Accessibility Policy for Postsecondary Distance Education

I have been developing an accessibility policy for distance education for my college. It’s specific to the Schoology learning management system and other technologies and protocols we use on our campus.  It’s based on the policy that I used at my former workplace for my instructional design graduate assistantship, the University of South Alabama’s Innovation in Learning Center. I would love my readers’ feedback on it.


The logo has the word accessibility with four icons on it: eye, hand, ear, and brain.
This Accessibility Logo was created by Christy Blew of The University of Illinois on behalf of the EDUCAUSE IT Accessibility Constituent Group.

Accessibility Statement for Distance Education

The U.S. federal laws require online course accessibility for persons with disabilities. Follow these basic guidelines for compliance: (Section 504, 1973 Rehabilitation Act & Section 508, Electronic and Information Technology)

  1. Describe images and hyperlinks with alternative text.
  2. Do not use coloring as the sole indicator of meaning.
  3. Use san serif fonts for online text.
  4. Check and repair all portable document formats (PDFs) for accessibility.
  5. Caption all video and provide transcripts for audio.
  6. Provide students with disabilities the prescribed accommodations, as needed.

Images. Alternative (alt) text helps students that use assistive technology (e.g., screen readers) as their learning accommodation. For example, screen readers such as Microsoft’s JAWS (Job Access with Speech) read the description aloud to the user with vision impairment. Make sure you concisely provide alt text for each image in your online course so that students will hear and learn about the images shared. This includes images on a course page or within a document or multimedia presentation (e.g., PowerPoint, Word, or PDF). For Schoology, currently, you cannot add the description for the image during upload. Add it afterward by selecting the image in edit mode. For PowerPoint 2016, follow this pathway to add alt text: Right-click image > Select Format Picture > Select Alt Text. For PDFs, use Adobe Acrobat Pro XI to add alt text to images. This software allows you to edit PDFs and is available in the Faculty Development Center.

Hyperlinks. When you add links to Schoology, it asks for the name of the link to display and the URL. Provide the specific name of the website instead of a confusing web address, also known as the URL (Uniform Resource Locator). The exact name of the website will aid all learners in understanding where the link will take them. Additionally, assistive technology (e.g., JAWS) will read aloud the long URL if you do not give it a name. Imagine listening to an entire URL reading: “h-t-t-p-s-semicolon-forward slash-forward slash-shc-period-schoology-period-com-forward slash-home.” This would cause extra cognitive load on the listener. Here are good and bad examples:

Use of color. Color-coding presents a problem for visually impaired students, as they will not be able to access the meaning of particular coloring of text for emphasis (e.g., red text conveying importance, etc.).  Simply add the word or words to convey the meaning such as Important.

Fonts. Sans serif fonts are recommended for online text to provide accessibility. Sans serif fonts do not have the ‘hats and shoes’ on certain letters that serif fonts include. Fortunately, Arial, which is a sans serif font, is the default for Schoology. Avoid using serif fonts because they may waver and become difficult to read on low bandwidth or poor Internet connections.

PDFs. Are your PDFs readable? Conduct a word search within the Find box of a PDF for a word you see in the document. Type Ctrl+F if you don’t see a Find box. If you receive the message, “No matches were found,” then the document is a scanned image, which cannot be read by persons who use assistive technology. Use Adobe Acrobat Pro XI to repair unreadable (scanned image) PDFs. Remember that this software is available in BL12. Here is the pathway to fix your PDFs with Adobe Acrobat Pro XI: File>Action Wizard>Create Accessible PDFs> Action Step #5 is the Accessibility Checker.

Ensure your Word documents are accessible before you save them as a PDF. Microsoft has accessibility checkers that will highlight any issues in your document. Within Word 2016, select the following pathway: File > Info> Check for Issues > Check Accessibility. Then fix issues such as missing alt text for images. See Adobe Accessibility Quick Reference Card for information on earlier versions of MS Word that you may have at home. Currently, our campus has MS Office 2016 on its computers.

Media. Caption all media. Closed captioning is the preferred format (instead of open captions) so the user can turn it on or off according to their needs. If you do not have your media captioned, at the very least, provide a script until you caption the video. However, transcripts do not provide equal access to media files because the words and images from the video are not in sync to enhance meaning.  Audio files or podcasts must include a transcript.  For narrated PowerPoints, transcribe the audio in the note’s section of each slide.

Captioning Key, funded by the National Association of the Deaf and The Described and Captioned and Media Program, provides a document on specific quality assurance guidelines for closed-captioning. They mention several free captioning services.  Our current practice is to upload media to YouTube and use their auto-captioning service and then correct inaccuracies. Ask the instructional designer for the how-to guide on how to set up an unlisted YouTube channel and the video tutorial on how to correct automated captions on YouTube in your video manager account. We also provide the video software production/editor tool, Camtasia Studio 9, which incorporates closed-captioning. The instructional designer can train you to use it.

Providing accommodations in Schoology. In Schoology, you can assign assignments or tests to individuals when you create them. Reuse your existing assignment or test by saving it to your Personal Resources in Schoology. Then bring it back into your course as a new test with a different name. We suggest naming it with ‘Extended Time’ in the title so students know they are receiving the accommodation. Go to the Schoology test settings to add the prescribed accommodations. Warning: Do not reassign the mainstream test to an individual in Schoology, as it will disappear the test scores of the other students. Instead, instructors should make a separate assignment or test for the student(s) with accommodations.

Publishers’ accessibility statements. As a best practice, online courses should provide accessibility statements to the publishers they use (Quality Matters™ Rubric Standards, 2014). This will help those who need access to alternative text files and/or eBooks from publishers, as well as other alternatives to interactive products for adaptive technologies used.  Visit the Instructional Design LibGuide on Accessibility where Dr. Rogers has provided a list of publishers’ links to their accessibility statements. If you do not see the publisher you use listed, please notify her, and she will add it.

Dr. Sandra Rogers,

Instructional Design Specialist

Join me at the Emerald Coast TESOL conference in Pensacola

A highway with road signs with the words Emerald Coast TESOL 2019>Exploring Paths to Literacy Proficiency

I serve as the professional development officer for the Emerald Coast Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (ECTESOL), which is a chapter of the Sunshine State TESOL of Florida. Our local conference for the Gulf Coast area will be held in Pensacola on February 9th from 9:30-3:00. It will take place at the International Center, Building 71, at the  University of West Florida (UWF). Registration costs $25 and includes lunch. The theme is Exploring Paths to Literacy Proficiency. See the itinerary below.

9:30 – 10:00 Registration (and refreshments)

10:00 – 10:10 Welcome General Session: Ms. Rachel Hendrix, Executive Director, International Affairs, UWF;
Overview of Conference: Dr. Arlene Costello, President, ECTESOL

10:15 – 10:55 Keynote Speaker: Ms. Ginger Alberto, Program Director, Student Achievement through Language Acquisition, Florida Department of Education, Topic: Meeting the Needs of English Learners in Literacy Proficiency

11:00 – 11:30 Concurrent Sessions
Room 1: Engaging English Learners, Dr. Arlene Costello
Room 2: The Pragmatics of EFL/ESOL, Dr. Laureen Fregeau, University of South Alabama

11:35 – 12:00 Lunch & 12:00 – 12:15 Cultural Performances & DOOR PRIZES

12:20 – 1:00 General Session
Featured Presentation: Dr. John Pecore, Associate Professor, University of West Florida, Topic: Writing a winning TESOL grant proposal

1:05 – 1:35 Concurrent Sessions
Room 1: ESOL Professional Development & Career Opportunities, Dr. Sandra Rogers, Spring Hill College
Room 2: Room 2: Reaching for the Stars, Mrs. Milagros Sessions, Escambia County School District

1:40 – 2:15 Concurrent Sessions
Room 1: Language Writing Frames to Aid ESOL Elementary Students’ Research Projects, Dr. Sandra Rogers, SHC
Room 2: Supporting Non-Literate Adult Learners of English on Paths to Literacy, Dr. Meg Smith, SHC

2:20 – 2:50 Special Presentation General Session
The Dynamics of Literacy: Language and Science Dr. Vanessa Mangual, Bi-literacy Consultant, Benchmark Education

2:50 – 3:00 Business Meeting: Report by President; Paper Report by Treasurer; Ms. Vicki Murphy, ECTESOL Conference Chair, DOOR PRIZES

3:00 – 3:20 ECTESOL Board Meeting, Conference Room

Please register by January 29, 2019. You may bring your payment onsite on the day of the conference. Visit the ECTESOL website to download the registration form and learn more about our organization. Contact Dr. Arlene Costello at aces103@cox.net for more information. We hope to see you there!

Join the Educause Games and Learning Book Club Twitter Chat

EverQuestII Paladin character is a human-like female puma in armor at home near Frostfang Sea

I serve on the Educause Games & Learning Steering Committee. One of our new activities is to host book clubs on this topic via Twitter. You do not need to be an Educause member to participate. See my co-committee members invite below.


Please join us for the January Games & Learning Twitter Book Club. This month, we will be discussing Chapter 5: Remodelling Design of Rethinking Gamification (Fuchs, Fizek, Ruffino, & Schrape, 2014). Per the book’s copyright terms, you may download a free digital edition from the publisher’s website: https://meson.press/books/rethinking-gamification/.

As usual, the book club will be hosted on Twitter at 6:30 EST (5:30 CT |4:30 MT |3:30 PT) on Wednesdays. Use the hashtag #read4games to participate.

  • January 16: Why Fun Matters: In Search of Emergent Playful
       Experiences by Sonia Fizek
  • January 23: Exploring the Endgame of Gamification by Scott
    Nicholson
  • January 30: Eudaimonic Design, or: Six Invitations to Rethink
       Gamification by Sebastian Deterding

Please join us!

Tiffany Taylor Attaway

On behalf of the EDUCAUSE Games & Learning Book Club Committee

Tiffany Taylor Attaway, Casey Davis, & Kae Novak

https://sites.google.com/view/educause-glbc/

Peace Corps’ Third Goal is a Charm

Peace Corps Honduras 1985-1987

This article originally appeared in the Peace Corps Hotline on 5/15/2010. It has been updated to reflect my past decade of work/life.

The Peace Corps has remained on my mind now for 30 years, fresh as the memory of the first homemade, thick, warm, corn tortilla that I ate with crude salt or the first taste of green mango with hot sauce, lime, and (more) salt!  Looking back, I realize that I have been involved in various Third Goal activities both formally and informally since my volunteer service in Honduras from 1985-1987.  I guess you really never stop being a Peace Corps Volunteer! For those of you unfamiliar with the Peace Corps’ Third Goal, here are all three goals of service with this US government agency: (Peace Corps, N.D.)

To promote world peace and friendship by fulfilling three goals:
  1. To help the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women.
  2. To help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served.
  3. To help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.

My actual first Third Goal activity was while I was still serving in Honduras.  I submitted a quilt to the 25th Anniversary of the Peace Corps. The quilt was designed as a flag, with each stripe an arm, reaching out to help someone.  The arms got progressively shorter as the ‘collaboration’ was made with the receiver, and the last arm ‘shook’ the hand of the recipient. The design signified governmental agencies’ past efforts of distribution of goods and services, in contrast with the Peace Corps’ effort of working with host nationals to bring about change.

When I returned home from service, I asked that my family hold a reunion.  It was a great way for me to share my experience and give them all the gifts that I had brought back.  I didn’t’ realize it at the time, but I influenced one of my nieces to join the Peace Corps. Her name is Rachel (Rogers) Miller, and she served in Lesotho from 1999-2000. You really never know who you might persuade to serve, even at informal gatherings. In my case, I returned in 1987, and my niece volunteered 12 years later.

While pursuing my masters in teaching, I used a poem that I’d written about my Honduran neighbor, as part of a dance/spoken word performance I choreographed for the theater department.  If my Honduran neighbor only knew the profound impact she had on me with her small-framed presence, smoking her hand-rolled cigar, sitting quietly in her backyard among the banana tree fronds! It was such an honor, not only to participate as a choreographer but also to share my Peace Corps’ experience visually and orally with the university students.

After I became a teacher, I would share my Peace Corps’ photo album which included trinkets and a copy of Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken,” with my elementary students in Los Angeles. I’ve used it many times in the classroom. In addition, I shared my story with the whole school by organizing other returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) to collaborate on a display for career week. Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) recruits former RPCVs for their bilingual skills, so at my school in East Los Angeles, there were three of us. The display case had photos and souvenirs from each of our countries of service. The students really enjoyed learning about their teachers’ work in the Peace Corps.

I’ve blogged about my PC experience on this WordPress site. I also attend Peace Corps informational events at my alma mater to answer questions and encourage others to join. Most importantly, I stay in touch with my fellow Honduran RPCVs not only to reminisce about the past but also because they became such good friends. PCVs become like a fraternity of friends because of the shared experiences and closeness that serving in a foreign country brings, especially during the hardships of second language learning and working in an underdeveloped country with norms very different than your own.

In closing, I don’t go around talking about the Peace Corps all the time.  Instead, I’ve embedded it into my life, work, and artistic endeavors.  As Shane Townsend (RPCV Bolivia 2003-05) said in a previous Hotline article, “The pursuit of the Third Goal is much like the Peace Corps’ experience itself; you’ll get far more out of it than you can imagine.” Part of that has been realizing that the third goal has been a charm for me. The Peace Corps is firmly a part of who I am even now.

References

Peace Corps. Retrieved from https://www.peacecorps.gov/about/

The Multilingual Mozambican: Remembering my U.S. English Language Fellowship

The English Language Programs of the U.S. Department of State is celebrating their 50th anniversary of the Fellow Program. As a former English Fellow to Mozambique, I want to share my teaching English experience as part of the celebration. I wrote about my fellowship in a newsletter while working elsewhere. Sections of the article are provided below. Please note that this information is outdated. It’s a snapshot of the early 1990s in Maputo, Mozambique from the perspective of a foreign worker.


The Multilingual Mozambican (Rogers, 1995)

I miss Africa. It was as great a pleasure as a hardship to teach in Mozambique. From September 1992 to December of 1993, I was employed by the Universidade Eduardo Mondlane (UEM) in Maputo, the capital city. After interviewing at TESOL Vancouver, the (USIS) United States Information Services provided me with an English Teaching Fellowship (ETF) contract for one year. Having always wanted to visit Africa, the stability of a US government contract made my adventure-in-the-wait a job reality with roundtrip airfare, medical insurance, and a generous stipend. In addition, UEM provided me with housing.

…My (US) salary as a visiting teacher was better than that of the host nationals. Monthly, I received $600 and the equivalent of $200 in their currency (Metical), which suffered from superinflation: one dollar equaled 5K meticais. My first check was for a million meticais.

Mozambican money in $10,000 bills

When I first arrived in Maputo, the country was still at war. There were numerous war orphans and amputees on the streets. During my stay, I witnessed the uneasy steps towards peace that eventually led to a peace accord and democratic elections. I saw the UN tanks replace their army’s. I experienced the rebel leader leaving the bush and taking up residence in the city (my neighborhood). I talked to teachers who after being restricted from traveling outside the city for 15 years, finally got to go visit their hometowns. It was an amazing time in Mozambican history, one that I’m glad I can share. The UN Mission (UNOMOZ) was a success and the troops pulled out. The country was a tropical paradise in ruins that needed to be rebuilt. The major obstacle to rebuilding the infrastructure and a normal lifestyle was the litter of hundreds of landmines. Mozambique had the largest landmine problem in the world.

…Portuguese, as well as many African Bantu languages,  are spoken in Mozambique. Spanish is understood by the Portuguese speakers and vice versa. It’s very close. I think it’s important to mentions this because, like most Americans, I was completely unaware of this fact. However, in my humble opinion, Portuguese is a more structurally complicated language.

Being fluent in Spanish helped me meet the language requirement to get the job. Also, my volunteer work with the Peace Corps (PC) in Honduras (1985-87) and an internship in Guatemala (1991) showed my ability to adapt to harsh conditions. Due to severe droughts and a sixteen-year-old civil conflict, Mozambique was one of the poorest countries in the world.

Teaching conditions at the university were definitely third world: no window panes to keep the dust out, sometimes no running water to wash hands or flush toilets, and frequent power outages. Most importantly, transit was limited for the students. Public transit was nonexistent in Maputo. Given these hardships, one must wonder why anyone would want to work there. Well, I knew from my PC experience that no matter how much I put into a job like this, I would gain more from it; and I strongly believe I have.

As a light-skinned, American female raised in a democratic society, I underwent a complete minority immersion. Placed in the Engineering faculty to teach English for Specific Purposes (ESP) to beginners, I encountered a majority of black males as well as a host of visiting professors from Communist countries. Mozambique was a Socialist/Communist country undergoing political change. In the past, they received assistance from Russia and Cuba, as well as other former East bloc countries. Some of my students had received military training in these countries and thus spoke Russian, German, and Spanish. Additionally, many Mozambican professionals had studied abroad…Not many Mozambicans spoke English, but a good number of them were multilingual. One charming example of this was the night I went out with some German backpackers to a simple open-air bar and had half the locals buying drinks for us and speaking German.

Another factor adding to the multilingualism in Mozambique is that many educational materials had been donated to the university in languages other than Portuguese… So learning how to read in English (the language of the largest selection of books) is necessary for third and fourth-year students at UEM. Hence, ESP programs focused on reading proficiency.

To add to the multilingualism, many visiting professors didn’t speak Portuguese and thus lecture in their native language. For example, my students were used to receiving math classes in Spanish because of the numerous Cuban professors employed at the Engineering faculty. Visiting professors make up about 50% of the staff due to the  ‘brain drain’ caused by the civil conflict and previous war of independence. In such a case, the majority of management and PhDs are very young and abroad obtaining their credentials.

As for the communication in my classroom, students received instructions only in English at first, but they were informed of my Spanish fluency and consequent comprehension of Portuguese. We exchanged English for Portuguese during free periods. The only formal instruction for non-native (adult) speakers at that time was the Brazilian Cultural Center downtown. I attended classes for one month, but the accent was so different that I decided it wasn’t a good idea. Mozambican Portugues is truer to Portugal given the colloquial insertions and accent. This is because Mozambique was Portugal colony until 1975.

Eventually, I learned to communicate in Portuguese. My students were at ease after my acquisition. It led me to question the ‘English only’ rule: If I’m to be the facilitator, how can I help them if I can’t speak their language? That year (1993) an article appeared in the TESOL Journal questioning the validity and general acceptance of such rule with no empirical basis. In my opinion, this rule creates a high affective filter. I was made aware of this by reading hundreds of my students’ journals each week.

To further expand on my minority immersion, I was the only American teaching English in the city, probably the entire country. British English dominated Africa. This is due to…their colonization…and their continued outpouring of funds for English programs throughout the continent. For example, the British Council had a wonderful library and resource center in … Maputo.

I taught these students English for Specific Purposes (ESP), which included vocabulary on the subject of civil engineering.

…Teaching Mozambicans was a great pleasure. They were very receptive and gracious. I miss my students and the Mozambican teachers. Together they showed me how to relax and have a good time despite the harsh conditions. Thanks to them, I too have become multilingual. Initially, Mozambique was at the end of the world for me, as it appears to many based on their global location, but now it seems somehow closer with the education I carry of the land and its people.

Mozambican student's note on back of class photo

#ELPalumni #Mozambique #TESOL #fellowimpact

Reference

Rogers, S. (1995). The multilingual Mozambican. The Teacher, 1(2). Recife: Brasil: Association Brasil America.

My K-5 Elementary School Literature Products on Sale at TPT

I’m a teacher-author on TeachersPayTeachers.com (aka #TPT). I’m having a 20% off sale for the holidays from 12/18/18 to 12/21/18. Here are the descriptions of a few of my seasonal elementary products aligned with the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

Gingerbread Man with bow tie near stack of other cookies says, "Catch me if you can, I'm the Gingerbread Man!"

K-2 Story Illustration: The Gingerbread Man

This is an 18-page document with text from story retold by Sandra Rogers in which students are provided space to illustrate the story to match the meaning described in the text. Twelve vocabulary words are boldface typed within the story with definitions provided on a glossary page. It includes a vocabulary pretest.  The end purpose is to have students read it to their parents or other students in the school.  Students will be eager to learn new words such as plump, almonds, and hay so that they can accurately illustrate their self-made booklet.  This activity correlates to the following Common Core State Standards (CCSS) on Speaking and Listening (SL): Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas:
Kinder: #5. Add drawings or other visual displays to descriptions as desired to provide additional detail.
Grade 1: #5. Add drawings or other visual displays to descriptions when appropriate to clarify ideas, thoughts, and feelings.
Grade 2: #5. Create audio recordings of stories or poems; add drawings or other visual displays to stories or recounts of experiences when appropriate to clarify ideas, thoughts, and feelings. (Note: The text and drawings can serve as the storyboard for recordings.)

Other similar products include the following:

Image of Santa on sleigh pulled by reindeer

K-3 Poetry Illustration: ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas #CCSS SL.K.5, SL.1.5, SL.2.5, SL.3.5

K-3 Holiday Literacy Pack Bundled product includes those mentioned in this blog post plus 2 literacy center posters (Reading and Writing), a literacy activity checklist, and a generic strategy usage form for self-evaluation. #CCSS SL.K.5, SL.1.5, SL.2.5, SL.3.5


Pine Wreath with burlap flowers from Colonial Williamsburg

Wintertime in Colonial Williamsburg 5th Grade PowerPoint Presentation

The 15 images in the presentation are photos taken of Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia in the winter. The purpose of the presentation is to give students a glimpse of colonial life. The photos include children’s toys, holiday wreaths, a bedroom, chamber pot, a kitchen, a dining room, a coal-burning furnace, a cellar, a garden maze, the Governor’s Palace (The Wythe House), the Royal Capitol, a home, wallpaper, a horse-drawn carriage, and a soldier’s drum. The PowerPoint slides include brief lecture notes.


*These literature activities are also available for sale individually. Other products include Spanish language editions.

Thank you for shopping Teacherrogers store!

Happy holidays,

Sandra Rogers, Ph.D.
Instructional Designer

Minimum Technical Skill Requirements for Online Learners

Embed from Getty Images

One of my tasks as an instructional designer on my college campus is to provide learning guidelines and protocols for distance education. One way to prepare students for online learning is to provide a list of minimum technical skills required and make recommendations on where they can seek help if they do not possess such skills. Below is what I prepared for our students. I’d love your feedback on it.


Students,

The following is a list of basic technical skills you should have to engage productively in an online course:
● use the learning management system (e.g., Schoology) tools to post
discussions and upload assignments;
● use different browsers, clear browsing history, cache, and cookies, and refresh the screen;
● use email with attachments;
● create and submit electronic files in word processing program formats;
● copy and paste text;
● download and install software (e.g., media applications);
● download a media file for viewing or listening;
● use spreadsheet programs (e.g., Excel, Google Sheets, etc.);
● use presentation and simple graphics programs;
● use collaborative tools like Google Docs and shared folders on Google Drive; and
● use search engines to access digital books and articles from library databases.


Sandra Rogers, Ph.D.