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 AECT in Kansas City, MO!

Photo of Sandra Annette Rogers
Say hello if you see me.

The Association for Educational Communications & Technology (AECT) is, in my humble opinion, the premier association for instructional designers. My professors in my doctoral studies had been promoting this professional organization and their educational technology standards to their students. I finally attended the AECT conference last year and was blown away by the professional level of everyone I met and how cordial they were to newcomers. This year, their 2018 conference will be held in Kansas City, MO from October 23-27 at the Kansas City Marriott Downtown. I’ll be there, so let me know if you plan to attend. For AECT members, I placed my slides and research paper on the new conference online portal.

This time around, I’ll be presenting on my latest research and giving a workshop on the Online Community of Inquiry Syllabus Rubric that  I co-developed with Dr. Van Haneghan. It serves as a great collaboration tool to provide feedback to instructors and for syllabi content analysis for action research. Here’s my schedule:

Wed, Oct 24, 9:00am to 12:00pm, Marriott, Room-Bennie Morten B

Use of Online Community of Inquiry Syllabus Rubric for Course Developers and Collaborators, Drs. Rogers & Khalsa

Workshop – Registration Required
The syllabus serves as an action plan, which can be used as a resource for collaboration with instructional designers. In this session, participants will discuss how the Online Community of Inquiry Syllabus Rubric© (Rogers & Van Haneghan, 2016) can be used to pinpoint course development discussions on cognitive, social, and teaching presence for distance education instructors. Research and development of the rubric, a worked sample, commonly shared feedback, and rubric rater training will be provided.


Division of Distance Learning

Thu, Oct 25, 9:40 to 10:05am, Marriott, Room-Julia Lee A

Rubric to Evaluate Online Course Syllabi Plans for Engendering a Community of Inquiry: Round II, Drs. Rogers & Khoury

We replicated a research study that analyzed online course syllabi with the Online Community of Inquiry (COI) Syllabus Rubric© (Rogers & Van Haneghan, 2016). The rubric consists of the following elements: instructional design for cognitive presence, technology tools for COI, COI loop for social presence, support for learner characteristics, and instruction and feedback for teaching presence. We reviewed 31 syllabi across disciplines and found above average cognitive presence, average social presence, and basic teaching presence.

#AECT2018 #elearning #communityof inquiry #edtech

Blackboard Test Generator Converts MS Word Formatted Tests into LMS Quizzes

The Blackboard (Bb) Test Generator converts your electronic file tests (i.e., MS Word or Text) into the learning management system (LMS) test questions. Bb Test Generator is an open educational resource. This will save time from building a multiple choice or T/F test online one question at a time IF you already have it prepared. The College of Southern Idaho provides a Bb test generator website where you can copy-and-paste your test to the Bb test generator to convert it into a zip file that can be uploaded into Schoology. The directions on their Website are fairly straightforward. After you convert the text, you’ll obtain a bbquiz zip file.

For Schoology LMS, follow these steps after you log into your  course to upload the test:

  1. Create a blank test in Schoology.
  2. Then select Add Question.
  3. From the drop-down menu, select Import Test/Quiz.

  1. Select Blackboard 7.1-9.0 button for import type from the pop-up window. Select next and locate your bbquiz zip file for import from your computer.

5. Then provide the appropriate test settings within Schoology.

  1. Save!

Note. In Schoology, the default points awarded for test questions is 1. To change them all to something else without having to manually do this one-by-one for long tests, follow these steps:

  1. Select the Options tab within the Quiz Questions view, and save your test to the Schoology Question Bank. Make a new Question Bank if you don’t have one already. Save Question Bank to your personal Resources (Home) on Schoology.

Schoology Test creation options include a drop-down menu for Add Questions to Bank

  1. Then delete your quiz after you’ve saved it to the Schoology Question Bank. Yes, start all over!
  2. Create a new test (Add Quiz), and use questions from your test bank.

  3. Select From Question Banks from the drop-down menu to Add Questions.

Quiz creation tool includes a tab to Add Questions with a option in the drop-down menu for From Question Bank5. Open the Question Bank in your Resources to add Set Points BEFORE you copy it over. This is the only material you can actually edit within your personal resources in Schoology.

In your personal resources, within your saved Question Bank, you can set points for all test items by typing in the value

 

My Schoology Gradebook Training Notes

Schoology Gradebook tool to copy settings to new courses resides in Grade Setup view

For the past two years, our College has used Schoology‘s Enterprise version as our learning management system (LMS). We’re very pleased with it as administrators and have received positive feedback from faculty and students on its functionality. During this time, I’ve developed supporting documentation and videos for in-house training purposes. This post focuses on Schoology’s Gradebook. These are my training notes for this tool. Granted, Schoology provides their own Support Center with very good information supported by interactive screen captures (gifs) to illustrate directions. My notes provide specific tasks and tool features for an overview based on frequently asked questions in my role as the LMS support on campus.

Workshop Agenda for Schoology Gradebook Review  (9/19/18) 

  1. GRADING CRITERIA: Use Grade Setup for weighted categories after you add categories to the Otherwise, all categories are set to 100% by default! Select the checkbox titled Weight Categories. It’s invisible until you add a category to your Gradebook. Make sure the grading criteria and naming convention used in your syllabus match that of your course grading categories.
  2. GRADEBOOK COLUMNS: Add a Grade column manually to Gradebook for items that are not assigned in Schoology (e.g., participation). Select the plus sign (+) in Gradebook view. Afterward, add grades manually by hovering over the grade slot or import from Excel sheet by selecting the vertical 3-dot icon near the plus sign in Gradebook and selecting Import from the drop-down menu.
  3. IMPORT/EXPORT GRADES: Import/Export grades to/from Gradebook by selecting the vertical 3-dot image in Gradebook view. Then select Import or Export from the drop-down menu. For imports, make sure the Excel columns are named as you would like to display them in Gradebook.
  4. REUSING GRADEBOOK SETTINGS IN OTHER COURSES: Use the Copy Settings tab of Gradebook in Grade Setup before copying course content into a blank shell to lay the operational foundations. Copy the original course by selecting the Options tab near Materials. Select Save course to Resources and then pull it into your new course after you copy the Gradebook’s settings.
  5. ACCESS ALL YOUR CURRENT GRADEBOOKS: Grade multiple courses from Gradebook view. Select the notebook icon in the upper right-hand corner and then select which course’s Gradebook you want to view next.
  6. BULK EDIT GRADEBOOK: To view the settings of all assignments, discussions, and tests at once, go to the vertical 3-dot icon in Gradebook view, and select Bulk Edit to see the name, category, points, factor, rubric, due date, and period.
  7. ACCESS USER ANALYTICS: Select Analytics to see User Statistics. Select a username to see stats per item.
  8. EXPAND GRADEBOOK VIEW: Toggle the Gradebook to full screen with the bidirectional arrow icon in Gradebook. This will help you see all the items in Gradebook instead of scrolling over.
  9. ACCOMMODATIONS: For accommodations for students with certified disabilities, copy test or assignment and assign to an individual when you create it. Within Assignment creation (or edit mode), select the three-dot pyramid icon for Individually Assign. WARNING: Do not re-assign original test from class to individual or your class test grades will disappear. (If this happens, re-assign test to regular class and the grades should reappear.)
  10. RUBRICS/SCALES: You can create Rubrics with criteria and/or Scales for grading such as P/F with ranges (F = 0-60 & P = 61-100). You can reuse rubrics/scales in other courses by saving them to your personal Resources.
  11. ALIGN LEARNING OBJECTIVES: Your school’s LMS administrator can add your departmental student learning outcomes from an Excel sheet to the Schoology system for use in course assignments. After they’ve been added to the system, when you create an assignment (or in edit view), select the bull’s eye target icon for Align Learning Objectives. Then select the Custom Learning Objectives to find your departmental ones under the School heading.
  12. DROP LOWEST GRADE: Follow this pathway to drop the lowest grade: Go to Gradebook>Grade Set Up>Add button beside Categories>Type the Category for your Quiz and then type in # in the section for Drop Lowest Grade>Click Create. To avoid grade inflation early on, don’t turn this on until later in the semester.
  13. EXTRA CREDIT: To give extra credit in Schoology without penalizing those who didn’t do the extra work, create a new assignment worth 0 maximum points within one of your existing Grading Categories, and then assign the number of extra credit points to each student who completes the item accordingly. (Note: You must already have something else graded in that category for this to work).

Do you use Schoology? Let me know if you found this information helpful! View my Advanced Schoology Gradebook video tutorial for a virtual tour of its features.

Hashtags: #LMS #Schoology #Gradebook #training #tutorial

Remember the Human in Online Courses

Remember the human is something we intuitively do in traditional face-to-face classrooms, but somehow this gets lost in distance education. If it’s only a text-based independent study, then we’ve silenced our students and treated them as mutes by not providing communication platforms that are supported in the grading criteria. Virginia Shea asks us to remember the human in the impersonal cyberspace, as part of her Core Rules of Netiquette. She was referencing politeness. I, on the other hand, am referencing the instructional goal of teaching to the whole student.

This blog focuses on the basics of computer-mediated instruction in terms of the dichotomy of transmissive (authoritarian) education versus that of a transformative one (democratic). Whenever I present on this topic at conferences, participants share that they or their peers have also encountered and endured transmissive online courses. I wonder how big the problem really is. Since first encountering this problem in 2012 as a doctoral student, I’ve dedicated my research efforts on addressing it.

Transmissive vs. Transformative

Critical pedagogies (e.g., Ignatian pedagogy and Freirean praxis) place the human in a real-world context as much as possible through learning experiences and reflection. The goal being transformative learning experiences instead of transmissive ones that use the antiquated banking model of education where the teacher deposits knowledge for the student to withdraw (Bradshaw, 2017). A good example of transformative learning is Ignatian pedagogy that advocates for context, experience, action, reflection, and evaluation (Korth, 1993).

Interactions for transformative learning are active, authentic, constructive, cooperative, and intentional. Hooks (1994) called this humanity-affirming location of possibility. The design of interaction treatments online doesn’t rely solely on synchronous sessions through web hosting with everyone present. Instead, the goal of high-quality online instruction is to avoid passive learning that requires little cognitive engagement. A good example of a transformative learning activity would be a student (or group) project where students provide each other with authentic feedback.

Interaction treatments are any direct or indirect action between and among students, teachers, and content. Besides written and spoken word, this includes nonverbal immediacy behaviors such as an instructor’s response time. The alternative, a transmissive education of information dumping, is unethical. Freire (1970) called it a corpse of knowledge. Nowadays, this is delivered by the uninformed online instructor through text-based study devoid of interactions with other students (e.g., read-write-submit). The lack of contact with others in the class is not only isolating, shielding us from social learning, but can be frustrating for some students.

Are we teaching machines to learn better than we teach humans?

Embed from Getty Images

I recently read an introductory book about artificial intelligence (AI) and was struck how even the old AI addressed the environment of the robot, as this is something online instructors sometimes overlook for humans. If we want to come away as winners in the man vs machine competition, when humanoids such as Erica the robot have complete human feelings and singularity occurs in 2045, we should focus on providing human interactions in online courses.

Through trial and error, AI has developed heuristics to address robots’ interaction with the environment such as the symbol grounding problem, where symbols are meaningless unless they’re grounded within a real-world context.  For example, the Skydio R1 drone may become the ultimate selfie as it maps its environment using GPS, cameras, and other sensors. How often are instructors grounding the instructional content into the lifeworld of human learners?

What are the heuristics for effective human interaction in distance education?

Provide an online community of inquiry (COI) to dispel the perceived psychological distance between students and teachers in distance education to improve student learning outcomes and student satisfaction. An online COI, a sublime goal, requires consideration of the types of interaction treatments that could engender social, teaching, and cognitive presence for going beyond generative learning. These presences are the key elements for the COI loop (Garrison, Anderson, and Archer, 2000).

Technological affordances can provide humans with multimodal instruction such as narrated PowerPoints or audio feedback for teaching presence for an online COI. For example, podcasts increase student achievement and student satisfaction because they can listen to them over and over (Beylefeld, Hugo & Geyer, 2008; McKinney, Dyck & Luber, 2009; Seed, Yang & Sinnappan, 2009). Learning management systems allow for student-student discussions and the sharing of projects with opportunities for peer feedback to engender social presence in a COI. For example, Schoology’s Media Album allows students to upload their media projects for peer feedback. Projects also provide student agency in the design of their own learning.

Cognitive presence is the other component in the COI traid. Instructors generally provide this with interesting and challenging activities online that they’ve honed over the years from their F2F courses. In my two research studies (Rogers & Van Haneghan, 2016; Rogers & Khoury, 2018), the potential plans for cognitive presence have been high at the institutions; however, social presence has been average and teaching presence below average.

Designing interaction treatments (e.g., student-student, student-teacher, and student-content) will help address the psychologically perceived distance in computer-mediated courses (Bernard et al., 2009). These designed interactions need to focus on meaningful activities for the students’ lifeworld to aid their learning. Remember the human as you plan your online course; otherwise, the robots will overtake us.

#criticalpedagogy #transformativeeducation #AI #elearning #Ignatianpedagogy #CoI

References

Bernard, R. M., Abrami, P. C., Borokhovski, E., Wade, C. A., Tamim, R., Surkes, M. A., & Bethel, E. C. (2009). A meta-analysis of three types of ITs in distance education. Review of Educational Research, 79, 1243-1288. doi:10.3102/0034654309333844

Beylefeld, A. A., Hugo, A. P., & Geyer, H. J. (2008). More learning and less teaching? Students’ perceptions of a histology podcast. South African Journal of Higher Education, 22(5), 948-956. doi:10.4314/sajhe.v22i5.42914

Bradshaw, A. C. (2017). Critical pedagogy and educational technology, in A.D. Benson, R. Joseph, & J.L. Moore (eds.) Culture, Learning and Technology: Research and Practice (pp. 8-27). New York, NY: Routledge.

Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York, NY: Continuum.

Garrison, D. R., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (2000). Critical inquiry in a text based environment: Computer conferencing in higher education. The Internet and Higher Education 2(2-3), 87-105. doi:10.1016/s1096-7516(00)00016-6

Hooks, B. (1994). Teaching to transgress: Education as the practice of freedom.  New York, NY: Routledge.

Korth, S. J. (1993). Precis of Ignatian pedagogy: A practical approach.  International Center for Jesuit Education, Rome, Italy.

McKinney, D., Dyck, J. L., & Luber, E. S. (2009). iTunes university and the classroom: Can podcasts replace professors? Computers & Education, 52, 617-623. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2008.11.004

Rogers, S., & Van Haneghan, J. (2016). Rubric to evaluate online course syllabi plans for engendering a community of inquiry. Proceedings of Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference, 349-357. Chesapeake, VA: AACE.

Guest Blogging for the new AACE Review

A word cloud based on a blog about fake news detection resources.

I’m enjoying the challenge of guest blogging for the Association for the Advancement of Computers in Education’s (AACE) new blog, the AACE Review.  AACE is the professional organization that produces the LearnTechLib database and several educational research journals (i.e., International Journal on e-Learning, Journal of Computers in Math and Science Teaching,  Journal on Online Learning Research). It hosts several educators’ conferences that I like to attend such as the Society for  Information Technology and  Teacher Education (SITE) and the World Conference on eLearning (eLearn). See images of my past involvement with AACE.

So far, I’ve blogged about these educational technology and learning topics:


As for this Teacherrogers blog, I haven’t slowed down on my writing. I recently updated the page on my teaching philosophy, added my research statement, and a page on my Google Map project. These are the static pages at the top of this blog. You may have noticed the new award for landing in the top 75 blogs on Feedspot on the topic of educational technology. I was actually #58! Thanks for reading and sharing my blogs. I’ve been blogging here since 2011, and it serves as my knowledge base that I’m continuously updating, as I learn from and share with educators at my college and peers worldwide.

#AACE #SITE #ELearn #Grit #CALL #EdTech #EduChat #SpeechRecognition #FakeNews #MediaManipulation #Disinformation #hoaxbusters #blogs

Google Provides Free Professional Development Online for Educators

Google Certified Educator Badge

I just completed free professional development offered to educators on Google Apps for Education to become a Google Certified Educator. Level 1 is on the fundamentals of Google Suite (Docs, Slides, Sheets, Forms, & YouTube), Google Classroom, and Google Drive.  It’s a competency-based, self-directed learning program.

I’ve been using Google Apps since 2009. This training was a great way to learn about the latest updates to the Google Suite of tools.  Additionally, it made me think about different ways that technology can help solve various teaching issues, save resources, communicate more with parents, and increase student collaboration.

Initially, I thought I’d be able to complete the 13 units for Level 1 in a few months. However, my work, service, and research took priority, and I ended up doing this training a little bit over time. It took me a year! The self-tests are challenging even for a more advanced user like myself.  The exam is performance-based, so make sure you review all the units carefully.

I plan to continue through the training levels to become a certified trainer. I’m a trainer at my College on a wide range of technology and pedagogy, and can’t wait to start sharing what I learned with the faculty and staff.  I’ve already emailed the librarians several tech tips that they might use.  My two biggest takeaways would be the powerful potential of Google Groups (e.g. staff-instructor, trainer-staff, or student-teacher interactions) and the advances that have been made in Google Classroom (too numerous to mention).

I encourage you to check out their Training Center.  The certifying exams are inexpensive (e.g., $10 for Level 1). They provide a certificate and a digital badge. The certification only lasts three years. I think at the current rate of technology advancement that is fair.