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!
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.
2. Learning-Centered Assessment: After reading the provided resources on self-evaluated and self-directed heutagogical learning, describe your initial thoughts about designing an entire online/blended course or even just an assignment around these ideas/methods. Will you (or have you) consider these approaches? Why or why not? If so, briefly outline your idea(s). The resources that were provided to you were just a start. Feel free to research more to gain additional traction on these types of assessment.
I remember a great English teacher of mine who in the course of our English class gave one great editing tip: go through your paper and change all of the passive constructions to active constructions. After struggling to improve my writing in high school, this tip was just the first of many that empowered me to take constructive steps in editing my own work. The self-evaluation strategies remind me of this particular empowering experience as a student. Students often view evaluation in the humanities as “subjective” and creating rubrics in the classroom (teachers grade with rubrics after all!) would seem to both show the student that there are concrete things to evaluate and improve.
I could see myself incorporating this method into particularly teaching research papers, a core assessment in the religious studies classroom. Things that students might be able to evaluate themselves are the presence of unfounded claims. I have given students a variety of “phrases that indicate evidence” (this claim is based on” etc.) before, and students could definitely learn to critique the strength of their own arguments. I could envision an assignment where students mark where particular claims need more evidence in their drafts themselves, and the next assignment is to list where you would go to find evidence to support those particular claims.
Another important aspect of self-assessment is that many of my students are training to become professional clergy. In this setting, there is often very little immediate management of things like sermon quality. The student needs to be able to ask themselves if the claims they are making from the pulpit are supported theologically and exegetically! In this way, learning how to self-assess during seminary would be an invaluable skill.
Self-direction heutagogical learning is several steps above and beyond the very instructor-guided process of self-evaluation. I admit it is much more intimidating to think how to conceptualize myself as the instructor of a course that is so drastically student directed. My first caution about this model is the great variation in skill that I am confronted with in the classroom. How do I design a student-directed model when some students are gifted researchers and some don’t know what research is? This is, of course, also a problem in the f2f classroom! But I am much more familiar with the model of lecturing to create a common base of knowledge, than in navigating what it looks like to “set students loose” to be in charge of their own learning.
One way to integrate this into the seminary setting might be to focus on the “Student as Producer” model (http://studentasproducer.lincoln.ac.uk/). The students that are being trained in a seminary will go on to be producers of theological knowledge in their own contexts. Perhaps an assignment where the student must develop a Sunday school curriculum would encourage them to identify gaps in their knowledge and address those gaps themselves. This would also mimic what the students will be required to do in “real life,” and thus also fits the parameters of “authentic assessment” (http://jfmueller.faculty.noctrl.edu/toolbox/whatisit.htm)
My motivation to want to teach in an online classroom is threefold. First, as many have already noted, online teaching is an expanding sector of academia, and so I would like to be equipped to participate in that in a constructive way (and not just because the times dictate I have to!) Secondly, in my field of theological education, the student body in the US is decreasing, while the demand for quality theological training is increasing to the South and East. While some face to face interaction is valuable, I believe, particularly in the training of clergy, enabling students to complete the majority of a degree online increases the availability of this knowledge. Finally, I would like to be proactive in exploring the possibilities of online teaching as a young scholar, instead of being forced to “learn a new language” when my department decides to move classes from face to face to online platforms. I hope that this “pre-thought” will be beneficial to my future students.
As deNoyelles et al (2014) note, teaching presence is crucial to a successful online classroom experience. In my previous roles where a great deal of communication took place in asynchronous communication environments (online discussions; email; etc.), communication has generally been successful and maintained a consistent relationship between teacher and student. This was always balanced, however, by in person interaction, whether in the lecture hall or in the types of spontaneous interactions that can take place when you share a campus space. This translates into my area of concern, shared by many, that it is difficult to communicate the engagement with and excitement for the subject matter that proves so beneficial in my own teaching. Online classrooms require that the student generate the enthusiasm for the material themselves, whereas in the classroom, the shared focused space can serve to make the instructor’s enthusiasm contagious. This is also an issue with the required responses necessary to gauge student participation. In a classroom setting, you can ask a question if you have one! In online classrooms you are often required to continually respond in several ways. Some students benefit from this, while this translates for some into “busy work.”
One way that I am hoping to address the above concerns is through exposure to technologies that best mirror the in person learning experience. Spaces such as voice thread allow for video and audio communication, while adobe connect can mimic (in some cases, and barring the always present technological difficulties) a conversational space. Both of these are spaces where the instructor can model engagement and create the kind of infectious enthusiasm that should happen in a class! In relation to the second concern, several of our readings have referenced the importance of transparency in communicating the learning objectives associated with activities. This might help to reduce the student’s sense of the more frequent small assignments as “busy work.”