I’ll be attending my second conference of the American Educational Research Association (#AERA19) this year. The theme is ‘Leveraging Education Research in a Post-Truth Era: Multimodal Narratives to Democratize Evidence.’ It will be held in Toronto, Canada from April 5-9th at the Metro Toronto Conference Centre. I was impressed with last year’s conference but a bit overwhelmed. Hopefully, with the help of their conference app, I’ll find the sessions I need.
I’m placing the final touches on the poster for Dr. Khoury and my session: Rubric to Analyze Online Course Syllabi Plan for Engendering a Community of Inquiry: Round II. Come join me on Saturday morning, April 6, from 8:00 to 9:30am in the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, 300 Level, Hall C. It’s hosted by the Division C – Section 3b: Technology-Based Environments in the subunit for Distance and Online Education. I’ll be sharing copies of my Online Community of Inquiry Syllabus Rubric.
I’ve shared our research paper on the AERA online Repository. I’ll share a link to the poster here upon completion. Read this blog page to learn more about our study. My hope is that it will be replicated to validate the rubric and improve not only instructors’ syllabi but teaching and learning in 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.
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)
Describe images and hyperlinks with alternative text.
Do not use coloring as the sole indicator of meaning.
Use san serif fonts for online text.
Check and repair all portable document formats (PDFs) for accessibility.
Caption all video and provide transcripts for audio.
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.
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.
Google Tools & Features
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.
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.
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.
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:
Describe images and hyperlinks with alternative text.
Use san serif fonts for online text.
Check and repair all portable document formats (PDFs) for accessibility.
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.
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/
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.
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.
“The more radical the person is, the more fully he or she enters into reality so that, knowing it better, he or she can transform it. This individual is not afraid to confront, to listen, to see the world unveiled.― Paulo Freire