FLC Road Show

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.

Our focus on this presentation was to talk about how to promote a culture shift from the negative view of accessibility: “unfunded mandate”, fear of litigation, worry of overwork, to that of a more positive view that is encompassed by UDL. We discussed how by implementing UDL practices into a course, faculty not only help those students with documented accessibility needs but also provide additional learning opportunities for all students. Think of the student who reads closed captioning while working out or a student that uses a transcript since English is a second language or any of the students out there with undocumented accessibility needs. By promoting a culture shift, faculty can come to see that small changes in the classroom can have big impacts on a wide-range of students.

Transcripts versus Captions

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.

One thing we touched on that I haven’t successfully included in my courses is the presence of transcripts in addition to closed captioning. For me, captions are relatively easy, since I record my lectures using a script. Then it’s just a few steps using the YouTube captioning tools to get the timing lined up properly. Transcripts are a different beast, though, because a true transcript should be able to be used as a stand alone document without the student needing to view or hear the video in anyway. This means that all parts of the video need to be described. Have an image on a PowerPoint slide? Needs to be described. Showing a data graph? Needs to be described. Presenting a clip of some animal behavior? Needs to be described. I completely understand the purpose of the transcript, but at the moment, it does seem a little overwhelming to imagine creating one for every video.

Does anyone out there have time saving best practices for creating transcripts?


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. 

The second session was presented by Andrew Vanden Heuvel and Jeff Gerlach from Michigan Virtual University and covered improving access to STEM content by using online learning. The majority of the time was spent rotating through stations that gave examples of ways to get student to engage with the content and get hands on experience with science using only household items. It made me wonder what types of activities may already be out there for neuroscience and got my brain thinking about ways to create some.

All in all a well spent morning.

Accessibility Presentation

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.

So I decided to try to sketchnote my blog post today to practice this skill a bit. My handwriting on the tablet could use a little improving, but overall I feel it hits on the main points.

Please see the linked text file in the blog post for a description

And to be accessible, you can read a text description of the image.


Faculty Learning Communitites

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.

Starting last spring, the FLC took on the task of creating a self-enrollment course on the university’s course management system, Desire 2 Learn (D2L). We worked with the MSU Web Accessibility Team to design a course that provides resources to faculty to help them navigate creating a new course, remediating an existing course, managing a VISA request, or learning more about the theories behind ULD and accessibility. If you’re an MSU faculty or staff and would like to check out our course, log into D2L, click on the “Self-Registration” tab in the top right corner, and then choose the Accessibility & Universal Design for Learning course. In addition to resources for accessibility, faculty can also request new tutorials if you have a need we do not address. We recognize requirements and resources change, so we plan to continuously update the course.