Accessible courses are designed in a way that makes them intuitive, easy to navigate, and functional for all students. SCU’s Office of Accessible Education website provides information about providing testing accommodations and other accommodations; additionally, they provide specific information for accommodating students with disabilities in online courses.
In addition to consulting with OAE to make your course accessible to all students, Camino and Zoom both offer a number of accessibility features:
- Camino: There are three built-in design features within Camino to make the platform accessible for students using screen readers.
- Use the Camino Accessibility Checker to catch easy-to-fix issues created with their rich text editor.
- Use the information provided by Ally, an accessibility tool that automatically scans Camino course content and recommends a series of steps to make that content more accessible for all of your students, to improve key course materials.
- Use CONVERT to fix accessibility issues, and recommend students use it for your concert. The service can be accessed from the navigation menu within your Camino courses and is also available on the Office of Accessible Education site.
- Camino’s quiz feature allows you to make adjustments for individual students who require accommodations (e.g., additional time).
- Zoom: Zoom is also designed with a number of features that support accessibility. If you record a Zoom session, you can use the “audio transcript” option to automatically transcribe the audio. Zoom can be integrated with closed captioning providers, and you can also upload Zoom recordings to YouTube and use YouTube’s automated captioning feature.
For more information about making your course accessible, see this comprehensive guide.
Accessibility Considerations in Light of COVID-19
Given the current situation we are facing, students may encounter some additional challenges in accessing your course.
- Health: Some students may get sick or have to care for others who are sick. Consider how you might offer flexibility for students who find themselves in these circumstances.
- Technology: Some students may have trouble accessing a consistent, high speed internet connection. Many internet providers are now offering special plans for low-income households and households with students (see this list). Here too, it is important to imagine potential scenarios (e.g., a student’s computer breaks, a student’s internet connection goes down while they’re supposed to be in a Zoom session with you) and consider how you might accommodate students.
Universal Design for Learning
Universal Design for Learning, or UDL, embraces one basic premise—"Teach every student." Its framework consists of three core principles—i.e., instructors should provide all students with multiple means of representation, expression, and engagement (Rose & Meyer, 2002). This means that, whenever possible, instructors should (a) provide instructional content or materials in multiple formats, (b) give learners multiple ways to demonstrate what they have learned, and (c) use multiple strategies to motivate learner participation.
UDL began with a focus on how computer technology could improve the learning experience for students with learning disabilities, including those disabilities that are not visible. For example, UDL practices like removing time limits on quizzes supports may help students with dyslexia, as well as military veterans who suffer from traumatic brain injury or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder when they return to academic life. Keeping all this in mind, the "teach every student" mantra really means what it says. UDL practices support everyone, for example, captioned videos support not only learners who are deaf and hard of hearing, but also those who are English Language Learners or prefer to read text.
Implementing UDL’s Three Core Principles
It is important to note that you do not have to apply UDL to everything, nor all the time! Instead, use a mix of different strategies for sharing content, engaging students, and assessing learning. Even adding one more method every now and then will help.
Representation: Content in multiple formats
It does not take much effort to provide course materials in different formats, especially for your lectures. You can use lecture capture or screencast technologies to record your lectures in advance or while you give them in class. Then you can upload the slides (possibly with your notes), the combined recording, and an audio-only recording. If you don't have time to do it yourself, you can offer students small amounts of extra credit if they transcribe 5-minute chunks of the lecture. Then you can paste the text pieces together and post the document as a transcript.
Another way to provide lecture content in multiple formats is to create a concept map showing the connections between the ideas or the flow of a process you outline. This can be done in real-time, by drawing the concept map in front of the students, as a screencast video recording, or just a concept map file that you upload for students to review.
Expression (Assessment): Multiple ways to demonstrate learning
When it comes to giving students different ways to show what they know, you have choices, too. When you plan to have essay questions on an exam, you can let students choose from different questions that cover the same topic. To do this, identify each learning outcome or class concept for which students will show what they know through essay questions. Next, create a short rubric or checklist covering what student essays should contain for each topic. Start a new test page for each concept, containing two to four questions and instructions for students to select one question per page
For projects, you can let students pick from two or more submission formats—e.g., essay, presentation (in class or online using VoiceThread), video, or infographic. The students still have to meet the rubric criteria, regardless of what they turn in. Sometimes, providing different levels of challenge can scaffold the learning process as well as give students choices. Start with low-stakes quizzes, move to an in-class or online discussion or debate, and finish with a project that asks students to apply what they have learned.
Engagement: Multiple strategies to motivate participation
To keep students engaged over time, tie class concepts to current, real-world events or create in-class or online collaboration opportunities. To let students regulate their own learning, create reflection assignments and self-assessment tools. Asking students to make their final versions public can increase their motivation to do their best work.
References and Additional Resources
Center for Applied Special Technology. (2011). Universal Design for Learning Guidelines version 2.0. Wakefield, MA: Author.
Rose, D., & Meyer, A. (2002). Teaching Every Student in the Digital Age: Universal Design for Learning. Wakefield, MA: Center for Applied Special Technology.
Tobin, T., and Behling, K. (2018). Reach Everyone, Teach Everyone: Universal Design for Learning in Higher Education.
Dr. Kevin Kelly, Lecturer at San Francisco State University
Brian Larkin, SCU Instructional Technology Manager
Dr. Rachel Stumpf, former SCU Faculty Development Program Manager
August 6, 2020