Dr. Henley is the Web Accessibility Liaison in the MSU Neuroscience Program and is also a member of the Faculty Learning Community (FLC) on Accessibility through Creative Innovation. She recognizes the importance of giving all students the proper tools to engage with educational content. She has also seen how improving accessibility in the classroom can help all students, regardless of status of disability. A student having trouble with the content can read captions while watching videos to help solidify the points. Or busy students can read transcripts on their phone while they are on the go. Or students can easily find sections of course documents by using the header navigation instead of scrolling through. Accessibility practices benefit everyone.
Last week, as an add-on lunch event at the Making Learning Accessible conference, my FLC did a brown bag presentation on accessibility, Universal Design for Learning (UDL), and our D2L training course for faculty. We easily had 100 people attend, which was amazing, and we were able to share our message with a number of MSU faculty that we had yet to reach. Additionally, since we piggy-backed on the conference, we had a number of non-MSU folks in the audience as well, and we received really great feedback and discussion points from both populations of attendees.
Today I participated in a Lunch and Learn event at the Center for Language Teaching Advancement on designing accessible course materials. It was run by Kate Sonka and Dustin Defelise. It was a very interesting group because members ranged from undergraduates with little knowledge or experience in accessibility to those, like me, that have spent a decent amount of time creating accessible content to others that have a detailed knowledge of the WCAG 2.0 standards. I love when discussions involve a wide range of experiences and backgrounds.
I spent the morning at the 33rd Annual MSU College of Education Technology Conference. The theme of this year’s conference was equity in STEM, Computer Science, and Universal Design for Learning (UDL). The first talk I attended was presented by Nate Stevenson from Kent State on designing accessible learning with UDL. We discussed the principles of UDL and about how to think about if content creates barriers to learning for your students. For example, for some students get overwhelmed by the simple length of an assignment. This hit close to home because I tend to combine multiple assignments into one in my online classes. I am now going to reevaluate this decision. He also mentioned the book Design and Deliver by Loui Lord Nelson, which is a book I’d like to check out.
This week some members of my FLC presented at an MSU Academic Advancement Network (AAN; formerly FOD) Teaching and Learning seminar (formerly Lilly seminars). We had a great group of participants. I have recently been introduced to the idea of sketchnotes – where you draw your notes instead of simply writing words (think, infographic style). I am interested in learning more about this process, but I am also hesitant because I am rarely happy with my illustrations the first time through, and they do take me some time to complete. Combine that with the fact that I haven’t played much with combining text and drawing on my tablet, and there is going to be a learning curve.
Michigan State provides a type of professional development for faculty and academic staff called Faculty Learning Communities (FLC). These are small groups that meet monthly and focus on specific topics like academic integrity or enriching the international student experience. Last spring, I joined the FLC on accessibility through creative innovation. We are dedicated to creating and revising accessible materials for the online learning environment. By examining and implementing Universal Design for Learning (UDL) standards, we focus on not only how to improve our own courses, but also how to help other faculty wrestling with these same issues.