Small Steps to Make Your Class a More Accessible Experience

Have you wanted make your class more accessible and inclusive, but you just didn’t know where to start? Maybe you know you should add accessibility into your course, but it feels like you don’t have enough time to redesign the whole course. 

Accessibility improves the learning experience for all learners. Not every student discloses their needs (whether physical or cognitive, permanent or situational), so it’s important to take a proactive approach to create an inclusive learning environment.

When you pick small, manageable elements to focus on, you can slowly infuse accessibility into your course each time it runs. With a few changes, you can start to make your course materials more accessible.

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The Brains Behind Assessment

In the current day and age of learning, we find a lot of variability in how we develop and provide learning environments. Many individuals have had to rethink their teaching and learning atmospheres to accommodate societal changes. In all of those alterations, the need for assessment is one of the primary components of any learning environment that needs to be addressed. But with the consistency found in needing assessment, we still need to think through what activities and evaluations fit best with the curriculum, learners, and modality. So how do we make that decision?

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Limited by Modality

Many conversations addressing education lately have returned to the way various designers, instructors, learners, and stakeholders define a particular modality and its effectiveness. Some individuals focus on a modality’s apparent constraints instead of its affordances as an excuse to do less or remain stagnant, while others view the very same limitations in addition to the modalities strengths as a way to explore more options for how to reach learning goals in a new way. 

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Preparing for Fall 2020: Reimagining Higher Education

I am currently in a summer book study with fellow faculty discussing Teaching and Christian Imagination by David Smith and Susan M. Felch. Through my personal reading as well as group discussions, I’ve realized we need a significant reimagining in the way faculty and instructional designers view teaching and curriculum design in higher education.

Instead of providing a cookie-cutter process of how to teach and design curriculum, Smith and Felch invite readers to reimagine higher education through three metaphors: a pilgrimage, a garden, and a cathedral. In the wake of the many changes and uncertainties of COVID-19, I want to invite you to reimagine higher education through sharing some of the things I am learning from these metaphors and encourage you to begin taking steps toward making your reimagining a reality.

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Remote Learning: A New Journey

In the time of Covid-19, we’ve been thrust into The Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle-earth. We have to battle villainous foes, make courageous choices, and strike a blow against the evil that threatens the land. This is the best way I know to describe the feeling as we find ourselves in with little to no advanced warning—forced by circumstance to teach all courses online. 

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Moneyball Learning

The Oakland Athletics were always a budget-minded franchise.

In 2001, they finished 16 games behind the winner of their division and lost to the New York Yankees in the first round of the postseason. Then lost three All-Star caliber players in the offseason. 

In 2002, they won their division, went on a 20-game winning streak in the regular season (breaking the American League record), and won as many games (and went as far in the playoffs) as the Yankees—who spent almost three times what the A’s did in player salaries.

How?

By playing Moneyball. 

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Sharing Accessibility Stories: Making eLearning for Everyone

In November 2019,  several members of our eLearning team attended Michigan State University’s (MSU) 5thannual Accessible Learning Conference (ALC). The theme of the conference was storytelling, emphasizing that the core of accessibility is “people and their stories.” As someone who’s been a student in the communication and theatre fields for almost a decade, this theme struck a chord with me. Often, at both private and public universities, the majority of students’ disabilities are often unidentified, so their stories go untold. These untold stories create a roadblock in these students’ ability to succeed in learning environments.

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The Importance of Being Present in Your Online Course

You can have a well-designed course with relevant content and an expert instructor, yet the course can still be perceived as a negative experience by students. Why? The instructor was not “present” in the course. 

It takes more than grading to create instructor presence. Bangert defines instructor presence as “the ‘methods’ that instructors use to create the quality online instructional experiences that support and sustain productive communities of inquiry” (Bangert, 2008, p. 40). Without instructor support, courses quickly become barren.

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Looking Through a Learning Tool

There is a spectrum of opinion about online learning, inclusive of two polar opposite sides in the discussion: it’s either new and exciting and every course should be online, or it is a scary new technology that destroys the personal communication essential for a “good class”. As I consider this debate, something that both groups should realize is that it’s easy to fall into the trap of defining instruction through the use of a tool, rather than realizing there is an inherent separation between the instruction and the tool. Today I’ll explore the differences and how this separation impacts our design. 

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From Instructional Design to Learning Design

Student-Centered Design

Back in 1997, I was a member of the Ed Tech faculty at Northern Arizona University. We had decided to move our Masters of Educational Technology online—and did what an inexperienced faculty without support would do.

 We took our face-to-face curriculum and put it online. 

It went about as well as you would expect.  

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