Using Google Suite for the Universal Design of Learning

Design for gardining Website interface displays tools and supplies as icons
This Google Drawing was created for a doctoral mini project on an interface design task for developing a gardening website with one of my peers in an online course. This was created prior to my understanding of accessibility issues. Notice that not all icons are labeled. This would not be accessible to all. Additionally, alternative text would need to be embedded with each image.

Google Suite,  along with the Chrome browser’s Omnibox and useful extensions, can be used to enhance the teaching of all learners with universal instructional design principles. Google Suite is the new name for these features: Google Apps (Docs, Forms, Sheets, Slides), Classroom, and Drive. This blog focuses on the use of technology to augment instruction through differentiation via scaffolding, formative assessments, and student collaboration. Google professional development opportunities and teacher resources are also addressed.

There are several efforts to design education with universal design in mind. Palmer and Caputo (2003) proposed seven principles for universal instructional design (UID): accessibility, consistency, explicitness, flexibility, accommodating learning spaces, minimization of effort, and supportive learning environments. The UID model recognizes those needs for course design. Its main premise is equal access to education and extends this to all types of learners and not just those with disabilities. For example, all learners can benefit from multi-modal lessons. Palmer and Caputo’s principles should be kept in mind as you develop differentiated instructional learning scenarios with Google Suite. See my blog post to learn more about universal design.

My College is a Google Apps for Education campus, which means we have unlimited storage on our Drive and seamless access to Google Suite through our school Gmail. Speak with your Google Suite administrator to learn about the features and functions of your access, as some institutions like my alma mater block YouTube and Google+. 

The following scenarios address possible technology solutions for teaching all learners. For instance, scaffolding supports different learners’ preferences, as well as the needs of lower performing students. Formative assessments are important to obtain ongoing feedback on student performance; use these often. They can be formal or informal (practice tests, exit tickets, polls). Formative tests promote active learning, which leads to higher retention of information learned. Use the following list to add your ideas and scenarios for differentiated lesson planning.

Scaffold Learning Google Tools & Features Formative Assessments Your Ideas & Scenarios
Provide visuals for structure, context, or direction & just-in-time definitions Google Drawings, Docs’ Explore tool, & Drive Students make their own graphic representation of a concept or complete guided tasks with the frame provided by an instructor.
Provide authentic speaking practice prior to oral test/presentation Google Docs’ Voice Typing, Chrome Browser’s Omnibox for a timer, & Drive Students work individually or in small group turn-taking voice typing their scripts/stories on Google Doc within a timed parameter on a split screen.
Check for comprehension to obtain data to drive instruction/remediation Google Forms, Sheets, Classroom, & Drive (Alternative: Google Slides new feature allows for asking questions & polling question priority live from slide.) Students take a quiz on Google Forms to demonstrate knowledge after a lesson (exit ticket) or homework. Instructors receive Form responses in a Google Sheet. Sheets has Explore tool for analyzing data for visual display for data-driven discussions among teacher cohort/supervisors. Auto import grades from Forms to Classroom gradebook.
Students use app with embedded choices to check their own grammar Free Chrome extension, Grammarly and/or app Students correct errors in their first writing drafts on the app or within online writing platforms (e.g., wiki, blog, or email). Grammarly is also available for MS Office and Windows but not for Google Docs. Use its app to check Docs or other writing formats by pasting content to New Document.
Hi/low peer collaboration and/or tutoring Google Apps, Classroom, & Drive Students share settings on project Docs, Drawings, etc. to collaborate via text comments or synchronous video chat sessions.

Resources for Digital Literacy Skill Training

  • Did you know that Google provides lesson plans for information literacy?
  • Do you need to teach your students how to refine their web searches? See Google Support.
  • Internet Safety Tip- Recommend that students use incognito browsing on Google Chrome when conducting searches to reduce their digital footprint. See Google’s YouTube playlist, Digital Citizenship and Security, and their training site for more information.

Accessibility Resources for Assistive Technology

  • ChromeVOX – Google’s screen reading extension for the Google Chrome browser and the screen reader used by Chrome Operating System (OS).
  • TalkBack – This is Google’s screen reading software that is typically included with Android devices. Due to the design of Android and its customizability by hardware manufacturers, TalkBack can vary and may not be included on some Android devices.
  • Screen Magnifier – This is the screen magnification software included with ChromeOS. The magnification function in ChromeOS doesn’t have a unique product name like other platforms.
  • Hey, Google – This is Google’s personal assistant, which is available in the Google Chrome browser, ChromeOS, and many Android devices.

Professional Development for Educators

Other

#Google #Edtech #Accessibility #UDL

References

Palmer, J., & Caputo, A. (2003). Universal instructional design: Implementation guide. Guelph, Ontario: University of Guelph.

Universal Design for Learning

Accessibility_Logo
Logo by Christy Blew of the University of Illinois for Educause, 2012

Universal design (UD) refers to the consideration of the needs of persons with disabilities in regards to physical spaces and objects; it has since grown into an initiative for education called the universal design for learning (UDL).  The original Principles of Universal Design (1997) are equitable use, the flexibility of use, simple and intuitive use, perceptible information, tolerance for error, low physical effort, and size and space for appropriate use. See the UD poster. The Center for Universal Design described it as a design that doesn’t need adaption for persons with disabilities in perceiving the content or operating the program. Adaption is key to equal access to education because to avoid having a student wait weeks while you provide a specific accommodation such as closed captioning to a video lecture. Instead, be proactive and have your first unit and/or introductory video captioned (or audio transcribed) in advance of the start date of your course. Another UDL educational correlation with the original UD principles is providing mastery test options or dropping the lowest grade for tolerance of error in the web-enhanced course.

There are several efforts to design education with UD in mind. Palmer and Caputo (2003) proposed seven principles for universal instructional design (UID): accessibility, consistency, explicitness, flexibility, accommodating learning spaces, minimization of effort, and supportive learning environments. The UID model recognizes those needs for course design. Its main premise is equal access to education and extends this to all types of learners and not just those with disabilities. For example, all learners can benefit from multi-modal lessons.

I recently attended a webinar by Dr. Tobin in which he recommended these instructional strategies for UDL:

  • Start with the text. It can serve as the script.
  • Make alternatives available such as a PDF instead of Microsoft Word so they can use the feature in Adobe products to read aloud the text.
  • Allow students to select their type of assessment choice.
  • Go step by step to break information into small chunks and provide still images for illustration when possible.
  • Set content free. By this, he means to make sure it’s shareable and not tied to your choice of tool/software. Ex. MP3 audio file as output instead of the Audacity file, which students would have to know how to use to open/play. The benefits of these strategies reduce cognitive load for all learners.

UD for the web isn’t only for education. Legal aspects include the web design standards created by the WWW Consortium (W3C) for information technology. They produced the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (WCAG), which are promoted globally.  I use their Web Accessibility Initiative website, as a reference at work: http://www.w3.org/WAI/intro/wcag.  Additionally, US federal laws include policies for equal access to Web-based information and technologies such as Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Access Board standards.  The Access Board standards are based on the WC3’s priority checklist.

Here are a few resources on UD:

References

Palmer, J., & Caputo, A. (2003). Universal instructional design: Implementation guide. Guelph, Ontario: University of Guelph.

The Center for Universal Design (1997). The Principles of Universal Design, Version 2.0. Raleigh, NC: North Carolina State University.

Quality Matters for Online Instruction

Quality Matters (QM) logo

What is it?

Quality Matters™ (QM) is a peer-review process for providing feedback and guidance for online course design.  According to the QM website, it originated from the MarylandOnline Consortium project in 2003. They received a grant from the US Department of Education to create a rubric and review process based on research and best practices.  In 2014, it became its own nonprofit organization.  Through a subscription service, the organization now provides training, resources, conference events, and research collaborations.  They currently have 5000 QM certified reviewers to assist subscribers with the peer review process of their online courses.

Who uses it?

QM provides specific rubrics and guidelines for the quality assurance review process for K-12, higher education, publishers, and continuing education programs that offer distance education.  QM has a new program to bring the rubric and process to students.  The QM process is specifically for hybrid and fully online courses; it’s not for web-enhanced face-to-face courses.  QM currently has 900 subscribers.  Subscription prices are adjusted to the size of your online programs.

How does it work?

A subscribing institution (or individual) requests a QM review of their course and submits an application.  QM recommends that you familiarize yourself with the rubric through the training process in advance of the review.  They also recommend that the course for review not be new—that it has been through a few semesters to work out the bugs.  A QM coordinator for your course assigns you a team of reviewers consisting of a team leader and two other certified peer reviewers, one of which is a subject matter expert.  They read your self-report about the course and review your course using the rubric and guidelines.  The rubric covers these general standards: 1. Course Overview & Introduction, 2. Learning Objectives (Competencies), 3. Assessment & Measurement, 4. Instructional Materials, 5. Course Activities & Learner Interaction, 6. Course Technology, 7. Learner Support, and 8. Accessibility & Usability.  The team contacts you with questions throughout the 4-6 week process.  Then they present you with your evaluation with time to address any major issues before finalizing the report.

What are the benefits?

Those courses that pass the review process receive recognition on the QM website.  Even if you meet the standards, the peer reviewers provide you with recommendations for further improvements.  Instructors can use this feedback for other courses they teach or debrief with colleagues about it.  This serves as an ongoing continuous improvement process.  This is something that institutions can promote to their clients and instructors can add to the curriculum vitae.  From personal experience in becoming a QM certified peer reviewer, I can attest to the benefits of knowing the best practices and accessibility requirements for online course design.  It has helped me to become a better online instructor and provided me with a wealth of knowledge for my work as an instructional designer.  I’m grateful to the Innovation in Learning Center at the University of South Alabama for training me on the QM process and providing the opportunity to become a certified peer reviewer.

4 Things You Can Do to Make Your Online Course More Accessible

The following suggestions are recommended in meeting the Americans with Disability Act (1990).

“No otherwise qualified individual with a disability …shall, solely by reason of her or his disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance… (Section 504, 29 U.S.C. Sec. 794). ” Follow these basic guidelines for compliance and to improve learning for all:

  1. Describe images and hyperlinks with alternative text.
  2. Use san serif fonts for online text.
  3. Check and repair all portable document formats (PDFs) for accessibility.
  4. Caption all video and transcribe audio.

Images. Alternative (alt) text helps people that use assistive technology (e.g., screen readers) as their learning accommodation.  For example, screen readers like Microsoft’s (MS) 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. This includes images on a course page within a PowerPoint or Word document. For some learning management systems, it’s not a requirement when adding photos.

Hyperlinks. When you add links to your course, think about simplifying information by providing the specific name of the Website instead of a confusing Web address, also known as the URL (Uniform Resource Locator).  Take into account that the assistive technology 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-semicolon-forward slash-forward slash-secure-period-ecollege-period-com-forward slash-shc”.  This would cause extra cognitive load on the listener. Here are some examples:

The exact name of the Website will aid all learners in understanding where the link will take them.

Fonts. Sans-serif fonts are recommended for online text to provide accessibility. Sans-serif fonts don’t have the “hats and shoes” on certain letters that serif fonts include. This is because serif fonts may waiver and become difficult to read on low bandwidth or poor Internet connections. Schoology provides Arial as the default font, which is sans-serif.  For a complete list of typefaces, see Wikipedia.

PDFs. Are your PDFs readable? Conduct a word search within the Find box of aPDF 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” PDFs.  It has an accessibility checker that you can run to repair the document.

Ensure your MS Word documents are accessible before you save them as a PDF.  MS Word versions 2010 and later have accessibility checkers that will highlight any issues your document has. Within MS Word, select File > Info> Check for Issues > Check Accessibility.  Fix issues like 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.

Captions. 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 don’t have your media captioned, at the very least, provide a script until you caption the video or audio file; however, transcripts don’t provide equal access to media lesson because the words and images from the video aren’t in sync to enhance meaning. See list of free captioning services below. A transcript would suffice for an audio file or narrated PowerPoint. I recommend providing the transcription in the note’s section of the PowerPoint.

  1. Captioning Key is funded by the National Association of the Deaf and The Described and Captioned and Media Program. It provides a PDF document on specific quality assurance guidelines for closed-captioning. http://www.dcmp.org/captioningkey/
  2. Amara.org for captioning any video on the Internet: http://www.amara.org/en/
  3. CaptionTube for captioning YouTube videos: http://captiontube.appspot.com/
  4. Subtitle Workshop for captioning any video: http://sourceforge.net/projects/subworkshop/

 

Sandra Annette Rogers, Instructional Designer

Assistive Technology Tools

Are you familiar with assistive technology? Do you have students with disabilities? Here’s a list of assistive tech tools and resources for you and your students to use:

1. Section 508 Checklist: http://webaim.org/standards/508/checklist
Standards for Website content to meet the needs of persons with disabilities based on the U.S. Rehabilitation Act.

2. iSpeech: http://www.ispeech.org/
Converts text-to-speech (TTS) or speech-to-text (STT) for free. You can control the speed of the voice delivery. It catalogs the number of recordings in its library.

3. US Government: http://www.disability.gov/technology/accessible_technology
Provides webinars and updates on the latest technology available or the lack thereof in various situations.

4. Boston College & Boston University: www.cameramouse.org
Assists individuals with limited movement to use their head to direct the mouse cursor. FREE!

5. The Principles of Universal Design (UD), North Carolina State University:  Universal Design poster
These principles will help you create activities and an environment accessible for all learners.

6. Internet Explorer (IE): IE is generally the browser that’s widely used by persons with disabilities because it offers special features to meet their needs.

7. Microsoft Windows: See Accessibility Tools

8. YouTube Channel: They offer an auto-caption feature that can benefits not only deaf users, but also people who watch videos in really noisy places, like airport terminals. The tool will be able to translate captions into your choice of 50 languages. For now, however, auto-captioning works only with videos in English.

9. Apple claims to create its products with accessibility in mind as standard features http://www.apple.com/accessibility/

10. Captioning Key is funded by the National Association of the Deaf and The Described and Captioned and Media Program. It provides a PDF document on specific quality assurance guidelines for closed-captioning.

Additionally, check out the most thought-provoking YouTube video that I’ve ever seen on rethinking the concept and words associated with persons with disabilities called “Opportunity of Adversity” by Aimee Mullins.

Please share your resources for adaptive technology with me, and I’ll post them on this blog and my PLE.

Sandra Rogers