At the beginning of the event, we screened a video that was produced and edited by Instructional Technology Specialist Alex Savoth. The video is comprised of interviews that Alex conducted with the student panelists prior to the event, and the content served as a great jumping off point for the discussion.
Last semester, Instructional Technology Services and the Provost office held an Active Learning & UDL (Universal Design for Learning) Forum. Seventeen faculty and staff members participated in the forum. We exchanged ideas for designing classrooms, consistent with the principles of Universal Design for Learning.
We received a number of excellent ideas from faculty members regarding classroom designs for interactive learning and here are the four common principles repeated by multiple faculty members.
- Enough work surface for students’ notebooks, laptops, and textbooks
- Instead of tablet-arm chairs, use tables for students
- Ample shared-workspaces
- Individual whiteboards for students, extra whiteboards on the wall, or writable walls
- Flexible furniture to support different teaching strategies
- Movable tables & chairs, furniture with variable heights
- Easy access to all student
- Enough space for faculty and students to move about easily in the room
We should keep these points in mind when designing or renovating classrooms on campus!
You can see below some of the comments that were made by our faculty during the discussion.
- In order to effectively rearrange classrooms for different activities, classes need sufficient space. Some classes have enough space, such as the Stokes basement. However, there are so many extra chairs in that get in the way.
- Group work, especially, requires extra room space.
- There is a tension between using space efficiently for maximum student capacity vs. instructors having the ability to move around the room and visit students at their seats/tables.
- Room size must be much larger than the number of chairs.
Writable Spaces and Technologies
- Rooms need an abundance of a whiteboard and/or chalkboard space. Having both whiteboards and chalkboards in a single classroom is great, as different faculty members have a strong preference for one vs the other. Or some rooms can have whiteboards and others blackboards.
- Faculty want a way to have students share work with more whiteboard/chalkboard spaces
- In general, participants liked to have a lot of writing spaces, but did not need multiple projection spaces, unless there was a specific reason, such as pillars in the middle of the room.
- Using an iPad Pro with Explain Everything app as an interactive whiteboard is great: it lets you move around the classroom. However, you need to keep the projector screen down during the class and the screen obscures the whiteboard. Whiteboards along the wall or rolling whiteboards would be great.
- Some participants preferred classrooms that can be easily rearranged.
- Some preferred classrooms that were predictably set up in their preferred arrangement, and did not want to ever have to move the furniture.
- Rather than all rooms having a flexible setup, flexibility can come from a choice of classrooms. Some rooms can have one particular setup, whereas other rooms can have other types of setups.
- If remodeling a number of classrooms, a few can be inexpensive setups with just chairs and tables. That could leave more in the budget for a few high tech classroom setups.
- When thinking of classroom design, keep in mind that some students have a hard time sitting for long periods, and may want desks that allow them to stand.
On May 3, 2017, Instructional Technology Services in IITS and Access and Disability Services held a UDL event. We surveyed our students and collected suggestions on how to make Haverford classrooms more accessible.
Here are some suggestions our students offered.
Conduct a survey to gauge the most valued and effective teaching style at the beginning of the semester
Many faculty members conduct a midterm survey, but many students asked for one at the beginning of the term. You can have an activity to ask your students to finish the sentence such as “I learn best in classes when…….” as we did last semester. This article “First Day of Class Activities that Create Climate for Learning” offers a lot of useful activities.
If you want to survey your students electronically and anonymously, you can use Moodle’s questionnaire function.
Provide supplemental materials in many formats including images and videos to cover the content from all angles
Provide the lecture materials before the class
Receiving materials before the class will allow students to better prepare for the class.
Facilitate students’ active learning
Many students asked for small group discussion & collaboration time during the class. Some students ask for time to reflect and write in class.
Record lectures with Panopto (lecture capture system)
Some students mentioned that they appreciate the use of Panopto, lecture capture system. The recordings are helpful when students miss classes or when they want to review certain materials later.
Offer Time outside the class
Many students mentioned the value of office hours and TA sessions. They also mentioned the value of outside the class tutorial sessions.
We gave students an option to participate in the survey via video.
Providing multiple means of representation is one of the main UDL principles. Some of your students will appreciate the use of Panopto, lecture capture system.
Here are several reasons to use Panopto.
- Students miss classes for various reasons.
- You might help a student who needs a notetaker.
- It is hard to listen and take notes at the same time.
- Students might want to review parts of your lectures later.
- Our students like Panopto! (feedback from students on Panopto).
- You can review your teaching or presentation style.
- You can make short videos to flip your classroom.
What can you do with Panopto?
- Record audio, a computer screen and/or video of the presenter.
- Record Powerpoint or Keynote slides.
- Add quizzes.
- Check the usage analytics.
Here are some best practices to create more accessible Word documents.
- Use Word’s built-in headings and styles
- Add alternative text for images and tables.
- Don’t use color alone to convey important information.
- Use meaningful hyperlink text (NOT “click here.”)
- Use sufficient contrast for text and background colors.
Providing alternative representations such as multimedia materials other than text for clarity and comprehensibility is a principle of UDL. Our students appreciate the use of visual materials. However, such visual representations are not equally accessible to all learners. If you use videos in your course, closed captions are essential for the deaf or hard of hearing. The benefits of closed captions go beyond access for learners with disabilities. Non-native speakers of English may appreciate captions too.
If you are looking for a video to use in your class, you can filter YouTube for videos with closed captions.
You can also use YouTube to add closed captions to your video.
From the video, you will learn how to:
- Turn on/off closed captions.
- Generate captions automatically.
- Edit the automatically generated captions.
Haverford faculty, staff, and students already have access to a YouTube account via gmail.
If you want, you can set the video as unlisted and share its URL only with your students.
- Do you often require your students to make in-class presentations? Do you think some students might appreciate an online alternative?
- Do you usually use text-only discussion in your class? Do you think some students might appreciate the ability to use multisensory modalities?
- Do you want to give your students opportunities to share constructive feedback on their classmates’ projects asynchronously?
If your answer to any of these question is yes, you might want to consider integrating VoiceThread into your classes.
What is VoiceThread?
- It is a multimodal and multisensory program.
- It is a cloud-based program. All you need is a computer or mobile device and internet connection.
- You can upload, share and discuss documents, presentations, images, audio files and videos.
- You can add comments on VoiceThread slides using one of five commenting options: microphone, webcam, text, phone, and audio-file upload.
- It can be used for asynchronous discussions.
- You can share your VoiceThread project with other people and invite them to add comments to it using the comment tools.
- It’s tied to our Moodle. So you do not need to create an account for it.
- You have an option to use the VoiceThread Universal version, which is screen reader enabled.
- You can upload captions to audio and video comments.
- You can download any finished project as a stand-alone movie file.
Instructional Technology Services in IITS is collaborating with ADS, OAR, Writing Center, and other departments to promote Universal Design for Learning (UDL). UDL is a framework that is useful in designing curricula that meet the needs of all learners. The UDL framework takes a one-size-does-not-fit-all approach to the curricula and it includes flexibility & alternatives and reduces barriers for all students to become expert learners. You can read about UDL Principles and UDL Guidelines by CAST, an organization that works to expand learning opportunities to all individuals using UDL.
For the rest of the spring semester, Instructional Technology Services will be sharing instructional technology weekly tips that align with the UDL guidelines: we will be focusing on easy-to-implement technologies. There are a lot of ways to implement the UDL guidelines without using any technology. Therefore, we will welcome any and all departments to join and share UDL tips from your area of expertise.
Week 1: UDL Tip of the week: Whiteboard App Explain Everything
Explain Everything is a mobile whiteboard app with an infinite blank canvas. With this app, you can:
- Add photos, videos, and other documents.
- Draw and annotate.
- Walk around the classroom interacting with students and explaining materials visually from wherever you are by projecting your iPad wirelessly.
- Record your voice as well as everything you write on the iPad and share it with your students after the class.
There are a few faculty members who have been using this app. You can watch the presentation Associate Professor of Classics, Bret Mulligan made at the last IITS Teaching with Technology Forum and learn how he has been using that app in his classroom.
Diversity in the classroom: Everyone learns differently.
Partnering with Office of Access and Disability, we are working to promote UDL (Universal Design for Learning) on campus. To find out our students’ preferred instructional methods and materials, we asked students to finish this sentence, “I learn best in class when……….”
Forty-five students shared their answers. You can see their answers below.
We encourage faculty to take a look at these comments in designing the spring courses. Sometimes a small change can make a big impact on students’ learning. For example, many faculty post lecture notes to Moodle after teaching a session. However, many students like to get lecture notes before class so that they can more easily follow along with the lecture. In fact, this preference to get class notes before class is one of the most common student requests we hear.
Whether or not you already take UDL principle into consideration, we ask faculty to try “Plus one” thinking: give one more alternative. (Of course, you need to make sure that the alternative does not change the objectives of the course.)
- If you give your students information in a particular medium, give it to them in one more way. For example, if you provide content in text, give it in a multimedia format as well.
- If you ask your students to work on an activity in one way, give them one more choice for how they do that. For example, give them a choice of working in a group in addition to working individually.
- If you ask your students to demonstrate their understanding in one way, give them one more way to do that. For example, if you ask your students to do a presentation in class, give them a choice to create an online presentation using a program such as VoiceThread.
We are happy to work with you in designing your spring course. Please contact us!
Here are the students’ comments.
Learning Preferences: Teach from all angles!
- The professor approaches teaching from all angles: incorporating many different learning styles. (lots of variety!)
- When I make things.
- The professor teaches visually.
- I have found visual aids to be a good way to facilitate the learning process.
- There are visuals and images throughout lecture.
- When my professors use visual aids!
- There are visual aids for me to follow.
- A teacher talks through a problem with me.
- There are study times to work on problem sets together.
- I am given problems to work on (either in a group or alone).
- The professor explains thoroughly and gives examples to work through in class.
- Given more problems that I work in groups.
- My professor is more of a facilitator than a lecturer.
- Class isn’t a lecture, but a group discussion to participate in.
- We have class discussions.
- In small group discussions with guiding questions.
- Classes where discussion is encouraged, but doesn’t take up too much of the time to be very appealing.
- We discuss the topic in groups.
- Smaller seminars are also very conducive to learning.
- The professor posts notes on Moodle BEFORE class… so that I can follow along.
- A bulk of information is given in increments, rather than receiving all at the same time.
- I have access to supplemental materials and there are a lot of examples given.
- The content of the class is self-contained and coherent.
- Faculty connect theory /readings to relevant contemporary happenings in the world today. (e.g. in Philly, through news/media/institutional/artifacts, etc.).
- The class is engaging and adapted to current events.
- Concepts are related in some way to my experience.
- When I study what I enjoy and not what I feel obligated to study.
- I’ve done all the reading…which I barely have time to do
- When the professor explains new materials in detail step by step.
Encouraged to speak up
- Encouraged to speak up.
- I am heard.
- My classroom environment allows me to feel comfortable to be wrong/say the incorrect answer.
- I am encouraged by my peers and professors to ask questions and work together.
- The course material is diverse and allows for different voices to be heard (people of color, LGBT, etc.).
- I feel comfortable asking questions and participating in class. This is usually when the classes are smaller in size and the professor is enthusiastic and available for office hours. (I second this one!)
- My classmates and professor are supportive of my ideas and also willing to push my ideas further.
- I feel the professor and my classmates respect my ideas and the professor makes sure to define terms before assuming we all know what he is talking about.
- I am challenged.
- My professors are organized and committed to challenging me.
- I’m challenged to see/am presented with a perspective that I hadn’t considered.
- I feel engaged by the subject, when I can be challenged by it, and when my engagement with it increases my understanding.
Physical Classroom Environment
- There is no background noise of high volume or frequency.
Engaging and Approachable Professors
- The professor is genuinely excited and passionate about the material!
- The teacher is engaging.
- The professor is engaging the class is interactive.
- My professors have extra office hours.
- Professors are approachable.
- Professors encourage students to come to office hours and ask questions in class.
- When my professors seem like they really care.
- I have found that having a continuous assessment of sorts to be helpful.
- Tutorials are available
- There are TAs
- Food is provided (I second this one!)
- The classes have breaks. I have a three-hour class, and I will lose focus when we don’t get breaks sometime.
- The pace of the class is not too slow or fast