“Universal design is the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design” –Ron Mace, NCSU Center for Universal Design
A fundamental of online instructional design is that learning materials should be accessible to all students. Ecampus works closely with faculty to ensure accessibility of course content for everyone. For example, since some students cannot hear an audio track on a lecture video, it’s essential that a transcript of the narration or closed captioning is provided.
Martha Smith and Gabe Merrell are OSU campus leaders in universal design and accessibility, and frequently discuss universal design for instruction with OSU faculty and staff. Martha is Director of Disability Access Services, and Gabe is Senior Accessibility Associate and Deputy ADA Coordinator in the Office of Equity and Inclusion. They note that the principles of universal design offer guidance for the design of every element of an instructor’s “toolkit,” from syllabi to presentation of content, course activities and assessments. They point out that universal design benefits all learners. For instance, some students who can hear the audio track on a lecture video find that they learn more if they take a few extra minutes to read the companion transcript.
Gabe and Martha emphasize the importance of considering universal design up front in the development of teaching materials, instructional methods and means of assessing student learning. This is the approach the Ecampus Course Development and Training team takes with online and hybrid course development. As Ecampus serves an increasingly diverse student population, universal design enhances learning in the online classroom.
How can we encourage online students to engage with the world? A few Ecampus instructors have found a great way to get their students to go out in their communities, observe, and report back information to the class. How? Field notes.
What is a field note? Field notes can contain a variety of information but typically field notes are written out in the field or immediately after stopping the experience. They contain detailed observations including the dates, times, sights, sounds, smells, weather conditions, who was with you, feelings, drawings, questions that have risen from the experience as well as any other observations.
How did they do it? Lets dive into two different class examples.
Bruce Shindler, a forestry professor here at Oregon State University teaches a course about Managing at the Wildlife-Urban Interface. Students watch videos from the field and take notes on what they see/hear and begin to answer questions about what they would do, what they think should be done, and what is currently done to manage the Wildlife-Urban Interface. These experiences are done online, but the field notes from the videos are a great way to have students pay a great deal of attention to the video rather than only listening.
Stephanie Jenkins, a philosophy professor here at Oregon State University teaches a course that requires students to experience a Phish concert either in person or via a live webcast. Students are required to take field notes for the concerts either while watching online or immediately after a live, in person concert. Data can include any of the above mentioned items and students are then asked to identify a theme, idea, event, or improvisation that they saw in the concert and found interesting and use that in a written response. In that response, they are to incorporate the readings from the class and the field notes from their experience.
As you can see, these are two different classes in two different fields that both used the concept of field notes in their courses. You too can choose the idea of field notes and bring it into your course. A little bit of innovation and the willingness to try something new is all it takes.
Occasionally in my work with faculty I find them wanting to reproduce a brainstorming session activity from the brick and mortar classroom. They want students to ‘shout out’ ideas, arguments, or topics and create a list so that everyone can participate and the best ideas can ‘float’ to the surface. There is value in pooling ideas to generate all possibilities given the varying background knowledge of students.
In OSU’s learning system, Blackboard, there are tools such as wikis and discussions that can allow students to generate ideas but these tools don’t always have the options needed to take the ideas and vote on them and have the class decide which are the best.
So one alternative option is the free digital tool Tricider. Tricider is an efficient online brainstorming and polling tool.
I stumbled across Tricider as I do many tools by reading popular educational technology blogs and bookmarking my favorites, examine any limitations it may have, and then I use it in my own online classroom. After the first term of using it, I found that Tricider required few instructions, did not require a login by my students, and was simple and intuitive to use. Those faculty that use this tool find that it is the only tool that really does what it does.
When would you want to use Tricider:
In an icebreaker activity
To brainstorm and collect ideas (class or small group)
To brainstorm solutions and list pros/cons of each
To brainstorm ideas and vote on them so the favorites rise to the top
Have small groups brainstorm and share or compare/contrast their ideas with others
How to get started?
Go to http://tricider.com, create an account if you want to be able to revisit your “questions”
Type in a question and click on Go
Change the deadline if you wish it to be open more than 14 days
Click on Share and Invite
Copy and paste the URL anywhere that your audience can access the link
For every concept you want to convey, there is a scale of understanding (from those who’ve never heard of it, to those who have PhDs in it). In many cases, those who really understand something well have trouble putting themselves into the shoes of others who are just setting out to learn it. This is why it is often hard to give a stranger directions when they don’t know the local streets or landmarks. The key to good explanation is: empathizing with your audience.
In May, I had the pleasure of seeing Lee LeFever speak at WebVisions 2013 in Portland, Oregon. His session, “The Art of Explanation,” was about crafting explanations in video form and it delivered my favorite takeaways from the show. I’d like share a few of these juicy insights with you, because they inform my multimedia work for CDT. Continue reading →
Have you ever wished you could record whatever you are doing on your screen while narrating? Well, doing so is becoming easier every day. Screencasting means recording your screen, or an area of your screen, along with a recording of your voice.
Screencasting has become insanely easy because of new online tools. You don’t need to download any software or deal with any files. Your recordings are saved on the internet, so links are the way you share your screencasts.
When would you use a screencast? The most common use is to demonstrate how to use a website or piece of software. You can also open up a free online drawing tool and sketch something to demonstrate a concept as you are explaining it. Some instructors demonstrate how to submit assignments for their online classes. Others like to use screencasts to speak to their online classes about news stories or articles that are relevant to the topic at hand that week. Screencasts using these free tools can be used for “mini lectures” or informal content. Ecampus can help instructors build more formal lecture content using professional tools such as Adobe Presenter or Camtasia.
How does screencasting work? First, you log into an online screencasting tool such as Screencast-O-Matic or Screenr, click the “Record” button, and start recording! When you are finished, you will be given a link which you can paste into your course or an email. The steps are demonstrated in greater detail in the walkthrough below, as well as links to some of the tools.
Audio is just as important, if not more important, than the video. Most people are willing to tolerate bad video if there is good audio, but not the other way around. Ecampus has wireless lavaliere mics (the little black mic that clips on to your shirt) that can be checked out with the camera to capture good audio.
2. Consider your Background
What is the background of your video is just as important as the subject of the video. Avoid windows in the background or shooting with the sun at your back. Flip cameras have no control over exposure so they adjust according to the brightest light in the frame. If you are shooting in your office with your back to the window, the camera will adjust to the light outside which will make you, the subject, really dark and underexposed. Also make sure there are no plants, pillars, signs or anything right behind your head or that “split the frame in half”. These are common distractions that pull focus away from the subject
3. Keep the Camera Steady
Handheld, shaky, video is very distracting. If you have a tripod, use it. Ecampus has small, desktop tripods, which work well for placing the camera on a table or shelf.
4. Here is a link to the OSU guidelines on shooting video http://oregonstate.edu/brand/video-best-practices
There are many ways to get engaging discussions started in a discussion board, but my favorite is to have students make something to share with their classmates as discussion starters. The tools students can use to create many types of presentations have become incredibly powerful and easy to use. These tools range from the more traditional presentation tools such as Prezi and Google Presentations (part of Google Drive) to the more creative such as slideshows in Vuvox or Animoto, interactive digital posters such as Pinterest or Padlet, animated cartoons with Go!Animate, or digital multimedia timelines with myHistro. Having students create things to share with classmates leverages the “write” part of the read/write web (also called web 2.0) to turn students into producers of content rather than consumers of content. This also creates a greater sense of student ownership of their own learning, especially when they are free to select the tool with which to create their discussion starter. Best of all, it reduces the likelihood that after half of the class has posted their thoughts in the forum everyone else struggles to come up with something new to say—usually ending up saying exactly the same thing with different paraphrasing. The accessibility of Web 2.0 tools varies. Giving students a choice of tools to use is a recommended approach; instructors seeking to create content for online courses should consult with Ecampus for recommendations about accessible tools.
Here is an example of what a typical set of assignment instructions might say: Part 1: Create a presentation addressing your assigned topic using Prezi, Google Presentation, or Vuvox. Part 2: Post a link to your presentation in the discussion board by clicking “Create Thread”. (Due Wednesday of week 1) Part 3: Read at least 5 classmates’ presentations and give in-depth responses. Respond to classmates’ presentations which have the fewest responses. (Due Friday of week 1) Part 4: Read the responses you received from your classmates and reply to each one. (Due Saturday of Week 1)
Do you find yourself typing the same thing over and over?
Do those fingers and wrists hurt after typing the same comment on every student paper?
I’ve got a solution for you!It doesn’t matter if you are a Mac or a PC, you can find a program to create shorter statements for you to type and have your computer input the entire comment for you.
For Mac users, aText ($5 after free trial) allows you to create a typed code of your choice in order to input a longer statement.For example, you choose to type “zzchoice” and the program would put in “I like your choice of voice here.I can hear that you have thought about the content and used the knowledge in order to form your response.”This allows you to give expanded feedback to students in their papers without typing that same statement 30 times.This program runs in all applications as well, making email responses quick as lightning too!
Just think of the possibilities for the time you can save with a text expander program!
Are you looking for a new way to engage your online students without leaving your Blackboard course site? Consider using a wiki, blog, or journal! Wikis allow your students to collaborate on a single document within Blackboard and you are able to track their participation. This is a great tool for brainstorming, collecting research, or producing a student-created FAQ or glossary.
A blog is meant to be a place where students can post their opinions or climb on a ‘virtual soapbox’ and deliver a message. There are opportunities for others to comment, but the focus is on the initial posts and what the student had to say.
A journal is usually intended to be used as a private space for reflection. It is a space that can only be ‘written’ on by the student and the instructor, although you can control whether the rest of the class can read each others’ journals or not.
Sometimes using a different tool for a week or two gives the students a break from the traditional discussion board routine – -and that in itself can improve student engagement in a class. Instructions for setting up a wiki, blog, or journal are found here.
You or your students might encounter a bug when playing Adobe Presenter lectures where the audio track will not produce any sound or “No Audio” will be displayed. Try re-installing flash and playing the lecture again, if that does not prove success then try this workaround:
Open up a youtube video on a new window.
Play the youtube video.
Now reload the Adobe Presenter lecture, audio should now be playing.