Maximizing Learning and Creativity Cross-Institutionally via UDL

University of Illinois-Springfield invited me to visit their campus’ Teaching and Technology Day to present on UDL and to work with their faculty and staff on integrating some of the finer points of accessibility and good design. It was a fantastic experience as I got to present to some incredible faculty and staff both in person and virtually. Feel free to watch the presentation!

Maximizing Learning, Creativity, Innovation for All

It was a wonderful experience to keynote alongside some other talented professionals and visionaries, especially on such a beautiful campus. In having some great conversations with people like Ray Schroeder, we discovered that we are all striving to the same goal: creating experiences that keep students interested, engaged, and persistent. Great to talk through some of these topics with like-minded individuals!

keynote flyer for UIS technology day

Pillars, sidewalks, buildings on the UIS campus

 

I would love to make it back there soon and will certainly continue to collaborate with these great people!

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!

Accessibility Hot Topic: Screen Readers

Kindle being held in hand. On screen are jumbles of letters on square blocks.What is a screen reader?

With all the talk about accessibility and the importance of accessible design, one is certain to have heard mention of screen readers. Screen readers are essentially audio interfaces that take visual content on a screen and convert it to speech so that a user can listen to content. These are used all the time by people with low vision or those who are blind (another way technology is opening doors). Without them these individuals would have to rely on others to read content aloud. Screen readers are used almost equally between desktop computers, laptops, and mobile devices, though the operating system used is Windows roughly 83% on desktops and laptops. For mobile devices, the distribution of use seems to lean more on the Apple product side of the house (WebAIM, 2014).

What does a screen reader sound like?

Screen readers can be used to navigate through a page, skim (just as sighted people do visually), identify important information, disregard unimportant information, and jump from paragraph to paragraph to info he or she needs most. WebAim’s How Screen Readers Read Content provide some more details on what this sounds like. You might also explore WebAim’s Screen Reader Simulation.

What do I have to do to make this work?

Screen readers have to rely on whoever built the content to know HOW it’s supposed to be read aloud. If not built with accessibility in mind, the experience will fall flat and will likely create frustration, confusion, and disengagement for someone with a vision disability. This may even lead to users feeling that they are being discriminated against (which is a civil rights violation, per the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act).

Therein lies the challenge because people who are sighted and have no problem navigating and ingesting content visually will have a VERY hard time understanding the experience of a non-sighted person. Even those with the best of intentions may feel lost when it comes to understanding that experience and needs for building content.

WebAim.org provides some insight into this experience that may help. Check out the information on Designing for Screen Reader Compatibility: Skimming Through Content.

What must we do when designing online courses?

In our work in designing online courses, here are some particularly useful things to consider and get you started:

  • Provide descriptive hyperlinks. Instead of “click here” or http://www.visitme.org include the actual title of the page or article you are linking to (hint: I did this throughout this article) so that if read outside of the context of the sentence it will make sense.
  • Use appropriate headings. Organize/chunk your content into headings. If using Word, using the Word headings feature to organize your page (much like an outline).
  • Set paragraphs apart. Put distinguishing info in the first sentence or two of a paragraph. This will allow someone with a screen reader to identify quickly if the info in the paragraph is what he or she needs. If not, it’s quickly on to the next!
  • Use an interactive table of contents. Including links to sections main content with headings at the beginning can help everyone (including those with a screen reader) navigate to the information they need more quickly. The WebAIM site does a great job of modeling this approach.
  • Provide alternate text for images. In order for the screen reader to know how to turn an image into speech, you have to provide “alternate text”. How to create appropriate alternate text requires some careful consideration of what exactly you want students to gain from the image, the complexity of the image, and how it supports the content. Check out WebAim’s page on alternative text for help.
  • Use page breaks. While it’s tempting to hit the “return” key to create space or to move to the next page, a screen reader will read each line without content as “blank” “blank” “blank” “blank” “blank” “blank” “blank”, adding minutia to what’s already a complex process of making visual content into speech. Instead of the “return” key, use paragraph settings or page breaks to create space.

Still have questions?

Visit the ODEE Resource Center for Accessibility and explore additional resources or use the request form (available in the Resource Center) to request accessibility help.

DLA 2015: Maximizing Learning, Creativity, and Innovation for All

 

I attended the Distance Learning Administration Conference in Jekyll Island, GA and presented on strategies for maximizing learning, creativity, and innovation in online course design through principles of Universal Design for Learning. The presentation engaged the audience in considering a multitude of student perspectives and learning needs and delivered five concrete strategies with examples on how to implement UDL in course design. The reactions from attendees and the experience as a whole was very positive!

Resources

ODEE Community for Universal Design and Accessibility

UDL and Accessibility Perspectives

WebAIM

ASCUE 2015

From June 14th through June 18th I was fortunate enough to attend the ASCUE 2015 conference. This was an incredible experience to learn from industry experts, but also to grow my professional network. One of the reasons I was able to attend this opportunity was due to the Ohio State Staff Career Development Grant that helped with travel and conference expenses. I recommend the grant to anyone hoping to further their professional development opportunities.

One of the themes throughout the conference was freedom in education, not only in the way that instructors teach, but also in how students learn and are assessed. This freedom allows for flexibility to account for varying styles of teaching and learning. Courses can go beyond the standard textbook reading and multiple-choice exam.

Instead of summarizing topics throughout the conference, I thought it would be beneficial to summarize four tools that could be used for freedom in education.

  • Padlet
    • Padlet is a virtual bulletin board where text, pictures, and video can be posted. This tool could be used by the instructor to highlight current events or as a collaboration hub for students.
  • Bag The Web
    • Bag The Web operates similar to Pinterest. It can create pages containing links on a similar topic. An extension can be added to the Google Chrome browser that allows users to link directly to a Bag The Web page from wherever users are on the Internet. This tool could be used to highlight similar content from around the web for students.
  • Producteev
    • Producteev is a free project management tool that keeps track of project tasks and assignments. The tool could be used for large-scale projects or for the management of student projects throughout a semester.
  • Webaim
    • WebAIM is a site that offers training and tutorials to enhance web accessibility. Although this is not a technology tool, this is a great resource to enhance courses for all students, not just those who need accommodation.

These are just four tools, but I believe they can lead to exciting teaching and learning outcomes. It is important to keep in mind that teaching and learning can go beyond the standard. New techniques may make it possible to attain previously unattainable outcomes.

D2L Fusion presentation from 6/22

On Monday, Valerie Rake (eLearning Support) and I gave a presentation at D2L’s Fusion conference in Orlando. We shared our setup for helping faculty create attractive, sound, accessible courses by providing some readymade structure and templates. Check out the slides above and the resources below.

Resources

D2L accessible HTML templates: https://documentation.desire2learn.com/en/accessible-html-templates

Google open web fonts: google.com/fonts

Sources of images (most CC0):

Our D2L course import file (with structure, HTML/CSS templates, etc.) and our ID-facing job aid.

“Seeing” Our Students With Disabilities

 

A mall in Russia started projecting holograms of people with disabilities in handicapped parking spaces to deter people without disabilities from parking there. Apparently around 30% of drivers in Russia take those spaces without much regard for who may actually need them.

Check out the video:

 

This made me think about how in an online classroom, our students with disabilities are even more hidden. How can we better “see” them? Do we need a hologram or can we challenge ourselves to think of all types of learners when we are designing or delivering instruction?

Experiencing a course from a variety of perspectives isn’t easy. You have to be willing to step out of your own preferences and perspective and attempt to “see” through the lens of someone else entirely.  Check out the ODEE UDL and Accessibility Perspectives site for help with gaining knowledge of students with differences in ability or communication. This knowledge will help you experience activities or course content through a different lens. Once your lens is ready, you have to ask yourself:

  • What challenges does this course/activity/resource present for me?
  • Will I be able to be successful or will my disability or learning preferences get in the way?
  • Will this activity be meaningful to me?

We do not have holographic images of our students with disabilities inserted into our classes but we do have a responsibility to consider them in the design of our course just as we would in the design of a building or just as we would when we park our car at the mall. An important question to consider: if you were to experience a disability tomorrow, how would you want your world to be?

Next UDL/Accessibility Think Tank: Accessible Lectures for Online Courses

 

Our next Think Tank will be Friday, June 5 from 10 to 11 AM in 115 Stillman Hall (big thanks to Byron Roush in Social Work for helping us with space).  If you’d like to attend virtually let me know in your RSVP!

TOPIC OF DISCUSSION: ACCESSIBLE LECTURES for ONLINE COURSES

Please invite others you think would be interested in joining. RSVPs are encouraged and should be directed to phillips.1507@osu.edu or ODEEaccessibility@osu.edu.

 

BACKGROUND INFO:

 

What is the UDL/Accessibility Think Tank?

Jessica Phillips (ODEE Instructional Designer and UDL advocate), Ken Petri (Director of Web Accessibility) and Pete Bossley (OCIO Accessibility Analyst) will guide us through discussion as we share and learn how to maximize access, engagement, and student success in online courses. We will discuss UDL integration into course development and delivery, shared resources, accessibility challenges and solutions, learning technology, and more. This community includes web accessibility experts, faculty, OSU librarians, instructional designers, and many others from across OSU.

Why are we getting together?

Access for students is a key component of our mission as a university. In addition, lawsuits in higher education are pointing toward the need for a high level of urgency in designing/teaching with accessibility in mind. Across campus we are facing similar challenges, wins, problems, solutions, and questions as it relates to accessibility and Universal Design for Learning. The more we can connect with one another the more we can continue to grow, improve, and lead in this area with confidence.

What is the format?

The Think Tanks are designed to be informal and to be focused around meaningful dialogue around topics related to UDL and accessibility from a variety of perspectives across campus. Each session will focus on one key topic (chosen by the community), and will also allow time for timely or urgent questions.

Next UDL/Accessibility Think Tank April 1st!

Our next Think Tank will be Wednesday, April 1st from 3:00-4:30 PM in 115 Stillman Hall (big thanks to Byron Roush in Social Work for helping us with space). Based on our discussion on 2/20 there are several areas that stand out as common areas of interest or challenge. Our next Think Tank will focus on one of these areas as we bring minds together from across campus to discuss what each of us is doing to address this challenge or topic and how we might move forward toward a solution.

Please complete the survey to vote for the topic that is most relevant/interesting for you, which will help us choose a topic that is of highest interest. In addition to this chosen topic, we will use some of this time to ask timely questions or to suggest topics for future sessions.

Please feel free to forward this to others you think would be interested in joining this community. RSVPs are encouraged and should be directed to phillips.1507@osu.edu or to ODEEaccessibility@osu.edu.

What is the UDL/Accessibility Think Tank?

Jessica Phillips (ODEE Instructional Designer and UDL advocate), Ken Petri (Director of Web Accessibility) and Pete Bossley (OCIO Accessibility Analyst) will guide us through discussion as we share and learn how to maximize access, engagement, and student success in online courses. We will discuss UDL integration into course development and delivery, shared resources, accessibility challenges and solutions, learning technology, and more. This community includes web accessibility experts, faculty, OSU librarians, instructional designers, and many others from across OSU.

Why are we meeting?

Access for students is a key component of our mission as a university. In addition, lawsuits in higher education are pointing toward the need for a high level of urgency in designing/teaching with accessibility in mind. Across campus we are facing similar challenges, wins, problems, solutions, and questions as it relates to accessibility and Universal Design for Learning. The more we can connect with one another the more we can continue to grow, improve, and lead in this area with confidence.

What is the format?

The Think Tanks are designed to be informal and to be focused around meaningful dialogue around topics related to UDL and accessibility from a variety of perspectives across campus. Each session will focus on one key topic (chosen by the community), and will also allow time for timely or urgent questions.