UDL

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a practical tool for guiding course design to ensure that every learner succeeds, based on scientific insights into how humans learn (cast.org).

As seen from the illustration below, there are three main principles of UDL, namely:

  1. multiple means of representations,
  2. multiple means of engagement, and
  3. multiple means of expressions

UDL

(image by Tianhong Shi, CC0)

There are many applications of UDL design principles in OSU Spring 2018 online courses.

A. Multiple Means of Representations as seen in BA 354 S18’s weekly content planning.

    • reading in text (Chapter 1 of Trevino and Nelson, Managing Business Ethics)
    • listening to podcast (Ponzi Supernova podcast audio from Radio-lab
    • watching instructor lectures in video (Course Introduction)
    • Watching complicated assignment explained in video and graphics:

B. Multiple Means of Engagement as seen in BA 354’s discussion forums and assignment feedback: 

    • Students submit Personal Ethical Action Plan Initial submission – Instructor provides feedback students incorporate feedback from instructor and submit final submission;

Instructor Feedback in Rubrics

  • Discussion forums: students post answers to prompts; students reply to peer classmates’ canvas discussion forum.

C. Multiple Means of Expressions as seen in BB 481/581 S18 and BA 354’s assignments:

  •  3d imageGraphic expression – Assignment #1: Create a three-dimensional image
  • VideoAudio/visual expression – Assignment #2: Create a video to explain what “reciprocal space” mean to you
  •  Text Textual expression – Assignment #3 & #4: Literature search & Quizzes & Discussions & write a letter to a relative to explain why the Fourier transform is so important to NMR spectroscopy
  • ApplicationTextual expression of application – Application type of project: Personal Ethical Action Plan

(Icons from SlidesCarnival’s Solanio template)

If you are interested in applying UDL in your courses, feel free to contact us at  to brainstorm possible applications together.

We all need people who will give us feedback. That's how we improve. - Bill Gates
Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft

In online education courses, providing effective feedback is essential. It’s can be easy to provide students with a number or letter grade on their assignments, but it is the additional feedback where the opportunity for student growth occurs. While there are many forms of effective feedback, there are 5 elements that can help you provide more meaningful and effective feedback regardless of the method of delivery.

  1. Give Timely Feedback
    • Timely feedback to students sends the message that you are engaged in the course and the student’s work. Having just finished an assignment, the student is also going to be more open to the feedback you provide because their work is still fresh in their mind. They have the opportunity to immediately incorporate your feedback into the next assignment, improving their overall performance going forward. Students in a master’s degree program were more likely to ignore feedback comments on their written work that were not provided promptly. (Draft & Lengel, 1986) Including a statement in the syllabus about your expected time of feedback on assignments, and sticking to it, helps students understand your timeline and will reduce questions to you later on.
  2. Start with a positive message
    • Creating a feedback sandwich (compliment, suggestions for correction, compliment) for your student pairs together both specific positive feedback and any elements the students should work on. The positive feedback encourages the student and prepares them with a positive outlook when hearing about areas that need improvement. Finishing again with positive feedback such as “I look forward to seeing your next assignment” tells the student that even though they have corrections to make, their work is still valued and that they can improve on future assignments.
  3. Use Rubrics
    • One of the best tools that can be used are rubrics. A detailed rubric sets clear expectations of the student for that particular assignment. While completing their assignment they can constantly check their work against what you expect to see in their finished work. Another benefit to creating the rubric is that you can use it to analyze their papers with that same criteria. Some instructors have found that by using a rubric, it helps to be more consistent and fair with grading. No matter if it is the first paper, the last paper, or if you might be having a good or bad day, the rubric helps.
  4. Give personal feedback and help the students make the connection between the content and their lives
    • Connection is key. Providing personal feedback to your students while helping them see the connection between the content and their lives will show that you have taken time to personally respond to them instead of using “canned responses.” Students who don’t feel as if the content in the class will ever relate to their lives now, or in their careers later on, will often lose interest in  assignments in general as well as feedback because they don’t see the connection. Getting to know your students at the beginning of the term assists in giving good personal feedback while helping them see the connection between the content and their life.
  5. Consider using alternative formats of feedback
    • Students are used to getting feedback in written form and while that format can be very effective, using an alternative way to provide feedback can be equally or more effective. They enjoy the personal connections that can be created through audio and/or video feedback. Students appreciate receiving specific feedback relating to the grade, rubric, and overall assessment. In fact, some students say that: “..video encouraged more supportive and conversational communication.” (Borup, West, Thomas, 2015) Give it a try!

By employing these strategies, your students will be appreciative of the feedback you provide and you might just get some fantastic feedback yourself. In one case, an instructor shared a great comment from one of their students comparing past courses to the instructor’s:

…I never received personal feedback [in some other courses]. Your course however has been wonderful. Thank you for putting so much time into each of your comments on my writing. I can tell you really made personal feedback a priority. You don’t know how nice it was to really know that my professor is reading my work.” The student goes further to say; “Thank you for taking your teaching seriously and caring about your students. It shows.

Getting personal and effective feedback like this should inspire you to begin or continue that great feedback!

 

References:

Borup, J., West, R.E., Thomas, R. (2015) The impact of text versus video communication on instructor feedback in blended courses Education Tech Research Dev 63:161-184 doi: 10.1004/s11426-015-9367-8

Draft, R.L. & Lengel, R.H. (1986. Organizational information requirements, media richness and structural design. Management Science, 32(5), 554-571

The instructional designers at Ecampus held a Research & Development Day recently to explore the topic of user experience (UX) design as it applies to Ecampus courses. As part of that day, fellow instructional designer, Dorothy Loftin and I explored how Canvas functions when used on Mobile Devices. Below are some findings from our testing.

Generally, we found that iPads work great as long as a student accesses the course through a browser. It was using the Canvas App (necessary on a smart phone) that presented changes and challenges in functionality. The good news is that many of these can be addressed with a few additions in course design. These additions should not significantly alter the experience for students who are using desktop and laptop computers. Today, I will present one of those strategies.

The most significant impact we experienced in using the Canvas App is navigation, how a student gets to content, activities and assessments. It can take quite a few clicks or taps to get to a specific page in Canvas using the mobile app, or to get from one page to another, and the navigation can vary depending on the device used. This may negatively impact the student user experience, distract, and generally increase cognitive load.

Navigation Strategy

One strategy to improve navigation is to provide alternate links for students to jump to commonly needed items in your course. Turns out, this can also benefit students who are on desktops or laptops.

The Home Page that I often use is immediately available for users on all devices. I have added links and buttons so students can jump directly to important sections of the course from here. This turns the Home Page into more of a landing page with quick links.

Page View in Desktop Browser Page View on iPhone
Desktop browser screen grab iPhone Screen Grab

The buttons take a student to the Module Page for a particular week. Module Pages, on the App, present students with links to all content and activities for that week. I limited the buttons to 3-across to make clicking them on a phone easier. As you probably notice, the App translates buttons into links. So, simply providing a list of text links would also work on multiple devices.

This Strategy to improve navigation can be used on any page where you want a student to be able to move quickly to new material, reducing frustration and cognitive load by making the navigational journey more immediate.

How to do it yourself resources:

By Christopher Lindberg

If you are considering developing an online course with Ecampus, you may be curious how you will translate your lectures to the online format. There are several effective online lecture presentation formats available to faculty. They differ in the type of video recording required and the kind of post-production work required after the initial recording.

Image listing 4 formats for online lecture presentation: Video, narrated lecture, light board, and interactive video.
Online Lecture Formats: Qualities & Complexity

Each of the presentation formats can be effective, however the more complex types can offer additional advantages for your students. Why should you consider producing the most challenging of the five online lecture formats? To answer that question, we need to understand what exactly an interactive video lesson is. Let’s start by first looking at a sample interactive video lesson used in a fall 2017 course titled The Biology of Horticulture (HORT 301). You can watch a four minute excerpt of the twenty-minute interactive video lesson by selecting the image below:

Still image from video of Dr. Ryan Contreras teaching using an interactive video lesson in the Biology of Horticulture (HORT 301).
Dr. Ryan Contreras teaching using an interactive video lesson in the Biology of Horticulture course. Select image to watch the four minute video.

As is seen in this excerpt the interactive video lesson has as its foundation a video recording of a Lightboard presentation. Layered over that recording are interactive elements that control video playback—sometimes pausing, other times auto-advancing to specific clips—or to progress through the lesson, trigger a student’s input of feedback, and, most importantly, increase the amount of student engagement in the lesson. In the case of HORT 301 the interactive element prompts the solving of a temperature indices formula. The base video could have been used by itself. However, it is the melding of the Lightboard presentation with the interactive feature that makes the interactive video lesson a highly engaging presentation for the online environment.

The model below proposes how the elements of personal and mediated communication immediacy are brought together to make an interactive video lesson a compelling experience.

Model showing proposing how mediated communication and personal communication of an interactive video complement each other in an interactive video lesson.

In this project instructional design, in conjunction with visual design, video staging, and interaction design, was focused on solving the issue of how to teach a self-paced formula-drive lesson in the online environment. The result is an interactive video lesson that presents as a unified visual space that fosters an actual “see through” psychological perspective. Although clearly a media production, this approach to online lesson presentation implies an unmediated learning experience.

It is enhanced by the camera literally seeing through the Lightboard glass to the instructor conducting the lesson fostering a sense instructor presence. This type of interactive lesson design is desirable because it presents classroom-like learning in a student-controlled online environment. The result is an interactive video lesson that is new in design format but familiar experientially.

Is Interactive Video For You?
A decision to adopt this approach to lesson design will likely be successful if you have a lesson that is formula driven. Certainly math subjects and many science subjects might benefit from this approach. Is it also applicable to humanities courses? Can you imagine teaching language, music, or poetry with an interactive video lesson? If you can, contact Ecampus. We would be glad to help you adopt this approach to lesson design for use in your online course.

Bright red and orange maple leaves against a blue skyResearch supports the value of online student-to-student interaction and building community among learners. Week 1 intro discussions—Let’s get acquainted. Tell us about yourself!—are a staple of interaction among students in online and hybrid courses. Can a Week 1 intro discussion that introduces students to one another also actively engage them in learning course content while building community with peers?

Karen Holmberg, Assoc. Prof. of Creative Writing, uses an “Interview Haiku” exercise in her hybrid WR 241 Introduction to Poetry Writing course that combines students introducing themselves and introducing peers while practicing the popular three-line poetry form.

After being introduced to haiku, syllable counting and marking stresses in the first week, Prof. Holmberg’s students interview partners during an in-class session. (In a fully online course, this step could be done through other means, for instance, in a Google doc or by text or email.) For these intro interviews, she provides a set of six questions such as “Describe your preferred environment: urban, woodland, seaside, desert, etc.?” and “What is your favorite animal and why?”

Text showing portions of interview questionsFollowing the interviews, students write haikus to introduce their interview partners to the class as well as haikus to introduce themselves. Imagine the challenge of introducing someone else, or yourself, in three brief lines!

Each student posts these two intro haikus in an online discussion. Then each student replies to another student by copying and pasting the other student’s two haikus in the reply box and counting and marking the syllables and noting the stressed syllables in the haiku. The instructor can follow up with her students by offering timely feedback individually and collectively through the discussion forum, through comments in the grade book, and in subsequent in-class discussions.

Looking for ideas and effective practices for online discussions that enable learners to share, comprehend, critique and construct knowledge?  Try The Art and Science of Successful Online Discussions.

Do you have an intro discussion assignment that engages learners in course content?

References:

Al-Shalchi, O. N. (2009). The effectiveness and development of online discussions. Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 5(1). Retrieved from http://jolt.merlot.org/vol5no1/al-shalchi_0309.htm

Palenque, S.M., & DeCosta, M. (2014, August 11). The art and science of successful online discussions. Faculty Focus. Retrieved from http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/online-education/art-science-successful-online-discussions/

Rubin, B., & Fernandes, R. (2013). Measuring the community in online classes. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 17(3), 115—136. Retrieved from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1018304.pdf

If you’re searching for an engaging, authentic, and personalized way to assess your students’ learning, consider developing an ePortfolio assignment for your online course. The benefit of ePortfolios, or digital collections of student learning artifacts, is twofold: you can formatively assess your students’ learning over time, and you can help your students craft a personalized, customizable end product that serves as both a networking tool and a professional presentation of their skills and abilities to showcase to future employers in a more humanized way than a standard resume.

There are multiple approaches to structuring an ePortfolio assignment. One method is to ask your students to gradually add to their ePortfolios each week. This allows you to assess your students’ work over the course of the term, and it allows your students to make meaningful connections between all of the learning artifacts they collect.

With any ePortfolio assignment, consider building in a reflection requirement to help encourage students to connect their learning. Reflection helps students make connections between what they learned, what they still hope to learn, how these things connect to the next course in a series, and how these things apply to experiences beyond their online class. Reflection is also an opportunity for you to encourage your students to connect the dots between their academic, professional and personal lives.

As a starting point, OSU’s College of Liberal Arts has some great reflection tips and questions for you to provide to your students.

Two Tools: Canvas ePortfolios and Google Sites

You will need to select a tool for your students to build their ePortfolios. If you are looking for an integrated tool in your LMS, consider Canvas ePortfolios. This tool is useful because it is not specific to your course, but rather specific to each Canvas user. This means each student can create as many ePortfolio sites as they wish, and they can continue to access these even after your course is over.

Canvas ePortfolios also eliminate the submit it and forget it experience with digital assignments; with a few simple clicks, students can quickly add assignment submissions they are proud of to build structured digital archive of their achievements throughout their online college experience. They can also export their ePortfolio at any time, meaning they could save a copy to take with them after they leave OSU.

Another option is a Google App called Google Sites, which is a free platform to build a website. All students and faculty have access to Google Sites with your ONID login. The benefit to using this tool is the flexibility of platform; students can apply a previously created template or build a custom site of their own.

When considering any ePortfolio platform, it is important to remember to play with the tool as an instructor to understand how the tool works and what the student experience will be like. Consider setting up a model ePortfolio to familiarize students with what you generally expect, but encourage them to go above and beyond to personalize their ePortfolios. This will empower students to engage with the process of customizing their collection.

ePortfolio Tool Resources

References

Miller, R., & Morgaine, W. (2009). The Benefits of E-portfolios for Students and Faculty in Their Own Words. Peer Review, 11(1), 8-12. Retrieved from https://www.aacu.org/publications-research/periodicals/benefits-e-portfolios-students-and-faculty-their-own-words

Barrett, H. (2011) Balancing the two faces of eportfolios. Retrieved from: http://electronicportfolios.org/balance/balancingarticle2.pdf

Looking for a simple way to evaluate whether your teaching practice is staying on track or jumping the rails?

Mark Francek, a Central Michigan Univ. geography professor, has devised a simple mnemonic to look at his teaching: CAR. Try it out; see if it works for you! There are three elements:

word cloud: community, accountability, relevance, CAR1 – Community: Building community within your class can pay dividends in terms of learner engagement, positive collaboration, and a supportive environment in which to work toward shared learning goals. Francek says, “promoting camaraderie and mutual respect in the classroom should be a teaching priority,” and that it’s incumbent on instructors to foster community. He also encourages instructors to consider how student learning can be applied to the broader community through service learning projects and activities.

2 – Accountability: The use of formative assessment throughout a course can aid in student accountability for learning. Frequent low-stakes assignments, such as weekly quizzes or brief reflective writings, not only help motivate students to move forward through the course content, but also give you significant feedback on student learning. This continual feedback gauges student learning is valuable information for a nimble instructor who can make course adjustments and intervene as needed to support learning.

3 – Relevance: It’s natural for learners to be drawn to subject matter and learning activities that appear relevant to their lives, their interests and their future careers. And course content can be more engaging to your learners if you take the extra step of showing them or, better yet, challenging them to show you, how the subject matter relates to their prior learning.

Although Francek’s CAR model is oriented primarily toward classroom teaching, it is every bit as meaningful in online and hybrid courses. Explore the ways that other recent posts here in the Ecampus CDT blog illustrate this by considering how each of these learning activities can build community, increase accountability for learning and/or make a course relevant to students:

Community, accountability, relevance. These three elements can benefit your teaching practice and your learners.

Reference: Francek, M. Let CAR drive our instruction. Tomorrow’s Professor eNewletter, 1449. Retrieved Dec. 15, 2015, from https://tomprof.stanford.edu/mail/1449

You send out announcements but do your students actually get them? You might wonder if you are doing something incorrectly or if they just aren’t reading them, but, you’ll be interested to know that Canvas allows notification preferences to be modified by the individual user.

Notification preferance list in Canvas
Click to enlarge

Each user has the ability to alter their notifications from Canvas and choose how, when, and with what frequency they want to be notified of several different activities. They even have the option to receive the notifications via text or a different email address that they might check more frequently! What these individual settings mean is that if they select that they don’t want any notifications at all, they aren’t getting news of announcement postings, posted grades, due date reminders, or discussion board posts.

In order to encourage your students to receive notifications, you might think about sending a start of term email with an example of the notification preferences you would suggest based upon your class and explain to them why these specific notifications will help them as the term goes on. In that same email, you can also direct them to the Canvas Guides with step-by-step instructions on how to set up notifications in Canvas You send out announcements but do your students actually get them? You might wonder if you are doing something incorrectly or if they just aren’t reading them, but, you’ll be interested to know that Canvas allows notification preferences to be modified by the individual user.

Each user has the ability to alter their notifications from Canvas and choose how, when, and with what frequency they want to be notified of several different activities. They even have the option to receive the notifications via text or a different email address that they might check more frequently! What these individual settings mean is that if they select that they don’t want any notifications at all, they aren’t getting news of announcement postings, posted grades, due date reminders, or discussion board posts.

In order to encourage your students to receive notifications, you might think about sending a start of term email with an example of the notification preferences you would suggest based upon your class and explain to them why these specific notifications will help them as the term goes on. In that same email, you can also direct them to the Canvas Guides with step-by-step instructions on how to set up notifications in Canvas

 

Child looking into mirror“We do not learn from experience… we learn from reflecting on experience.”

― John Dewey

Reflection can be a powerful addition to any module or course both for instructors and for students. Instructors can inform themselves about student learning and whether their teaching is effective. Students can deepen their learning through reflection.   Reflecting both on knowledge gained as well as areas of confusion can be valuable.

What types of reflective activities are of use in an online course?   Two of the simplest activities to incorporate in a course are the Muddiest Point activity or the One Minute Paper activity.   Both are short activities in which students answer questions after a brief reflection on their learning.

Muddiest Point:

  • What concept was the “muddiest” to you during this week, that is, which concept was most unclear?

Minute Paper:

  • What was the most important thing you learned during this week?
  • What important question remains unanswered?

Reflection questions can be general or can be more specific. An instructor may want general feedback on a module in the course or they may want students to reflection on a specific field experience, collaborative group project, difficult concept, lecture, reading, etc. Reflective questions can be general or specific.

In the online classroom in which there are many active learning opportunities, adding in extra reflection activities to an already busy schedule can seem overwhelming. One solution to effectively create reflection activities online is to use the Graded Survey option within Canvas (under Quizzes). Canvas will automatically give the student full credit for submitting the survey.

Reflection does not have to add significant time to the student’s workload, does not have to add significant time to the faculty workload, and can teach students the value of reflection which can be applied to their own lives and to their workplace.

Why Modular Course Design

The Course Development & Training team at Oregon State University Ecampus promotes modular course design in our online courses. Laura Crowder (2011) defines modular content as “a collection of learning resources developed as a single learning object”. The major benefits of modular course design include:

  • Saving time in the development and updating of course content
  • Modular components are easily repurposed across courses
  • Student learning is improved since the content is presented in smaller chunks

Modular Course Design in Online Education

Modular course design has been highly recommended by various pioneers in online education. Stephen Downes (Downes, 1998) stated in “The Future of Online Learning” that, “…Online courses will be modular. A course – especially from the designer level – will no longer be seen as a single unit, but rather, as a collection of component parts, each of which may be replaced or upgraded as the need arises.” Andrea Henne (Kelly, 2009) recommended that “modular course design benefits online instructors and students.” The Institute-wide Task Force on the Future of MIT Education Final Report (2014) suggests “an action plan that includes the goals to identify any new or existing MITx course that could be produced as modules; produce the “sticky” modules associated with these subjects; define a limited set of standalone (“smooth”) modules and produce these; put in place a well-organized repository of existing and new modules and define guidelines for building and credentialing customized courses.”

Modular Course Design at OSU Ecampus

With Ecampus’s move to Canvas, modular course design is even easier to implement. Our online courses are generally formatted into 11 weeks as 11 modules. We used a modular course design template for creating each week’s learning content, which includes:

  • weekly overviews
  • learning objectives
  • pre-quiz
  • assigned readings
  • lectures
  • resources
  • appropriate activities such as graded and non-graded assignments
  • discussions
  • assessments
  • post-quiz
  • wrap-up

Our template is very similar to Henne’s template (Kelly, 2009), which consists of learning objectives, see table 1 for comparison of the two templates.

ModularDesigncomparisonTable

Table 1. Comparison of Global Public Health – H 333’s course design template and Henne’s course design template.

This weekly modular template, however, should not limit us from organizing learning content into even smaller units within a weekly module. Here is an example of two modular learning content units within one week in Global Public Health – H 333. The highlighted boxes show two modular content units within Week 1.

ModularDesignScreenShot

Image 1. Screenshot of Global Public Health – H 333 online course Week 1 Learning module

Therefore, if you have a course that has heavy content within each week, feel free to break them into smaller learning modules instead of putting them together as a long big piece.

Enjoy designing and teaching online in Canvas.

References:
Crowder, L. (2011). How to develop modular content in 4 easy steps. retrieved from http://www.learninghouse.com/blog/publishing/how-to-develop-modular-content-in-4-easy-steps on July 28, 2015.

Downes, S. (1998). The Future of Online Learning. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, Volume I, Number 3, Fall 1998. State University of West Georgia, Distance Education Center.

Kelly, Rob. (2009). A Modular Course Design Benefits Online Instructor and Students. Faculty Focus. September 2009. Retrieved on July 24th, 2015 from http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/online-education/a-modular-course-design-benefits-online-instructor-and-students/

Institute-wide Task Force on the Future of MIT Education: Final Report, July 28, 2013, pp. 49–50.