GVSU Accessibility Tool provides Students with Flexible Content Formats

Students at Grand Valley State University can now access course materials in a variety of ways – to best meet their needs!

With Blackboard Ally, content uploaded by faculty is automatically converted and optimized for:

  • Tagged PDF
    Structured PDF for improved use with assistive technology
  • HTML
    For viewing in the browser and on mobile devices
  • ePub
    For reading as an e-book on an iPad and other e-book readers
  • Electronic braille
    BRF version for consumption on electronic braille displays
  • Audio
    MP3 version for listening
  • BeeLine Reader
    Enhanced version for easier and faster on-screen reading

“Accessible content is better content for all students, supporting inclusive education at GVSU.”

Ally scans content and auto-magically converts it to different file types, and in addition, the tool can be used by faculty to help them determine the level of accessibility of the content uploaded into Blackboard.

Without Ally, students who required content to be converted into new formats had to put in a request with GVSU’s Disability Support Resource office. However, now with Ally, students have faster and easier access to alternative formats of their course materials.

“Students can download a course document into an audio version and they can listen to it during their commute to campus or while riding the Laker Line to downtown.”

GVSU and the eLearning and Emerging Technologies team strives to provide student centered services such as Blackboard Ally to support teaching and learning.

Learn more about Blackboard Ally at GVSU

Learn more about Alternative File Formats in Blackboard Ally

EDUCAUSE Study of Faculty, Students, and Information Technology

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EDUCAUSE has recently released the “2019 Study of Undergraduate STUDENTS and Information Technology“, along with it’s pair the “2019 Study of FACULTY and Information Technology“.

These surveys provide insight into faculty and students – and their use of technology in education.  This research has been ongoing since 2004 with 40,000 students from 118 institutions and 9,500 faculty from 119 institutions participating in this year’s survey.

See also: GVSU participated in this research study in 2015, see: “ECAR Study of Students and Technology at GVSU


ECAR > Study Findings

While this report contains a wealth of information of value to higher ed, here are a few of the findings and recommendations from the FACULTY and STUDENT report through the lens of eLearning and Emerging Technologies at GVSU:


Key Findings

  • ECAR FACULTY > A majority (51%) of faculty prefer to teach in a blended environment that includes both face-to-face and online components.
  • ECAR STUDENT > While the majority of students (70%) prefer mostly or completely face-to-face learning environments, specific demographic factors influence these preferences. (Students who are married or in a domestic partnership, those who are independent with dependents, those who work 40 or more hours a week, students age 25 and older, and individuals who identified as having both a physical and a learning disability that require technology for their coursework all had a stronger preference for classes that are mostly or completely online.)
  • ECAR STUDENT > Labs and demonstrations, faculty/student conferences, and lectures were rated as the most preferred activities in completely face-to-face environments. (Students see in-class lectures as opportunities to engage with instructors, peers, and course content, and they see technology as a means to that engagement. The majority of students prefer some form of blended environment for collaborations or projects with peers, homework/assignment submission, peer reviewing/peer grading, exams, quizzes or tests, and asking questions.)

CZnzUuCt_400x400The eLearning team at GVSU provides support for faculty teaching online, hybrid and traditional classes. Our goal is to assist faculty in finding the correct balance of leveraging online tools and activities through Blackboard to save time and increase effectiveness. A few examples include: online content, pre-class quizzes, and communicating live or asynchronously.

At GVSU, 24.1% of students were enrolled in at least one online or hybrid course in the Fall 2019 semester. This is up from 20.4% in 2018. In addition, in the spring/summer semester, 57.8% of students were taking at least one distance education course in 2019, up from 49.7% in 2018.

See also: “Enrollments Grow in Online Learning while Enhancing Teaching Effectiveness

  • ECAR FACULTY > Many faculty aren’t using online student success tools, but when they do use them, a majority find them at least moderately useful. (This year we found that, for each tool we asked about, between 27% and 39% of faculty didn’t use student success tools, while between 15% and 27% of faculty told us that these tools were not available to them.)

CZnzUuCt_400x400While GVSU does not currently offer an enterprise early alert tool that takes advantage of data in the Blackboard learning management system such as Starfish Retention Solutions, there are tools that can be used at GVSU to monitor students.

For example, faculty can focus on student success and retention with existing  Blackboard features, such as proactively contacting inactive students, students with missing deadlines, or poor performance. Specifically, the Blackboard Grade Center shows the date of last course access for students and gradebook colors can be set to trigger alerts for faculty based on student performance.

The Retention CenterPerformance Dashboard and Item Statistics provide faculty with information about student activity as well as the ability to monitor students at-risk. Using these tools can assist faculty in determining whether students in classees are falling behind or neglecting to check Blackboard regularly. The goal is always to intervene early on, so they get back on track quickly.

  • ECAR FACULTY > Faculty’s receiving training on integrating technology in the classroom is associated with increased use of mobile technology in the classroom. (Among faculty who received professional development training on integrating technology in their classroom, fewer than half (47%) reported banning smartphones in their classrooms. Among faculty who did not receive such training, 63% banned these devices.)
  • ECAR STUDENT > Two-thirds of students agreed that their instructors use technology to engage them in class, but it is not always with the devices students already own. (Significantly fewer students said they are encouraged to use their personal technology as tools to deepen their learning. Half of the respondents said their instructors ask them to use their laptops in class, and only a quarter reported they were encouraged to use their smartphones.)

CZnzUuCt_400x400The eLearning team at GVSU provides over 20 seminars on a variety of technologies and pedagogical strategies and guidance designed to support student success each semester. Further, our team offers a yearly “Teaching and Learning with Technology Symposium“, faculty consultations, Online and Hybrid Faculty Learning Communitiesweekly open office hours, and digital studio spaces are offered to faculty so that the eLearning team can “Support faculty pursuing innovation in teaching and learning”. To zero in on emerging technologies, we offer a dedicated space (Atomic Object Technology Showcase) to explore extended reality experiences.

  • ECAR FACULTY > Faculty give high ratings to support services for accessibility technology, when they use them.
  • ECAR STUDENT > Only half of the students who have physical and/or learning disabilities and who need accessible technologies or accommodations rated their institution’s support positively. (Nearly a quarter said their institution’s support (21%) and awareness (24%) was poor or fair. Of particular concern is the 11% of students with disabilities who said their institution was not aware at all of their technology needs, which suggests many may experience barriers to disclosing their disability, including stigma and their own lack of awareness of available support services.)

CZnzUuCt_400x400The eLearning team at GVSU supports inclusive education through professional development for faculty in the adoption of Universal Design for Learning principles, along with specific support for accessibility with Blackboard Ally and Panopto video captioning.


Recommendations

  • ECAR FACULTY > Promote benefits and strategies for engaging in online teaching through mentoring and the creation of sustainable learning communities. Academic departments need to consider changes to their tenure requisites to reward faculty who choose to engage in course development and online instruction. (Faculty report strong preferences for face-to-face learning environments, but with increasing offerings and enrollments in online classes, institutions need to provide professional development to faculty who have the interest and skills to teach online.)
  • ECAR STUDENT > Continue to promote online success tools and provide training to students on their use through orientations and advisement sessions. (…explore the possibilities of predictive analytics with the use of success tools as a supplement to the personalized support of student advisors.)

CZnzUuCt_400x400While GVSU does not currently offer an enterprise early alert tool that takes advantage of data in the Blackboard learning management system such as Starfish Retention Solutions, there are tools that can be used at GVSU to monitor students.

For example, faculty can focus on student success and retention with existing  Blackboard features, such as proactively contacting inactive students, students with missing deadlines, or poor performance. Specifically, the Blackboard Grade Center shows the date of last course access for students and gradebook colors can be set to trigger alerts for faculty based on student performance.

The Retention CenterPerformance Dashboard and Item Statistics provide faculty with information about student activity as well as the ability to monitor students at-risk. Using these tools can assist faculty in determining whether students in classees are falling behind or neglecting to check Blackboard regularly. The goal is always to intervene early on, so they get back on track quickly.

Finally, the eLearning and Emerging Technologies team, along with the Office of the Provost, Pew Faculty Teaching and Learning Center, and University Libraries, collaborated on a new Online/Hybrid Orientation for students. This site is designed to take students through best practices in learning online, encouraging them to be mindful of time management techniques and skills for success.

  • ECAR FACULTY > Increase awareness among IT support services staff that quality services for faculty contribute to faculty’s overall ratings of their technology experiences. IT support staff are first responders to faculty technology issues and can make a real difference in faculty experiences.
  • ECAR FACULTY > Facilitate faculty professional development on integrating technology into teaching. (Promote professional development for faculty on effectively incorporating mobile technologies into their classrooms. Bans on all technology devices in the classroom will likely decrease student engagement. These bans disproportionately affect minority students and students with disabilities needing accommodations. Quash the “devices in the classroom” debate by leveraging mobile technologies in students’ hands to increase engagement and learning.)
  • ECAR STUDENT > Allow students to use the devices that are most important to their academic success in the classroom. (Provide training to faculty on the purposeful integration of student-owned technology for more inclusive, active, and engaged learning. Offer alternatives to in-class tech bans, such as involving students in the development of their class’s technology policy and designated seating for device users.)

CZnzUuCt_400x400Our eLearning and Emerging Technologies team provides a wide array of services and resources designed to facilitate digital learning at GVSU through supporting faculty in delivering high quality, innovative teaching.

We support faculty, contribute to teaching excellence, and enhance student success through:

Our eLearning team encourages faculty to review our website, follow and like us on  social media (GVSUeLearn on Twitter, GVSUeLearn on Facebook, listen in on our  teaching and technology podcast (T-Squared), read our email newsletters, and to stay up to date by viewing our gvsuelearn.wordpress.com blog highlights as well!

CZnzUuCt_400x400Tbe eLearning team facilitates 3 Online and Hybrid Faculty Learning Communities across all GVSU campus locations, designed to explore best practices and pedagogy in teaching at a distance, while encouraging learning from peers. Further our team provides over 20 seminars on a variety of technologies and pedagogical strategies and guidance designed to best support faculty. Finally, we offer a yearly “Teaching and Learning with Technology Symposium“, faculty consultations, weekly open office hours, and digital studio spaces are offered to faculty so that the eLearning team can “Support faculty pursuing innovation in teaching and learning”.

  • ECAR FACULTY > Increase faculty awareness of student needs and accessibility support services, particularly among non-AA institutions. (Disability disclosure rates remain low among students, limiting faculty awareness and ability to address accessibility needs in the classroom. When faculty use accessibility support services, however, they report high levels of satisfaction with those services.)
  • ECAR STUDENT > Establish a campus community to address accessibility issues and give “accessibility evangelists” a seat at the table. Colleagues and students with disabilities can be valuable consultants who offer perspectives on the barriers they experience with tech inaccessibility in their learning environments. Partner with units across campus such as disability services, advisement, health services, and admissions to educate all students on the available accessible technology services and how to request them. Tap the expertise of teaching and learning centers and instructional designers to train faculty on the universal design for learning (UDL) framework to promote inclusive strategies that benefit all learners.

CZnzUuCt_400x400The eLearning team at GVSU supports inclusive education through professional development for faculty in the adoption of Universal Design for Learning principles, along with specific support for accessibility with Blackboard Ally and Panopto video captioning.

Enrollments Grow in Online Learning while enhancing Teaching Effectiveness

Recently, an article in InsideHigher Ed “Online Enrollments Grow, but Pace Slows” featured new federal data that show that more than 1/3 of all 2018 college and university students took at least one online course, and online enrollments have grown.

In fact, 34.7% of students have taken at least one online course in 2018, making up 3,677,689 students. Further, there were 3,259,560 students enrolled in exclusively distance education courses.

In comparison, according to the federal data report, overall enrollment in higher education was down -1.1%.

Enrollment in online courses at GVSU continues to grow as do the national numbers.

At GVSU, 24.1% of students were enrolled in at least one online or hybrid course in the Fall 2019 semester. This is up from 20.4% in 2018. In addition, in the spring/summer semester, 57.8% of students were taking at least one distance education course in 2019, up from 49.7% in 2018.

Here is a chart of the number of the unduplicated count of students enrolled in at least one online or hybrid course from 2016 through 2019 at GVSU:

enrollmentinonlinehybridgvsu.jpg


Related, in a recent “Faculty Attitudes on Technology Survey” administered by InsideHigher Ed, results indicate that professors’ are showing a steady acceptance of online learning.

In fact, professors also indicate that teaching online makes them better and more effective in their practice:

  • Three-quarters (77%) of instructors who have taught online say they have developed pedagogical skills and practices that have improved their teaching.

  • 75% think more critically about engaging students with content; 65% make better use of multimedia content; 63% more likely to experiment and make changes to try to improve the learning experience.

  • Two-thirds of instructors who had converted face-to-face course to an online or hybrid (blended) class said that they spent less time lecturing (65%) and incorporated more active learning techniques into the new course (69%).

Based on the Inside Higher Ed survey, now more than 46% of faculty members have taught an online course.

Further, for those faculty that have taught online, 61% agree that online courses can produce equivalent student outcomes.

As far as the adoption of using technology in teaching:

  • Nearly four in 10 instructors (39 percent) say they fully support the increased use of educational technologies, up from 32 percent in 2018 and 29 percent in 2017.

  • Professors who support educational technologies say they do so because “some students simply cannot attend a face-to-face class due to work or family obligations“ (64%) and “students learn better when I engage them with effective technology tools“ (57%).

  • Rated colleges positively on encouraging experimentation with new approaches to teaching (56% agree) and providing adequate technical support for creating and teaching online courses (52% agree for both).


About eLearning and Emerging Technologies

CZnzUuCt_400x400

eLearning and Emerging Technologies provides a wide array of services and resources designed to facilitate digital learning at GVSU through supporting faculty in delivering high quality, innovative teaching.

We support faculty, contribute to teaching excellence, and enhance student success through:

Department of Classics receives $1,000 Accessibility Competition Student Scholarship Award

The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, along with eLearning and Emerging Technologies in Information Technology at Grand Valley State University is proud to announce the winner of the Blackboard Ally – College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Accessibility Competition…

the Department of Classics!

The department of classics staff are pictured holding a large poster check with a total amount of $1,000. The memo of the check is labeled: $1,000 For Student Scholarship.

The Department of Classics was recognized on Tuesday, December 3 in a short ceremony in Lake Huron Hall.

Sherry Barricklow, eLearning and Instructional Technology Specialist in the eLearning and Emerging Technologies group in Information Technology presented the award and the a $1,000 student scholarship check. In attendance also from eLearning was Graduate Assistant, Brandon Thompson, Digital Media Developer Hunter Bridwell, and Associate Director Eric Kunnen.

The Department of Classics increased the accessibility of Blackboard class content by 7% during the competition, benefiting 500 students enrolled in their courses.

The eLearning and Emerging Technologies team offers our congratulations on behalf of supporting inclusive education at GVSU!


About the CLAS – $1,000 Student Scholarship Competition

Sponsored by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and eLearning and Emerging Technologies in Information Technology, CLAS units and faculty will use Blackboard Ally to compete to create the most accessible content in courses to support student success, inclusive education, and universal design for learning principles. 

The unit with the highest percent improvement will receive a one-time $1,000 student scholarship in their name.

Learn more on the competition website.

6 Tips for Teaching Online at GVSU in 2020

Are you an online/hybrid faculty member at GVSU? If so, we have some news for you!

2020


As you look ahead to teaching your online and hybrid courses in 2020, we have prepared the following resources designed to help support you and your students.

6 Tips for Teaching Online and Hybrid Classes in 2020

  1. Consider joining an Online and Hybrid Faculty Learning Community to explore best practices and learn from your peers! Learn more on the Online/Hybrid Faculty Learning Community web page.

  2. Focus on student success and retention with Blackboard tools. Maximize student retention by proactively contacting inactive students, students with missing deadlines, or poor performance. The Blackboard Grade Center shows the date of last course access for students and gradebook colors can be set to trigger alerts for faculty based on student performance.

    The Retention Center, Performance Dashboard and Item Statistics provide faculty with information about student activity as well as the ability to monitor students at-risk. Use these tools to determine whether any students in your class are falling behind or neglecting to check Blackboard regularly. Intervene early on, so they get back on track quickly.

  3. Respondus Monitor and LockDown Browser academic integrity tools are available for online exam proctoring. Learn more on the Respondus web page or request access to LockDown Browser and Monitor.

  4. Register for Seminars offered by eLearning and Emerging Technologies on a variety of technologies that can be used in teaching an online/hybrid course. View a list of seminars and register in Sprout.

  5. Encourage students to complete the Online/Hybrid Orientation in Blackboard. All students enrolled in an online or hybrid class are automatically added into a CourseSite in Blackboard entitled: “Online/Hybrid Orientation”. A link to this site is available to students in the “My Courses” module after logging into Blackboard. Students that perform all of the required activities in the orientation are provided with a “Certificate of Completion”.
  6. Have a question or need assistance? Contact an Instructional Designer on the eLearning team:Glenna Decker – Instructional Designer
    4453 Kindschi Hall of Science (KHS)
    deckerg@gvsu.edu | 616-331-2598

    Matt Roberts – Instructional Designer
    4452 Kindschi Hall of Science (KHS)
    robmatth@gvsu.edu | 616-331-9085

    Kim Kenward – Instructional Designer
    268C Richard M. DeVos Center (DEV)
    kenwardk@gvsu.edu | 616-331-2131


Best wishes for a wonderful and relaxing break and a successful start to your 2020 semester!

If we can be of further support as you teach your online and hybrid courses, please reach out to the following units at GVSU:

  • eLearning and Emerging Technologies, Online Education Council, University Libraries, the Pew Faculty Teaching & Learning Center, and the Office of the Provost.
Stay Updated with the Latest Info and News from eLearning

Top 9 Posts from 2019

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At GVSU, the eLearning and Emerging Technologies team is here to support faculty pursuing innovation in teaching and learning. Our team is dedicated to supporting faculty, contributing to teaching excellence, and enhancing student success through:

  • exemplary instructional design
  • effective application and integration of instructional technologies
  • interactive digital media development
  • administration and enhancement of the university’s enterprise learning management system (Blackboard)
  • deployment of innovative emerging technologies

Reflecting back on 2019, we would like to recognize and celebrate the work of faculty at GVSU in their efforts to advance education through the application of technology in teaching. Digital transformation brings about tremendous opportunities and we are excited to collaborate to pioneer the future of education.

In the past year, our gvsuelearn.wordpress.com blog has had 4,849 views by 3,295 visitors, and we have published 56 posts!

Here are the top 9 most viewed posts from the eLearning and Emerging Technologies blog in the year 2019:

#1 – 7 Things you didn’t know that Blackboard can do!

#2 – Blackboard Achievements, Badges, and Quick-and-Easy Certificates

#3 – Teaching with the Lightboard @GVSU

#4 – Using Blackboard Goals to Monitor Curriculum and for Accreditation

#5 – Virtual Office Hours for Student Success with Blackboard Collaborate and IM

#6 – GVSU Offers Virtual Reality Space for Faculty and Students

#7 – Designing Quality Courses in Blackboard with Cheryl Kautz

#8 – How to use Blackboard Analytics to Support your Students at GVSU

#9 – First ever hackGVSU ‘hackathon’ brings Innovative ideas to enhance Blackboard at GVSU

GVSU explores Extended Reality in the Showcase

VRinShowcase.jpg

Photo Credit: Amanda Pitts

Extended Reality (XR) is a frequent topic among those in higher education. XR is about engaging students across a wide array of digital experiences, including: virtual, augmented, mixed, and haptics-based interactions.

Augmented reality (AR) is an interactive experience of the physical “real world” environment where the objects that reside in the real world are enhanced by computer-generated perceptual information, sometimes across multiple sensory modalities, including visual, auditory, haptic, somatosensory, and olfactory.

In the showcase we have multiple Augmented Reality experiences including the MERGE CUBE and the CURISCOPE AR T-Shirt. The Merge Cube includes multiple apps that can transpose various three dimensional holographic applications a user can experience, while the Curiscope T-Shirt pairs with an application named Virtual-tee to provide an anatomical visualization of the human body.

Justin Robinson, student assistant in the showcase, is currently developing an app for the Merge Cube to assist GVSU medical students in the study of Moro Infant Reflexes.

The app will project a “virtual” baby that will respond to the movement of the cube in the same way a baby would respond tilted in a given direction. This provide students with the understanding of infant reflexes without having to use an actual child.

Here are a couple of photos of the AR experience that Justin is developing in collaboration with Hunter Bridwell, digital media developer, in eLearning and Emerging Technologies.

Merge Cube    Merge Cube AR Experience

“The Technology Showcase gives me and other students the ability to experience and develop the future of learning and entertainment and I’m blessed to be a part of it.” – Justin Robinson