Accessible Teaching: Start Now

Another semester has rolled right up to your door and started knocking. You’ve thrown on a robe (whipped up a course plan) and opened the door. But every semester is a bit different and our goal here at ODEE is to make sure you’re fully dressed before the knock sounds. But before you consider yourself fully dressed, it’s time to talk about accessibility, the hat to top it all off.

Accessibility is the assurance that all students, no matter their ability, will have access to your educational materials and learning experiences. There are many things to consider when making a course accessible, and many issues are eliminated by using an accessible learning management system (Carmen). But for the remaining considerations, when should you get started?


David Gooblar writes that now is the time to think about accessibility. And I agree. We have always desired to empower people to be proactive about accessibility rather than reactive. Any preparation you can do to accommodate your diverse student body will save you time in the end and make students feel more welcome across the board. Gooblar argues that thinking about accessibility isn’t much different than thinking about how you will deliver a lecture powerpoint, notes, or give a review session before an exam. These are all accommodations you make as educators – to help students learn. Therefore, modifying assignments to make them more flexible for diverse learners, is no different than going out of your way to produce a study guide.

“We’re wrong to think of accommodations as exceptions that detract from our normal way of doing things. Accommodating students is our normal way of doing things.”

Build accessibility and UDL into your teaching, allow the possibility of a diverse student body to inform the way you plan activities. Slowly but surely, embracing the language of accessibility and inclusivity will not only make you a better educator, but will also set you up to learn the technical ins and outs to practice what you preach.

Add language to your syllabus that reflects your approach to accessibility and accommodation. Inside Higher Ed recently highlighted an OSU English professor, Jessie Male, who added the following language to her syllabus:

“I assume that all of us learn in different ways, and that the organization of any course will accommodate each student differently. For example, you may prefer to process information by speaking and listening, or you might prefer to articulate ideas via email or discussion board. Please talk to me as soon as you can about your individual learning needs and how this course can best accommodate them.”

Male made an effort to bring personalization and empathy to the boiler plate language we copy and paste into our syllabi. Read through our introduction to universal design for learning to plan how you will incorporate accessibility into your teaching. Begin to familiarize yourself with the language of accessibility, both in the physical world and the online environment. Gooblar’s article links to an excellent resource developed by Anne-Marie Womack called Accessible Syllabus. It gives a general overview of everything an instructor should consider about their teaching practice as it relates to accessibility. Read up, attend our accessibility workshops, and tackle every semester fully dressed.

Webinar Recording: Make and Use Open Resources with Tools and Support from the Affordable Learning Exchange (8/17/2017)

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“The [textbook] rent is too damn high!”  Learn what you can do to help your students avoid unpleasant dilemmas, such as needing to choose between textbooks and food.  ODEE colleagues from the Affordable Learning Exchange initiative stopped by the DELTA studios to discuss how elearning tools and collaboratives can enable you to reduce this burden on your students’ learning.

Webinar Recording: Teaching Large Courses Online (7/25/2017)

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In this webinar, Dr. Brian Lower  and his team, Kylienne Shaul and Ella Weaver, talked about some of the steps they have taken to develop a deeply engaging large online course, ENR2100: Introduction to Environmental Sciences. They will especially describe how they have used writing-based assessments and peer-review processes to enable students to think more deeply about the material and extend their understanding through interaction (in both on-ground and online versions of the course).

2013 in-person ENR Poster Session, the inspiration for a virtual poster session assignment that helps drive student engagement in the large course.  For more information and examples of student work, visit

AccessEDU Episode 3 – Tara Koger


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Episode 3 – Tara Koger

“It’s important to remember that visual experiences in looking at contrast is not a binary of normal vision and impaired vision. It’s really a continuum…”

In the third episode of AccessEDU, your host interviews an OSU educational technologist, Tara Koger about her tips for designing visually appealing AND accessible content and webpages.

Referenced in this episode:

Read a transcript of Episode 3

Ten Online Teaching Tips

Faculty working on laptops outside.As an online instructor who has been teaching in this mode since 2009, I am always keeping an eye out for strategies other online instructors use in their courses to make the learning experience more engaging for students while also maintaining the instructors sanity.  Preservation of our mental faculties is important if we are to be effective instructors.  To this end, I thought I would share a short article I came across the other day that highlights ten strategies you may or may not be using in your online classes to help manage the grading load and communicate with students: Ten Online Teaching Tips You May Not Have Heard.  While I admit that some of the tips given I am skeptical about jumping on board with immediately, others are strategies I’ve used that have helped out tremendously (creating a forum, rubrics, etc…).  Take a look through the article and see if you notice a strategy you might like to try out the next time you teach an online course.  After all, we don’t know how a strategy will work until we try it, right?


ODEE DELTA Webinar Recording: eXperiencing Play: An Introduction to Game Design (4/24/2017)

The potential for games to engage students and deepen learning is well-established by research, as well as intuition: play is part of the way most animal species teach their young, and we can observe games and competition playing a role in most areas of human culture as we walk through the world. The challenge for educators, especially online educators, has been to tap into the power of games and play without breaking the bank.  It can seem daunting to compete with commercial video game developers.  The good news is that you don’t have to.  There are several powerful ways to build game-based learning activities for students using tools that are easy to learn and efficient to use.

In this webinar recording, Ben Scragg, Manager of Learning Technology at ODEE, introduces you to some of these design tools, as well as deeper understanding of how games can enhance learning and situations where they can do so most effectively in “eXperiencing Play: An Introduction to Game Design,” originally presented on April 24, 2017.

Supporting Students Online Forum


Photo of staff gathered during the student support forum in March 2017Last month the Office of Distance Education and eLearning hosted a forum that brought together those around campus who are supporting or who would like to support students through digital channels. This event was a time for networking between peers, information sharing of best practices (Writing Center presentation and Adviser panel discussion) and information gathering of the support needed to offer digital resources for students. Twenty staff and faculty members from across the university attended the event. The group represented faculty, student support groups, support staff, and advisers.

To kick off the session, participants were asked the following question: What supporting student’s online scenario keeps you up at night? Their answers varied and are listed below.

  • Students don’t always interpret written instructions the way faculty intend
  • Support for graduate students (Master’s Thesis support)
  • Connecting students to the community through sporting event tickets, etc.
  • Connecting and engaging with students
  • Career development support
  • Student understanding of OSU procedures and deadlines
  • After hours support
  • Keeping online students motivated
  • Students handling of setbacks (e.g. exam failure, family problems, emotional hardships, suicidal thoughts)
  • Data validity

Through conversations during the forum, participants demonstrated interests in finding out more about

  • chat options available for support at the Writing Center;
  • best practices for providing constructive feedback and methods for online students to be successful on written assignments, projects, etc;
  • graduation rates;
  • co-curricular options and support for students.

There were several observations about challenges of supporting students online that the group shared:

  • Students like to work with the same person (advisor)
  • Students like coming to visit campus and feeling part of the student body
  • The misconceptions about the work around online learning is not as bad as it used to be; most students are now familiar with online courses
  • Some student advisers have created a type of “Bingo Sheet” curriculum plan to help students map out their courses
  • A blog can be used to support students and share how they can be involved in the university experience

During the course of conversations, participants gained a greater understanding of the issues to consider and a better familiarity with online student needs such as an awareness of time zones, awareness of the schedules of working adults, special issues of military students, etc. As the forum concluded, attendees identified the following as potential next steps in the effort to support students online:

  • Continue to offer this type of forum on a semester basis to encourage knowledge sharing and gathering
  • Questions to explore:
    • How are various departments leveraging chat features? Can our students do chat with IT help like we can? Are there other uses for chat?
    • How can programs (and ODEE) make use of the data from the student online readiness tool to support students?
    • How could sending a “Student Welcome Package” with Buckeye swag to the homes of new students help them during the “app gap” period?

Stay informed

Stay in touch with ODEE events to be notified of the next Supporting Students Online Forum and other professional learning opportunities by subscribing to the Workshops listserv and/or the Digital Digest.  If you are not a fan of signing up for listservs, you can also see a list of upcoming ODEE events at

ODEE DELTA Webinar Recording: Copyright Considerations in Online Learning (1/24/2017)

Date: 1/24/2017

One of the coolest things about online education is that it makes it so easy — near effortless — to incorporate multimedia. Pictures, videos, well-written chunks of text, snippets of code… you name it.  Those of us with a certain, um, longevity in our educational experience will remember how much difference such a simple thing as a photocopied course reader once made.  Instead of having to assign a whole textbook — or not assign it because it was too expensive — the teacher could just give Kinko’s the few pages you needed to read, and everybody was learning.

The challenge is that the easier it is to copy stuff, the easier it is to harm the people who had hoped to make a little money by creating the stuff in the first place, so the more important it becomes to draw lines about what people can or can’t do.  The internet creates a whole new world of complications, and for every opportunity, there is an equal and opposite risk.

What does that mean for you as an instructor?  In brief, it means you need to pay attention to whether or not you have the right to share a particular thing with your students online.

How do you know whether or not you have that right?  Well, that is where Marley Nelson and her colleagues at The Ohio State University’s Libraries’ Copyright Help Center are your friends and allies.  As described in the webinar she presented for the Office of Distance Education and eLearning’s Learning and Teaching Academy on Jan. 24, Marley describes a basic set of best practices you can use to answer the kinds of questions that are raised by copyright restrictions in an online world.

This one goes to 11: Faculty Focus

So the joke from Spinal Tap has worn a bit thin, I realize, but this is such an excellent resource that I’m not too worried about needing the perfect hook.

Namely, Faculty Focus has published an end-of-the-year Top 11 Teaching and Learning Articles, which seems like a perfect occasion to direct your attention to this high-quality resource.  I also recommend that you sign up for their free newsletter (aka, listserv), which you can do via the form on the right side of their page.

The Faculty Focus newsletter provides a judicious and manageable stream of e-mails with brief but insightful (and minimally booster-ish*) explanations of advice about teaching.  Articles usually emphasize issues specific to online but always address them with a mindset that remembers that learning and teaching retain some fundamental identities whatever the medium.  It is neither the be-all nor the end-all of teacher PD, but I find it to be a useful regular occasion to re-learn or re-think.

*While “less booster-ish,” their free newsletter does recommend paid services from time to time.

If you have similar resources you find particularly helpful, please recommend them in the comments below, along with a brief explanation of why you find them useful.