At the beginning of the term, encourage students to tell you about any accessibility concerns. Include an accessibility statement on your syllabus and announce this during class early in the semester. Remind students that such conversations are confidential and are strictly for the purpose of facilitating any learning needs or accommodations that may be in place.
Make your lecture notes, slides, or other handouts accessible and available electronically to students before class. If you can’t post the notes before class, post them after class.
Have students take turns posting their class notes to a Moodle discussion forum or on your course website.
Think about the content of course readings, videos, and images and provide a warning to students if any of the content could be upsetting, traumatic, or triggering.
Make audio or video of your lectures available when possible. IITS provides several tools, including Panopto, to facilitate this.
Use different instructional methods to meet the needs of the greatest number of learners.
If you make an important verbal announcement in class, such as a change in venue or time, send it via e-mail or post it on the course website as well. The Moodle Announcement is a great tool for this.
Allow breaks during class – for students to move around, talk with one another, or just to relax quietly. Creating breaks also allows students to catch up on and digest what has been discussed.
Circulate note cards for students to write questions or comments, or to answer your questions, perhaps anonymously, and collect and address them.
Give students chances to comment on the lecture or presentation and thus to help revise it for next time—ask students how the class might accommodate them, but also create venues for all students to negotiate for change. One option is to set up an anonymous Google Form where students can submit comments or suggestions.
Allow self-paced assignments and assessments, whenever possible. Students learn at different speeds. If taking an in-class assignment home and completing it more slowly might increase student learning and performance, then offer this option to students.
Allow students to express understanding of essential course content in multiple ways. Diversify assignments or offer students performative options; Could an essay turn into a podcast? Allow students to demonstrate their specific talents (e.g. oral presentations, poster presentations, written assignments).
Consider flexible deadlines and scaffold large assignments into smaller tasks, with flexible intermediate deadlines. Provide guidelines for when particular stages or parts of the assignment should be completed, so that students can see what the different steps in a process might be.
Allow students to share draft work with you and with their peers, and then to revise.
Provide enough time between assignments for students to receive and implement feedback. Think about how much time your students need to complete assignments, and how much time you and your teaching assistants need to mark and return them. The most accessible and useful feedback is frequent, timely, and specific.
Help students form study groups or set up an accessible online forum where students can collaborate, share and evaluate each other’s work, either formally or informally.
Communicate about assignments as early as possible in a semester, and help students schedule and plan for them.
Clearly communicate your goals for each assignment to students. It helps students when they have the specific pedagogical purpose of the assignment so they can appreciate the reason you have given them that work. Have a discussion about your goals and desired outcomes, and help students understand how specific aspects of the assignment fit these goals.
If possible, choose accessible electronic versions of course readings. This will allow students the ability to convert the reading into the format required, whether they use a screen reader, an enlarger or other technology. The Libraries can help you find electronic versions of the materials you need. Please submit your request to the course reserves form.” If you need to scan a document, use the department’s current MFPs, which should be set up to automatically OCR documents.
When digital formats are not available, provide print material sufficiently far in advance to ensure that transcription requirements (for example, into audio-digital or other e-format, enlarged format or Braille) can be met in time. Be as precise as you can with regards to the texts and pages that will be used.
Make sure field trips and transportation are accessible to students in your course. Contact ADS to discuss any potential considerations and to seek advice on changes you may need to make; plan activities at accessible locations so that all students can participate, or, as a last resort, substitute an alternative activity with the same learning outcomes; Provide additional time for the activity and for transportation
As you may already be aware, Instructional Technology Services and the Office of Access and Disability Services have been working to further Haverford’s Universal Design for Learning initiative. Last week, we held a panel which aimed to bring a variety of student perspectives to the discussion. The panel, which was well attended by faculty, staff and students resulted in some very thoughtful conversation. Faculty moderators Ted Brzinski and Adam Rosenblatt helped to frame the discussion and inject some faculty perspective.
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.
We’re hoping to create a more comprehensive resource that compiles more student voices, but in the meantime, we welcome any suggestions that you might have.
Please feel free to contact us with any questions or concerns.
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
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 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.
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.
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.