Foster M8 Where I have been and where I am going

This course has been a tremendous learning experience for me. Also, it has humbled me, because I have not mastered all the material. This is how it is for students, who like me, have all kinds of other commitments. But my biggest take home from this course is that I am much more appreciative of the educational rigor that online courses could be. I think the early emphases that we paid to the role of the social and community components necessary for good online courses was really eye opening. To tell you the truth, as a newcomer to online education, I thought it was just voice over powerpoints, incredibly ineffective. But there is a detailed attention to the learning outcomes, which I feel has helped my f2f classes. I did learn the value of getting to know each other, in terms of engaging with the course.

I have a very specific need – to help launch an online postmaster’s curriculum in midwifery by the end of December 2015. It is not exclusively up to me, but I am a key player. And I want it to work, and to be really good. I have entered the world of online learning and teaching. I still feel like a novice, though. But it has been great, thank you to Stephanie and to Leah, and all the classmates.

Module 8 Foster comments on UDL

  1. In your own words, describe your interpretation of accessibility and Universal Design for Learning (UDL), include the three networks in your brief response.

There are three elements in the UDL which are processed in different parts of the brain of the learner. First, there is the content or information that must be learned, and UDL stresses that this information should be presented in different ways since students learn in such different ways – this learning is processed from the posterior part of the brain. The second is the how of learning, the action and expression. This calls on the teacher to differentiate the ways learners can express what they know. This comes from the frontal lobe of the brain. Finally there is the affective component, the why of learning, how to stimulate interest and motivation. This is how to stimulate engagement.


  1. Describe a few things that you think you could do to increase accessibility in your classes. (It’s a work-in-progress, do not feel like it’s something that will happen all at once).

Although my classes already have a number of different ways of assessing student learning, (quizzes, tests, papers, presentations, narration), I never thought about trying to represent the information in different ways. Student clinical experiences are designed to allow students to apply what they are learning, but often this cannot be accomplished completely because one doesn’t have control over the exact kinds of experiences they can have. Of late in the health professions, we have been using simulation. This adds a kinesthetic component to learning, and it allows practice. I think I could take the same content and offer different ways to approach it. But this means we would need to try not to cover so much material. Another issue is offering more choice. So if people didn’t succeed on a test, there would be another assessment of another kind and we could pick the best of the two. As my students are HIGHLY motivated by grades, hey will go to great lengths to get a better grade.

  1. What are some questions that you have about this topic?

I find this topic interesting, but also daunting. For example, I have seen where you post things in Bb, as well as VT. I can get the information in different places. This is because some students may do better in one form than another. I had never considered this before, I always figured I had to learn whatever form was required of the course. My biggest question is if you really implement different ways of representing material, different ways of expressing it via student activities, and offering more choice, then you can offer less volume of content, no? I don’t see how you could offer the same amount of content. Maybe for online you could, because it just means lots more planning. But face2face it seems harder to do.

Drasin: M8 UDL

  • In your own words, describe your interpretation of accessibility and Universal Design for Learning (UDL), include the three networks in your brief response.

UDL reminds me of 508 compliance rules for web site design, but it goes a level deeper. Like 508, UDL is a framework of improving the accessibility of learning delivery, e.g. captions on photos, using pictures to represent concepts, and not relying on audio to indicate focus of the lecture. However, it goes beyond that in trying to make learning delivery more accessible by other types of learning, rather than strictly addressing disability issues.

  • Describe a few things that you think you could do to increase accessibility in your classes. (It’s a work-in-progress, do not feel like it’s something that will happen all at once).

With the visuals I use in presentation, I have tried moving more towards visuals, but I should (like I did in the video we made) try and visually focus on what I’m speaking to. In addition, adding captioning would help. At a more foundation level, I could structure my lectures in such a way that they are more easily broken up in their delivery so that they can be consumed as a large, or a collection of smaller, assets.

  • What are some questions that you have about this topic?

I would be interested to see research on if some of these activities actually improve delivery. In addition, I’m curious if it may detract from the lecture focus by trying to increase the universality. For instance, are some types of knowledge most effective in a way that is not easy to make universal. I’ve seen this in the 508 accessibility compliance area where some sites become less usable overall in order to make them more accessible to all.

  • Take some time to think about where you’ve been, where you’ve come and where you’re going pertaining to teaching in an online/blended classroom. Use images, videos and type of multi-media to tell your story. Describe what resources you have access to and what you think you will need to be successful.

This course has been an excellent course both reminding me of things I had been taught before, but also applying those principals in a practical manner. I did not go through a traditional doctoral program where I taught, nor am I an educator by trade, so I really enjoyed developing a syllabus, course structure, and mini-lecture. It’s also helped me realize just how much more I have to learn and I have to balance this with other needs. As timing would have it, I spent this weekend with a number of friends who are on tenure tracks and we discussed some of the principals in this class. While they all wanted to be better teachers, they also made it clear that their tenure progress was basically independent of their teaching quality. One even said that teaching awards can be looked down on because it means you are spending too much time on teaching and not enough time researching. This of course depends on the type of university you are at.


Dever -Module 8: UDL Yes and No

Part of me thinks that there is definitely something valuable to UDL and part of me says that UDL is a superlative that is impractical in the real world.

UDL, of course.

Yes, I think that it is important to provide learning opportunities for everyone.  In addition, it is important to attempt to design/originate and incorporate new and/or different methods of information transfer in order to allow the largest audience to become active learners and to benefit from learners’ contributions in return. Yes, I do think that incremental changes, design improvements, and varied stimuli can mean huge improvements for both individuals and learning communities as a whole.

How to overcome barriers to learning should be considered prior to the design of any class or instruction.  These barriers should be considered based on any potential learners who will be in the class and, if possible, considering any potential learners who will view public online or “legacy” material from the class: this is difficult and maybe come only in incremental steps.

Even incremental improvements are important because they can lead to a larger improvement when repeated or built on in subsequent modules of a class or subsequent classes. In addition, it is no secret even to those limited to simple observation that people are stimulated to learn, observe and understand in varied ways.  It is equally no secret that, in both social and education situations, even simple observation shows that people express their understanding of things in different ways and through different outlets – and at different levels depending on what outlet is available to them.  Therefore, the three “networks” of UDL can actually assist in course design as opposed to making course design more burdensome.  Meaning, when an instructor is considering designing a course, they can utilize the three networks to engineer which technologies to use for presentation of particular material, organize different methods to assess/allow evidence from the learner as to understanding/appreciation of the material, and communicate the actual value of the material (i.e. who, what, why).

An example of this is evidenced by the amount of participation on various assignments in this class. The material in the modules was presented in different ways and using different technologies.  The assignments and types of stimuli brought about varied amounts of participation and quantity and quality of responses (true, life situations also influenced this). Questions, responses to peers, video replies, etc, gave a brief glimmer of insight as to which stimuli worked with this target audience.  In addition, several of my fellow learners through both group activities and individual responses mentioned their preference and general level of stimulation from different sources.

UDL Really?

No, I don’t think that principles that apply in one industry can be directly applied to another in every case, or even in most cases. The idea set forth by CAST and in our readings that a universal design for learning will eventually be devised to stimulate all learners is a lofty goal at best and a practical impossibility at least.  The example given in several places including the CAST website video is to state that a building designed for those who have the most difficulty obtaining access and getting around is in the end the best design – because it allows access and functionality to the largest number of people. I realize that this is an example or metaphor for how a principle that may work in architectural design can relate to a principle that may work in education design. However, this principle in architecture is actually only applicable to some extent even in public buildings under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and/or to those designers with the best intentions: meaning, a universal design that will be the best breakdown barriers for all and to be able time wise and practically address every physical and mental limitation is not realistic.  Am I saying that improvements should not be made or that we shouldn’t try to overcome as many barriers as possible because we cannot obtain perfection? No. But what I am saying is that the danger in completely adopting UDL, or at least thinking that it is necessary to come to a Universal Design to the diminishment of alternative/specialty classes or not meeting the learning potential of a number of individuals, is that we may make things so time laborious and frustrating that learning that could be accomplished is so severely diminished that UDL is impractical. In addition, though it may seem politically incorrect or not progressive or the “separate but equal” trap, but there are practical and compelling reasons for specialty classes or courses and not universally inclusive instruction – and they are not prejudicial reasons.  Rather, many times classes set up to address specific learning disabilities or physical limitations can be extremely beneficial to specific learners when compared  to “accommodations” made to “mainstream” classes because of extra attention and/or specialized instructional methodology.  For example, when I have taught sight-impaired learners, the assessment/feedback I received was that familiarity and instruction specifically targeted to the sight-impaired allowed a “deeper learning experience” than a mainstream class that accommodated the sight impaired.  My comment: the amount of design and actual instruction that I was allowed to provide for the “specialty” sight-impaired class would have diminished the learning experience for “normal sighted” learners because it was so heavily geared toward the sight-impaired learner. Further, specialty technology such as high level screens and visual imagination actualization that have grown out of specialty learner needs might either arrive much slower or not at all if we are strident about UDL (and therefore greater mainstreaming).

So where does this leave me with UDL?

I do think that learning and instruction should be available and be a rich experience for as many potential learners as possible.  Instructors should design and attempt to provide multiple stimuli through as many different technologies as practical to enhance their online learning experience. It is also my contention that classes should utilize the principles of universal design only to a practical level and should be based on an appreciation of the target market for the class – and used in combination to get the same level of learning and rich experience when augmented with “specialty” classes.

Mackenzie’s M8 Reflection

  • In your own words, describe your interpretation of accessibility and Universal Design for Learning (UDL), include the three networks in your brief response.

Universal Design for Learning reminds me of the multiple intelligence theory that was popular about 7 years ago. I am glad that the idea of addressing multiple ways of learning, understanding barriers, and needs is still out there.  I define it as a means to develop curriculum that addresses a variety of learners in the planning stage.  In other words aspects of diversity and needs should be put in the front of the planning process, not an afterthought.  In my course I am designing, I would like to put in a stronger narrative of why they need to improve their English. All the students engaged with ELSP have been accepted as PhD students, the question is, why do they still need to work on their English? I think if I can tap into this, it will help them stay motivated for longer. I think also bringing in their fields of study is really important to maintain engagement.  Regarding representation, I have started to include additional videos and handouts from other institutions to supplement my teaching.  I strongly believe that if you hear a concept from many people and in a few different ways, it can really help.  Also, including some video can break up the monotony of always looking at the written word.  Finally, the area the needs the most work, Action/Expression.  Since I am working on a writing class the product is writing. I am having some challenges in thinking of other ways students can demonstrate their writing knowledge without just writing, but I hope maybe you all have some ideas!

Describe a few things that you think you could do to increase accessibility in your classes. (It’s a work-in-progress, do not feel like it’s something that will happen all at once).
A challenge in a writing class is what other types of material would be good beyond just writing. I think I could introduce more graphic organizers to help students write and analyze.  I also think introducing some text to speech software could be useful.  Here is one my colleague uses: . These are a few things that I think could help.

  • What are some questions that you have about this topic?

I feel like we could have an entire class on this topic, in particular areas of disability. The article “Improve Accessibility in Tomorrow’s Online Courses by Leveraging Yesterday’s Techniques” was really exciting because it not only described the problem, but also provided some solutions. I feel often I do not have enough solutions for students with disabilities. I still feel really uncertain in this area.  How would I provide a language class online when a student is blind?  Or what if they are an ASL speaker, they have the right to learn English as a second language, how would I manage that?

Further, I feel this area is really developed by K-12. From the videos and readings I saw the altruistic view of inspiring learners and tapping into their various interests, but at the graduate level, I don’t know how much of this translates. Sometimes what we do has to be done rather than just relying on tapping into the learner’s interest. Although we take that into consideration, it is hard to teach prepositions in this way..some folks are just not that into language learning.

Finally, I do have a fear of losing all the work. Crafting lessons so that they address a number of students is wonderful. But what happens when that webpage goes down?  What if a student gets a new computer and cannot access an old site? I do have some questions about what we can do about that.

  • Take some time to think about where you’ve been, where you’ve come and where you’re going pertaining to teaching in an online/blended classroom. Use images, videos and type of multi-media to tell your story. Describe what resources you have access to and what you think you will need to be successful.

I think before I took this course my view of online teaching was this: A curious user.  I enjoyed playing around with online learning tools but did not have a lot of framework or purpose in using them.  Powered with the new tools from this course I want to make things that will resonate with my students. Ideally I would like to avoid this type of reaction by selecting a technology tool that will reveal my age

However, I know when I consider my audience, get regular feedback and listen I can create lessons and curriculum that will engage and achieve my objectives.  I hope to develop a pronunciation course this summer for learners who are unable to attend regular classes.  I know this will be one of the materials I use:

Our department will benefit from the ample materials already online to support language learning, but I am certain we will need to develop materials to address the needs of graduate students.  I do believe there is a lack of materials the higher the level you go, so we will have our work cut out for us.


Buster M8 Reflection

My interpretation of accessibility and UDL is a pre-emptive effort to implement accessibility standards in the course at the design level, rather than making changes to it later based on individual student needs. As pointed out in Rose and Gravel, many of these measures designed to increase accessibility, such as providing captions for audio, not only benefit students who require captions, for one reason or another, but might actually increase the comprehension of students without these special needs (Technology and Learning, 4-5).

A few things that I could do to increase the accessibility of my online course:

    • In the course of a video lecture, I could be sure to describe any information that appears on a visual aid. This would help students who are visually impaired to receive this information that a sighted student would be able to see easily.
    • I could enable OCR on any pdf materials, making them easily read by screen readers.
    • I could easily provide closed captioning for these videos as well.

One question that I have about accessibility, that would be university-specific, is how to communicate the measures you have taken to make your course accessible. It would be beneficial if there was a short of shorthand in describing a course that indicated it had been designed with particular needs in mind. This way, if a student had reservations about signing up for a class due to a perceived difficulty, they might be more encouraged to take the class when they see that particular accommodations have already been made.

For me, this course was about familiarization. By being introduced to a wide variety of available technologies and encouraged to employ them to a limited extent, if I was asked to construct an online course or to transform a f2f course into an online one, it would not be an overwhelming project. I know where to begin. I have even thought of some important strategies to implement in the new course. I would feel competent to volunteer to teach an online section of a course in my department and would have a good estimate of the prep time that would entail. It is always that first “jump” into the water that feels the coldest. Once you are immersed in a world, in this case, the world of online teaching, it is no longer as much of a shock!


OER for teacher Educators

I was somewhat familiar with OER before this class.  I have heard a lot about online MOOCs but I was not using OERs.  I found one specific OER that I felt would be especially valuable for teacher educators and that was the “Open Education Consortium” as this site offered access to a variety of information that related to education based on various fields. I think that OERs will be especially useful for the following reasons: they offer and opportunity to prepare students for the course or to introduce students who are behind to new material; OERs also can provide entire lessons if they are fitting for the topic that week; OERs allow students to learn from various instructors who will likely differ in their approach and goals which consequently exposes students to more information. I have not given much thought to the constraints of copyright when delivering content but this module has pushed me to think more critically about my intellectual property especially when classes/lessons are recorded…

Foster on OERs – useful for creativity which inspires engagement

I heard about OERs when my Emory faculty colleagues Erin Lepp and Weihua Zhang encouraged me to join their team last May to learn about OERs. I was so busy I could not attend all the sessions, so I only understood it piecemeal. But now we are committed to completing an OER about service learning and community engaged learning for Emory, or elsewhere. I am still sort of flying in the dark as we develop it.

So I ended up choosing the Hewlett Foundation Database from the Read+Resources area. In their OERs that are about global development, I found an OER about unsafe abortion that would serve  very well for my maternity as well as my birth and global health class. This is the link:

I can see students viewing them, making them, remixing them, as long as they follow the licensing rules by Creative Commons. There is a lot of room for creativity while learning.

I have used Course Reserves for students to link to important readings. But I have not paid much attention in the f2f classes regarding videos or images. I know for the online environment this would need to change.

I am excited to encourage everyone including myself to use the Creative Commons databases. But this is new shift for me, so I will keep at it.

Buster: Reflections on OERs

I was aware of OERs mostly through searching the net for resources, but I had not yet so carefully defined their legal status. I also regularly check what courses are available for free that have audio components I can listen to while driving.

Christine Hayes’ course on Intro to the Old Testament available in Open Yale Courses contains both interesting video lectures as well as a syllabus which would be a very helpful starting point in developing an Old Testament course.

One of the primary uses that I see for OERs is to ensure that you are not continually “re-inventing the wheel.” Especially as a new professor, you can spend far too much time creating resources (syllabi, multimedia) from scratch, instead of modifying what is already available. It is also valuable simply as the curating of resources for students. Students know how to find things on the internet, but providing or encouraging the use of OER, encourages them to become more responsible consumers of line material.

I confess that I have been less concerned about copyright than I should be. I do not disseminate material that is copyrighted. So, for instance, if I use a video clip, I don’t include that on the powerpoint that I make available to students. But I far too often consider myself under “fair use” just because I am using the material in an education setting. I know that is too naïve, especially when so many classes are now being recorded. This makes OERs all the more valuable as they often indicate their licensing status and I can use them freely in educational settings.


OER – Once again, the challenge is too much, not too little

While I had not heard the term “Open Educational Resources (OER), I am familiar with using publicly or open-licensed content. We have actually been having a lot of conversations at work about how to distribute learning both to students and staff in a manner which is consumable. There is so much valuable content available, both in terms of scholarly open-journals, as well as lectures, quick-videos, etc… Our challenge right now is actually to cull through the content and find the content type which best suites the audience and context.

Searching through some of the databases I found a number of useful sources which would make a nice companion for some of the context I already have (e.g. I was quite impressed with the sheer volume of content and found it a bit overwhelming. I know I only scratched the surface with a few searches.

I can see a lot of value in have relatively easy (and free or cheap) access to content, especially from highly regarded sources. Certainly having content which has been deemed appropriate at a peer-institution helps a lot with having confidence in the source material. However, one possible downside of this is instructors becoming over reliant on others to do their research and themselves losing touch with the source content. Another challenge I see with the copyright rules is making sure the rules are maintained as they are borrowed from one source to another. For instance, those who deliver content to both public (university) and private (professional workshops) need to make sure they are following the rules of the content.


Joseph Drasin