Device accessibility

Enable students by making it possible for them to use more of their own accessible controllers and input devices to access OU content and services.



Providing additional access via smart, accessible devices will allow more students to interact with our content, study effectively and potentially reduce drop-out rates.

The Opportunity

The continuing uptake of smart devices amongst students has led to a mostly unintended consequence, which is that there are now many more accessible devices within a student's household and workplace. The abundance of smart speakers and screens has ensured that voice has become a normal method of controlling content playback, but it also means that voice enquiry and dictation are also features that are possible to utilise more regularly. Text-to-speech and speech-to-text are now normal elements of everyday life, but the improvements made by large tech companies in these areas have drastically improved the ability for those that rely on such accessible controls to interact with content and devices.

Looking beyond voice, there are also many new methods of control supported by the variety of smart devices that could be now be utilised more in students study time. For example, the new Adaptive Controller built by Microsoft for gaming purposes has the unintended benefit that it can open up the use of any physical accessible peripheral for use with the controller for study purposes, using Edge to access the VLE, supported by voice and other accessible features provided by the various smart assistants that work with Xbox and Windows 10 (Cortana, Alexa, Google Assistant, etc.) The Google Nest Hub Max and Amazon Echo Show both support gesture control for interaction and controlling playback, removing the need for fine tune motor control. They also enable the causal user without any accessible requirement to use similar actions to make it easier and quicker to interact with content.

The Benefits

In short, there are a wide number of potential benefits of utilising the new levels of accessible control that these new smart devices offer. There are also benefits to be had by further supporting the extensive set of smart devices that students have used for some time, including smartphones, laptops, tablets, etc., and utilising the new software on these devices to improve the student experience. By building new supportive features into our offering and by providing better guidance and support to students on how to get the best out of devices they already use we can provide a better service, whilst opening up access to new students and retaining those we currently have.

Benefits may include:

  • Support for a wider set of devices
  • Support for accessible controllers and peripherals that were not previously possible to support
  • Greater control over content playback and interaction
  • Reduced time and frustration for students using content, aiding student retention
  • Opportunity for new types of media use, such as interactive video and voice-controlled activities
  • Widening access to students who previously may not have been able to study with us
  • Greater flexibility for students


Updates will be made available here as the work progresses.


Smart home


User Experience Designer

Senior Product Development Manager

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What is the Smart Tech project for?

The Smart Tech project was born out of the need to understand more fully the potential benefits of smart device usage on student success and to assess whether there are changes that we can make to the production and delivery of learning materials to assist in this aim.

Discover more about the project