by Randy Rebman
Teachers have an vast array of multimedia and hypermedia options that they can integrate into their courses and host on their Canvas sites. However, with the use of these tools there comes issues of user accessibility. Creating content that is not accessible can create an additional learning barrier for our international students. In this post, I’ll share some points to help teachers improve the accessibility of their course content design and delivery by drawing heavily on the resources from Portland Community College (PCC) and web accessibility guidelines.
PCC uses the following definition of accessibility on their page for accessibility instructional support:
“Accessible” means a person with a disability is afforded the opportunity to acquire the same information, engage in the same interactions, and enjoy the same services as a person without a disability in an equally effective and equally integrated manner, with substantially equivalent ease of use. The person with a disability must be able to obtain the information as fully, equally and independently as a person without a disability.
How to Improve Accessibility?
PCC outlines recommendations below that are recognized as best practices in accessibility as they follow the web accessibility guidelines WCAG 2.0 AA. You can also download the PDF version of PCC’s Web Accessibility guidelines.
- Use properly formatted headings to structure the page.
- Format lists as lists.
- Write meaningful link text.
- Create tables with column and/or row headers
- Maintain a proper reading order in documents, web pages and slides.
- Use sufficient color contrast.
- Don’t use color alone to convey meaning.
- Ensure that any action that uses a mouse, can also be completed by keyboard alone.
- Provide alternative text descriptions for images.
- Design clear and consistent navigation.
- Eliminate or limit blinking / flashing content to 3 seconds.
- Don’t require inaccessible applications be used.
- Optional materials must include a balance of accessible options.
- Write math and science equations accessibly.
- Include the Accommodations Statement in your syllabus and link to accessibility or assistive technology user information for software or web applications that are required in the course.
PCC also offers a number of tutorials for instructors to use in order to improve accessibility of course content. They include tutorials on using Google Docs, Microsoft Office Suite Applications, PDFs, audio and video and more.
At first glance accessibility guidelines can seem daunting. My advice to fellow instructors is to start with a specific type of hypermedia or multimedia that you frequently use in your courses. Do you often create PowerPoint Presentations and upload them on Canvas for your students? Then start by reviewing Microsoft’s step-by-step instructions on making your PowerPoint presentations accessible. By making these small changes in our content, we can gradually move toward lessening barriers in our content that we use in our courses and put on our Canvas sites. Improving accessibility will not only improve the learning process for learners, but it also demonstrates that as an instructor and on a program-wide level, you/we are committed to quality in your instructional materials.
by Randy Rebman
These sunny days have had me thinking of how I can get my class outside and out of their desks. In my advanced EAP listening/speaking course (051), we are preparing for the first listening quiz. Having taught this course before, I’m aware just how much of a shock the first quiz can be, so I wanted to prepare students for the types of questions they’d encounter and how they’d be expected to respond. In this blog post I’ll explain how I integrated two tech tools to create a more engaging lesson in order to get students prepare for their first quiz.
Prerequisite: Students had listened to a lecture from their textbook, took notes using the Cornell Notes technique and submitted their summary section of Cornell Notes in a Canvas assignment. They were asked to bring the notes to class for this lesson.
- A roll of tape: for taping up QR codes outside on structures near classroom building
- QR Code Generator: for creating QR codes based on similar quiz like questions
- MS Word Document: for pasting in separate QR Codes once they are created
- Socrative Account: for asking groups to upload their collective answers
- Transcript of Lecture that students listened to previously
Teacher Preparation Process
- Identify question types on upcoming listening quiz. I scanned through the listening quiz and identified the types of questions by what learning objective seemed to be tested in the test item. I identified the following types of objectives: identify main ideas, identify details, identify structure/topics/subtopics, and apply ideas to a situation/example that you are familiar with.
- Create sample questions from the lecture. I printed out the lecture transcript to save time and created my questions from different sections of the listening passage to have broad coverage of the listening passage. This would also favor students who took good notes. I numbered the questions and listed them on a google doc.
- Go to Socrative.com and create a new quiz. Create your 6-7 open-ended questions from the sample questions (you’ll use these later). Save your quiz and title it something like QR Code Scavenger Hunt Group Answers.
- Create QR Codes. I copied and pasted each question (including the number!) into the QR code generator. Once the numbered question is pasted into the QR Code generator, then you’ll have the option of saving it. I chose to save each one separately as a PNG file. Be sure that you name them base on the question number. For example, Question A/Question 1. Repeat this process until you have went through all your questions. I recommend 5-8 questions. This could differ depending upon how many objectives you are preparing students to do. I selected 7 because that seemed to give them enough practice to go through 2 main idea & 2 detail questions in addition to the critical thinking and identify structure/topics questions.
- Print out QR Codes. Once you’ve labeled your QR code png files, then you need to open up word documents for the number of QR codes you’ve created. Simply paste in each image into the word document. If you want to avoid confusion, label the MS Word Document with the question number as well (I’d do this next time were I to do this activity again).
- Create the Scavenger Hunt. In the past I’ve started the scavenger hunt in my classroom by having one QR code hanging up in the classroom, but then it seems students take too long to get outside. So this time I had a few of my students help me tape the codes to the statues that are outside of our International Living Learning Center (ILLC) building while I began getting my class setup for the activity. The key here is to have it close to the classroom, and not too far so that students will be likely to get lost or wander off.
- Create the group question sheet. This is just a simple worksheet where you ask the students to write their answers in the blanks (The questions are typically stored in their QR Readers on their phones, so there is no need to write them down). You can find the Question Worksheet that I created here. I had 17 students in my class, so I created 6 groups (6 questions sheets).
Class Preparation/Introduce Activity
- Write instructions on the white board or on projector/doc cam:
- Get into your groups (I grouped them by Marvel Superheroes for this activity)
- Collect your Cornell Notes and Summary from previous class
- Each group gets a Question Sheet
- Each group should have one or more person download a QR Code Reader on their phone
- You will use the QR code Reader to find the questions
- Use your notes to answer the questions in groups
- Emphasize that each student needs to have their notes. This is important. Their answers will only be as strong as their collective note-taking abilities are.
- Tell them to come to class as soon as they are finished and be prepared to share their answers.
Instructor Facilitation TIPS & Process
During QR Code Scavenger Hunt
- Be sure to help direct students to where they can first start finding the QR codes. Two of the students who helped me set up my QR codes were now in groups, so I instructed them to help any students who might need help finding their QR code questions.
- I also spend a little time walking around outside making sure that the groups have their notes with them. As an alternative, you can have groups return to the classroom once they’ve collected the questions and finish answering their questions and reviewing their notes in their groups.
Post-Scavenger Hunt/Transition To Socrative Activity
- Return to the classroom and project the computer and bring up your Socrative account. Select “Launch Quiz.” Make sure that the quiz is individual paced.
- As students begin to trickle back into the classroom, write the directions on the board.
- Directions for entering the Socrative Quiz:
- One student will complete answers for your group
- Go to Socrative
- Student Logon
- Enter your group’s name (My groups were all Marvel characters, so Spiderman, Thor, Hulk, & Daredevil each had their own group)
- Select Classroom: (This is where you the instructor write your classroom on the board). Mine, for example, is RANDYSCLASS
- Complete each question with the answers that your group came up with.
- If some groups finish early, hand out the transcript of the lecture and have them identify the major sections of the lecture. Then identify main ideas for each section.
- After students have entered their questions, end the quiz and go the results table of Socrative.
- Go through each question and explain which of the group’s responses would be acceptable on the quiz and which would not and explain why.
- Download the quiz and post on the Canvas site so the class can review the answers on their own.
Wrap Up/Debrief Questions
Here are a few ideas for how to wrap up/conclude the class. I wouldn’t suggest all of them. You may decide to focus on different questions depending upon your goal.
- Ask students for a Rose/Thorn for the QR Code Scavenger Hunt
- Rose: One thing that was positive/good about it/what you took away from this activity
- Thorn: One negative aspect/difficulty
- What did students notice about the level of notes that helped them answer the questions?
- Do you think the level of note-taking you did was good enough for answering the questions? If not, what do you need to change in preparation for the quiz?
- If your group didn’t answer all the questions, what kept your group from being successful?
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