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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eLearning Past, Present, and Future (2011-2021): A Conversation about Trends in eLearning, Instructional Design, and Online Learning

In May 2011, I graduated from high school. In June, before I started college, I walked into my first group interview. While I had never heard of eLearning or instructional design, I was still intrigued. Dave Goodrich, one of my high school science teachers, now worked at Spring Arbor University (SAU) as an instructional designer. He believed in my potential and said this student worker job could last throughout my undergraduate career if I wanted. 

I met Dave, Tara McCoy , and a couple others from what was formerly the Office of Academic Technology (OAT) outside a coffee shop. When I was hired on the spot, I had no idea what I was getting into or how this field and career would help me as a student and as a professor. 

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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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But what about nonverbal communication?—A look at interactions online

With the continuing growth of online learning in the past few decades, one significant argument against it has been the perceived loss of non-verbal communication and human relationships within the course. Instructors new to the modality often believe that the online delivery format is less interactive than face-to-face, and therefore assume it’s harder (if even possible) to get to know the other participants. Some university instructors even hesitate to teach online because they feel there is a lack of connection and communication, which then creates more room for misinterpretation, negative reviews of the experience, or even failure for some students. Today, I’d like to share the data behind this topic and help to point to the fact that this is not as worrisome as these instructors assume. 

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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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Solving Tough eLearning Problems

As instructional designers, we’re often asked to solve a variety of problems. From finding ways to help the transfer of knowledge to developing training or learning resources, sometimes the solution is much more complicated than what our subject matter expert or client realizes. As we juggle many projects and find ways to deliver solutions on a deadline, it can become frustrating for everyone involved when they just want us to “put it in the learning management system.”

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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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3 Core Learning Skills for the 21st Century

How do we prepare our learners to succeed in the 21st century? More to the point, how do we equip *adult* learners for ever changing careers, skills and needs when the traditional education system is behind them?

First, I want to outline three critical skills—then I’ll talk about an organization that I think does well in this area and how they are helping to promote that particular skill for any worker in their organization. There are more skills than these that are required, but these ones top my list.

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