UDL picking up steam across OSU campus, reaches students


Over the past year, Universal Design for Learning (UDL) has been picking up steam and a growing community across OSU campus. Most recently, it’s even reached our students and the considerations they must make in their future careers.

UDL in a nutshell

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a framework that supports proactively designing learning experiences in order to achieve the highest level of functionality and positive user experience for the widest audience possible. In order for UDL to be effective, it requires purposeful consideration and strategy in all areas of course planning and design. The end result will be online learning that allows students to access, interact, and learn in a variety of ways, addressing the learning styles and learning needs of a wide variety of students.

UDL across OSU

In the past year, ODEE has been recognized by other institutions as a leader in UDL in Higher Education. I have myself presented at several conferences on the topic and worked one-on-one with institutions across the country.

Now as 2016 rolls forward, UDL is building steam across the OSU campus. At the January DELTA Kick-Start week, I presented on some strategies for implementing UDL in course design to approximately 15-20 faculty from across campus. This fall, I was invited to one of the regional OSU campuses to talk with their Agriculture faculty and staff about UDL. Additional training, workshops, and Think Tanks are in the works as a community for UDL grows.

Most exciting…UDL reaches students

Perhaps most exciting is that the concept of the UDL framework is now reaching students. In Autumn 2015 I presented a lecture on UDL to Dr. Kui Xie’s class of future instructional designers and educational technologists. In late January, UDL will be presented to future teachers in Dr. Joni Acuff’s Art Education course. The hope is that these students will move forward into their future careers with the UDL framework in mind, thereby creating stronger, more engaging, and more effective learning experiences for students of any age.

How you can get involved

If you’d like to join a community of UDL thinkers across campus please visit the u.osu.edu/universaldesign blog site and watch for UDL-focused ODEE events.

If you would like to request a consultation, workshop, or lecture presentation on how UDL can be implemented in your area or with your students, email Phillips.1507@osu.edu.

ODEE Accessibility Task Force Kicks Off!

Superman action figure

ODEE Accessibility Task Force Kicks Off!

Monday, December 7 the ODEE Accessibility Task Force kicks off its first ever session. Representatives from various teams and functional areas around ODEE will join together to raise awareness of accessibility and weave accessibility considerations into projects, training, initiatives, and processes in their respective areas.

Weaving accessibility into projects, new acquisitions, and processes is key to delivering high quality and accessible education for all. ODEE has already taken strides to move accessibility forward and this task force will allow that progress to be shared more widely and create opportunities for collaboration so that we can learn from each other.

To really drive home the purpose of the task force, guest student Kyle Perkins will make an appearance to share his experiences as a student who is legally blind. We have a commitment to students like Kyle to provide them learning opportunities that are free of unnecessary obstacles and provide the opportunity for success.

Stay tuned for updates on the progress of the task force!

Questions about accessibility? Email ODEEaccessibility@osu.edu.

A Student’s Perspective on Accessibility

Before joining ODEE, I had never thought about the numerous accessibility challenges in education. We often lose sight of these challenges and, consequently, miss many opportunities to provide those with learning challenges access to a quality education. Try navigating a website with a blindfold on or watching an un-captioned video with the sound muted, and you’ll quickly see how difficult it can be to learn when accessibility challenges haven’t been considered. Coming from a background in web development, I am now realizing that I never considered accessibility in my work. Adding alternate text to an image or URL is such a simple process, and it makes it so much easier for those with visual impairments to navigate online.

Many may not realize that designing courses with accessibility in mind actually assists learners without learning challenges as well. Personally, I tend to read captions on videos, not because I’m not able to hear the audio, but because the captions help me pay attention to and retain the video’s content. In addition, the UDL process can make courses more clear for the learner. All learners can suffer to understand complicated instructions or confusing language, and the UDL process can help alleviate those problems.

It’s easy for us to rely on visual and audible resources when attempting to explain a process or concept, but that just doesn’t work for those with learning challenges. As a student, I think it’s great that we are looking for ways to teach concepts in multiple ways so that we’re able to teach the greatest amount of students that we can. One of the most valuable aspects of our online degree programs is that we can reach many more students than we can hold on-campus, and with UDL, we have the opportunity to provide students with learning challenges an OSU education even when they can’t be with us on-campus.

Think about an online course you took or a website you visit often and consider the ways it could be improved for those with accessibility challenges. The WAVE toolbar from WebAIM can be a great tool for this.

Seeing in the Dark

Imagining the educational process for someone with vision differences, hearing impairments or any type of disability can seem like appropriating a struggle you may never experience yourself. But for so many students in higher education, these differences are reality. Although you may not understand their disabilities firsthand, part of our job working in Higher Education is to anticipate the different ways these students may need to engage with educational content and assessment.

I am reminded of a sort of conceptual “click” on the topic when maybe a year ago as I was falling asleep listening to public radio (a frequent habit). This particular Radiolab episode delved into the topic of blindness, titled “Seeing in the Dark.” With my eyes shut and ears alert, I listened to two blind men (John and Zoltan) discuss the ways that they imagine the world around them. Both men were born with sight and were blinded later in life. For John, it was his choice to push old images out of his mind, instead imagining his loved ones by their sounds or the presence of their being. For Zoltan, he makes an effort to constantly imagine the world around him in pictures and colors. Take a listen to the two men argue the pros and cons of their strategies. To an extent, these men have a common life experience – living without sight – but the emotion and meaning they attach to images changes everything.



Think about a way that you might choose to interact differently with learning or technology compared to a peer. After all, every student learns differently and there is no one right way to approach any task. Disabilities that impact learning come in so many shapes and sizes but using technology and the endless possibilities of online courses can be one of the best ways to improve the learning experience for everyone, especially if we think proactively about the realities of people like John and Zoltan.

Think Tank Paves the Way for High Demand Accessibility Training!

Think outside of the box.

We had one of our largest groups yet for the 11/4 UDL/Accessibility Think Tank. Those perspectives were invaluable as we discussed training needs and potential ideas for topics, approaches, tracks, and marketing.

Roles we need to reach…

We compiled great ideas around roles that would benefit from accessibility training. So far we’ve identified:

  • Instructional Designers
  • Faculty
  • Course Coordinators
  • Program Directors
  • Librarians
  • Content Creators (of any sort)
  • Web Developers
  • Educational Technologists
  • Administrators

Topics we need to address…

We also compiled training needs as they were expressed by the Think Tank participants from various roles across campus. So far we know we need to address:

  • How to work accessibility into a process, be efficient
  • Identification of accessibility priorities
  • Staying on top of latest progress/trends in field of accessibility
  • Staying on top of improvements to commonly used tools
  • Buy-in when talking with others about accessibility
  • Best practices
  • Common assistive technology
  • How to create accessible templates
  • How to use accessible templates
  • Alternate text, accessible graphics

In addition to the above, we’ve also identified topics around introductions to accessibility (definitions, roles, types of disabilities to consider, legal environment, etc.). Basic accessibility processes for Word documents, PowerPoints, PDF, images, UDL/pedagogy, and basic building in Carmen have also been identified as needs.

Questions for future Think Tanks…

While we had great conversation around the content and roles to be considered as training is developed, questions also arose that we will work through in future Think Tanks.

  • How can we market this training?
  • How can we recognize/reward those who complete the training?
  • How can we get ongoing feedback from a variety of roles for continuous improvement?

Join the conversation…

The next several Think Tanks will surround these topics and more. We’d love to have your voice and insight! Visit the ODEE event registration page to register for the next Think Tank on December 9th.

Five Course Design Tricks to Maximize Learning, Creativity, Engagement (EDUCAUSE 2015)

On October 19th I was invited to present at a widely renowned national conference called EDUCAUSE. EDUCAUSE brings together higher education professionals, leaders, IT providers, administrators, faculty, and some of the most brilliant minds in the field.

My topic? Five Online Course Design Tricks to Maximize Learning, Creativity, Engagement.

Universal Design for Learning is a framework for designing learning experiences that meet the diverse needs of a wide variety of learners, including those with disabilities. Happily, when you design with those diverse needs in mind the experience of every student will be improved. The result will be increased learning, creativity, and engagement.

For an 8 AM session I had a large and engaged audience who were eager to share their ideas, impressions, and takeaways. At the end of the session, participants were invited to tweet at least one thing they would do now based on the presentation. Check out the hashtag #myUDL to see their responses. Below are some highlights:

Now I will:

  • @maggiericci says, “Check out the personas on u.osu.edu/universaldesign.”
  • @dancinjul says, “Create accessible templates”.
  • @maggiericci says, “Start the UDL conversation really early and make it positive, not apologetic.”
  • @CharleyButcher says, “Give students different ways to demonstrate their mastery of outcomes.”

Have UDL ideas of your own? Feel free to use #myUDL and share!

Want to join the conversation virtually or in person at the next UDL/Accessibility Think Tank at Ohio State? Register here.

UDL/Accessibility Think Tank: Building Expertise in UDL/Accessibility

Two frogs stretching their muscles.

On November 4 from 1-2 PM myself and Laura Fathauer, Grad Asst. and Coordinator of Transcribe OSU, will share a training plan, outline, and prototype for helping faculty and staff exercise and build UDL/accessibility muscles. We are hoping to get feedback and insight from roles across OSU in order to gather and eventually address the variety of needs. On Wednesday the 4th we will unveil plans for Phase 1 of the UDL/accessibility training program and gather feedback. We will also begin to talk about Phase 2, which involves different tracks for different roles. Your participation, whether virtual or in person, will be invaluable to the future of accessibility training in Distance Education and across OSU in general.

Join us in Stillman 115 or virtually via CarmenConnect and share your accessibility training needs, ideas, and feedback!

Please register in advance to reserve your place at the table!

Questions? Email ODEEaccessibility@osu.edu

UDL/Accessibility Think Tank Brings Up Important Points

Man lifting weight with sweat flying in air.


The UDL/Accessibility Think Tank was a success this week! We had one of our largest turnouts and had almost a perfect split of in-person and virtual participants from around OSU’s main campus and the regional campuses. One point that came out was the need for more professional development and training to strengthen confidence and expertise.

Overall, we talked about the issues that arise when we DON’T think about different kinds of learners/users early and throughout the design process.

  • Loss of time, resources, and money when things have be fixed after the fact
  • More difficult to switch gears after the foundation has been built or a technology selected
  • Negative student experience
  • Accessibility starts to seem like added work instead of simply a built-in part of the process

We also talked about what we need in order to make accessibility and UDL integrate seamlessly.

  • Identify places to in processes, documents, conversations, etc. to weave in considerations of differences in learners/users
  • Create templates that by nature support UDL/accessibility
  • Training, training, training. Professional development.
  • Access to lists of technologies and tools that ARE accessible.
  • Checklists are a great place to start, but be sure to step back and look at work holistically as the last step in any checklist.

What’s next? In the next Think Tank we will discuss ways to increase expertise on accessibility and UDL. We’ll bring to the table an outline and ideas for training tracts for various roles and get feedback, ideas, concerns, questions, etc. from the variety of perspectives both in-person and virtually.

Join us November 4th from 1-2 either in-person or virtually and bring your friends! Participation in this session is crucial as it will drive the direction of training and resources to support UDL/accessibility.



September/October Accessibility Events To Note


Promoting a Culture of Accessibility for Online Students (Webinar)

September 24, 2015  2-3pm ET

Instructional designers from the University of Central Florida will share their strategies, challenges, and lessons learned from developing a campus-wide online course accessibility support model and address specific accessibility areas such as: captioning, course content, and testing.

Accessibility for Edtech Across the Campus: Turning a Negative into a Positive (Webinar)

September 29, 2015 2-3 PM ET

We will hear from individuals who have worked at institutions (Penn State University and the University of Montana) that experienced highly-publicized adverse actions from disability issues. They will share how their institutions managed to change these difficult situations and create a positive impact, assuring that information technologies used at their institutions are accessible for all students.

10 tips for Creating Accessible Online Course Content  (Webinar)

October 8, 2015 at 2-3pm ET

3PlayMedia, a captioning service provider, offers some fantastic webinars to assist with accessibility. This webinar offers ten tips for making course content accessible.

UDL. It’s what’s for dinner.

The OSU Office of Distance Education and eLearning (ODEE) is getting some nationwide recognition for its Universal Design for Learning initiatives.

UDL poster

This year, ODEE staff served up an impactful UDL poster to raise awareness of the power of UDL for OSU’s Innovate Conference. Over the summer, Instructional Designers Jessica Phillips and John Muir were invited to deliver to packed houses the ODEE approach to UDL at both the Distance Learning Administrator’s Conference and at the UW-Madison Distance Teaching and Learning conference. Additionally, EDUCAUSE, one of the largest educational conferences in the world, has invited ODEE to share its work on UDL to an audience of important players in education across the country.

Even individual universities (University of Tennessee-Knoxville and University of Illinois-Springfield) are interested in what ODEE is doing and have requested customized guidance to help their institutions adopt UDL principles and practices. ODEE will visit both universities this fall to work with faculty and staff on integration of UDL and accessibility.

Mini-workshops ODEE will provide these universities include:

  • Easy Integration (integrating UDL/accessibility into workflows)
  • The Art of Building Buy-In (engaging in conversations that change mindsets about accessibility and UDL)
  • Creating Exemplars (giving assignments a UDL makeover and showcasing success)
  • Accessibility Top 5 (key considerations to avoid the top five accessibility pitfalls in online courses)

While ODEE is excited about this nationwide interest, it’s also looking for opportunities to share these practices and principles closer to home with faculty and staff across OSU. If interested in a custom workshop for your department, please email ODEEaccessibility@osu.edu or contact Jessica Phillips (.1507) directly.

In the meantime, check out the ODEE Community for Universal Design and Accessibility or attend our next UDL/Accessibility Think Tank!