the downloaded style text file.
  7. Paste the copied text into the Code box.
  8. Select the Specify button.
  9. In the drop down box on the left select URLs starting with.
  10. In the text field to the right paste "http://learn1.open.ac.uk/mod/forumng/".
  11. Select the Add button.
  12. In the text field that appears paste "https://learn1.open.ac.uk/mod/forumng/".
  13. Select the Add button.
  14. In the text field that appears paste "http://learn2.open.ac.uk/mod/forumng/".
  15. Select the Add button.
  16. In the text field that appears paste "https://learn2.open.ac.uk/mod/forumng/".
  17. Select the Add button.
  18. In the text field that appears paste "http://learn4.open.ac.uk/mod/forumng/".
  19. Select the Add button.
  20. In the text field that appears paste "https://learn4.open.ac.uk/mod/forumng/".
  21. Select the Save button on the left.

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Fixes for Internet Explorer users

First download the style sheet file containing the styles which best suit your needs from the following:

Save the file in a location on your local hard drive for your browser to access it. Set Internet Explorer to apply the style sheet as follows:

  1. Within Internet Explorer select Internet options from the Tools menu.
  2. Select the General tab.
  3. On the right, near the bottom, select the Accessibility button.
  4. If you want the colours specified in the downloaded style sheet to be applied to the forums, in the Formatting section ensure that the box labelled "Ignore colors specified on webpages" is unticked.
  5. In the user style sheet section tick the box labelled "Format documents using my style sheet".
  6. Set the location and file name for the style sheet. You can do this using the Browse button.
  7. Select OK twice.

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Fixes for Opera users

First download the style sheet file containing the styles which best suit your needs from the following:

Save the file in a location on your local hard drive for your browser to access it. Set Opera to apply the style sheet as follows:

  1. Within Opera select Preferences from the Tools menu.
  2. Select the Advanced tab.
  3. In the left hand column highlight Content.
  4. Select the Style Options button half way down.
  5. Select the Display tab.
  6. Set the location and file name for the style sheet in the box labelled "My style sheet". You can do this using the Choose button.
  7. Select the Presentation Modes tab.
  8. In the left hand, Author mode, column tick the "My style sheet" box.
  9. Set the Default mode to "Author mode" in the drop down box.
  10. Select OK twice.

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Fixes for Safari users

First download the style sheet file containing the styles which best suit your needs from the following:

Save the file in a location on your local hard drive for your browser to access it. Set Opera to apply the style sheet as follows:

  1. Within Safari select Preferences from the Edit menu.
  2. Select the Advanced tab.
  3. From the Style sheet drop down box select Other.
  4. In the box that comes up navigate to the location where the style sheet is saved.
  5. Select the style sheet.
  6. Close the Preferences dialog box.

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Further information about styles

If you are familiar with CSS style sheets, you can edit the styles in the files listed above to adapt the message width and background colours to suit your own preferences. The code is commented for you to identify the style specifications to change.

If you would like help, you can contact Diana Isserlis at dianaou@blueyonder.co.uk.