Day: November 30, 2018

EDUCAUSE research zeros in on Accessibility

Recently, the EDUCAUSE Center for Analysis and Research released a 2018 Students and Technology Report that zeros in on the need to improve awareness and support for accessibility issues in higher education.

Most noteworthy in this report is that students who have disabilities are often dissatisfied with their experiences at their institutions around general awareness of the importance of accessibility.

“The institutional provision of accessible web content and technologies is not then merely an issue of ethics or morality but one of legal liability.

Institutions that fail to properly accommodate the needs of their students may find themselves confronted with lawsuits, complaints, and settlements.

However, one of the major problems facing colleges and universities is that institutions may SIMPLY NOT BE AWARE of students’ needs.

EDUCAUSE 2018 Students and Technology Report on Accessibility

Blackboard Ally was adopted at GVSU to INCREASE AWARENESS of the importance of accessibility and ADA compliance, to BUILD the CAPACITY of faculty in creating accessible content, and to offer greater INSIGHT at the institutional level.

Looking more closely at the survey results, 58% of students with disabilities have responded that their institution’s awareness of their need for accessible technologies was “poor”. [See Chart Below]

Reviewing the data overall, EDUCAUSE suggests that IT accessibility is an issue for many college students with both physical and learning disabilities.

Also of note is that many students who have diagnosed disabilities do not reveal or register with the university’s disability support resources office for fear that they may be stigmatized or penalized.

To better support creating awareness and to provide better support to all students, EDUCAUSE recommends the following:

  • “Be a collaborative partner in testing and implementing assistive/accessible technologies and the principles of universal design for learning.”
    • At GVSU, the eLearning team works with the Disability Support Resources Office and supports the use of universal design for learning as well as the adoption of Blackboard Ally to encourage faculty to begin with accessibility in mind and to monitor the level of accessibility of their course content.
  • “Provide professional development to IT staff via accessibility workshops, conferences, and training; develop campus IT accessibility policies related to the development, procurement, and implementation of products…”
  • “Revise informational and course materials targeted to this population to emphasize accessibility, which focuses on inclusion and universal learning,11 to help destigmatize student learning barriers.”
  • “Offer training for faculty on implementing Web Content Accessibility Guidelines13 and other universal/inclusive instructional practices. Educate faculty on the inequitable impacts and potential legal implications that bans on in-class use of personal devices can have on students with disabilities.”
  • “And stop us if you’ve heard this one before:  STOP BANNING LAPTOPS.”


“After a difficult freshman year, Lucas realizes he needs help. In high school he was diagnosed with a condition that affects his fine-motor skills, and he received therapy and accommodations that helped him succeed. When he started college, he decided not to register with the campus Office of Disability Services, but the demands of college proved challenging, and he struggled to keep up. Writing in longhand for extended periods is painful and results in illegible class notes.

Using his laptop works best for him, but half of his instructors last year didn’t allow laptops in class.

The Office of Disability Services requires proof of his condition that must be no more than three years old, so Lucas visits his doctor for an updated exam, earns money to cover the medical fees to fill out his accommodation forms (which aren’t covered by his insurance), and registers.

He receives an accommodation to use his laptop in class and notifies all his instructors before classes begin. On the first day of his Intro to Economics course, the professor reviews the course policies, which include a ban on personal tech devices in class.

As the student next to him packs her laptop away, she says,

“Didn’t you hear her? We can’t use our computers in class.”

Even though he has an accommodation, Lucas doesn’t want to talk about his disability with a stranger. He closes his laptop screen and takes out a pen and paper.”

EDUCAUSE 2018 Students and Technology Report on Accessibility

Further, since 2014, the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative has surveyed the teaching and learning community to uncover the top themes and challenges facing higher education. Accessibility and universal design has been in the top 10 as a key strategic issue in higher education, and in fact, last year was ranked as #2. This area of concern continues to bubble up and with it challenges such as:  faculty buy in, funding, time for training, expertise, and dedicated staff become areas of focus.

EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative 2018 Key Issues in Teaching and LearningAccessibility and UDL continue to be important key issues and the eLearning and Emerging Technologies team supports these initiatives through faculty professional development and shared resources along with collaborative services with the Disability Support Resources department.

Blackboard Ally was adopted and put into production at GVSU in the summer of 2018 to: generate awareness, build capacity, and increase institutional oversight of accessibility.

In addition, Panopto was implemented to provide video caption capability for faculty who are using instructional video content in their teaching.

Both Ally and Panopto support the principles of inclusive education through accessibility and UDL.

Technology and Teaching Naked Techniques

teachingnakedtech.jpgThis post highlights a variety of tips from the book entitled: “Teaching Naked Techniques: A Practical Guide to Designing Better Classes” by José Antonio Bowen and C. Edward Watson.

See also: Teaching Naked with Technology

“A fitness coach understands the human body and the individual subject, but also the equipment in the gym.

Technology is bringing new tools and new competition to higher education, but it is also changing the base rules about how we operate as human beings.”

  • Technology is a tool of which, the goal is to increase learning
  • The focus should not be on the delivery of content, rather, how can we best increase faculty-student interaction, design and sequence enhanced learning experiences, elevate students to the application/analysis/synthesis of information, and increase the motivation of students.
  • Technology makes course design and pedagogy more important
  • The role of technology is to create more time and generate more valuable opportunities for face-to-face
  • Faculty can leverage social media to connect ideas outside of the classroom

“In fact, if you don’t ever contact students outside class, you are reinforcing the idea that the information in your class is not relevant to the ‘real world’.”

First Exposure

  • TIP:  Make learning goals transparent to students and create rubrics (See Blackboard Interactive Rubrics) improve visibility and give students a target and checklists help students stay on track.
  • TIP:  Use online content such as creating your own video content (Panopto/Lightboard) and be sure to use closed captions, and take advantage of open educational resources, for first student exposure

arrow-2207748_960_720.pngLearn more about using Panopto and the lightboard to create engaging and motivating instructional video content in your teaching at GVSU. Use Blackboard interactive rubrics to make grading easier and to create student awareness of learning outcomes and assignment expectations.

Entry Point

So… where do YOU begin? Where do your STUDENTS begin?

  • Students start at “why do I care and why does this matter”?  Good teaching always starts with what matters to students… and ends with what matters to you.

  • Don’t ignore, rather, place your focus on the entry point of instruction
  • Discover what your students care about, what they are motivated by, and what they already know
  • Use opportunities to engage students with content and why it matters to students

Pre-Class Online Quizzes, Discussions, and Learning Activities

  • TIP:  Use frequent pre-class quizzes, online exams, discussions and learning activities to improve student preparation for class – with feedback
  • TIP:  Use student performance on these quizzes as an opportunity to guide classroom time

arrow-2207748_960_720.pngLearn more about using Blackboard to create online quizzes, assignments, discussions, and learning activities at GVSU.

  • Benefits of low stakes testing: aids retrieval and retention, identifies gaps in knowledge, students learn more when they study, produces organization of learning, improves transfer of knowledge, improves metacognitive monitoring, provides feedback to instructors and students, encourages students to study.
  • Low stakes assessments are critically important for students and they are much less likely to encourage cheating

“Limit the length of lectures, break up class time into active learning activities, leverage class time for connection, community, and relationships…”

Give Students Prompt and Detailed Feedback

  • Be sure your learning goals are linked to your learning activities and finally outcomes assessment
  • Provide clear goals and use rubrics and give feedback

“Learn to use your online gradebook – enter grades directly into your LMS (Blackboard) and include feedback…”

arrow-2207748_960_720.pngLearn more about using Blackboard’s grade center at GVSU to provide feedback to students.

  • Best practices in providing feedback include: frequent, immediate, discriminating (specific), and loving.

Use eCommunication Technologies to Connect with Students

  • Use a variety of electronic communication technologies to reach students
  • Increase your social presence
  • Add a social media presence to connect with students outside of class
  • Use your LMS (Blackboard) and email to provide a supportive presence to students

Ensure Student Success with Retention and Intervention

Technologies are proving successful at increasing the quality of instruction and improving student success rates across a number of metrics.

  • Learning and analytics tools embedded in the LMS (Blackboard) reveal predictive patterns and provide intervention opportunities for students at risk

arrow-2207748_960_720.pngLearn more about Blackboard’s Retention Center and Performance Dashboard at GVSU as learning analytics tools to monitor students and intervene with students “at risk”.


  • Encourage students to use SWEET:
    • S – Students need Sleep
    • W – Students need to drink Water
    • E – Students need to Eat well
    • E – Students need Exercise
    • T – Students need to manage their Time

Remember: “A single professor can make a massive difference in a student’s life.”

  • Significant student impact can be found with a professor who: 1) CARES about the student as a person, 2) MAKES students excited about learning, and 3) ENCOURAGES  students to pursue their dreams.

How about you?

What techniques do you find as beneficial to aid in student learning and success?

Teaching Naked with Technology

teachingnakedThe following post, highlights key points from the book: “Teaching Naked – How Moving Technology Out of Your College Classroom Will Improve Student Learning

  • The future of higher education is deeply intertwined with new technologies.
  • If we want campus education to survive, then we need to focus on enhancing the experience of direct physical interaction in higher education – and make it worth the extra money it will always cost to deliver.
  • The value of bricks-and-mortar will remain in its face-to-face (i.e. naked) interaction between faculty and students.

“Student engagement and faculty student interaction matter most in student learning…” – Alexander Astin

  • This book proposes that technology should be used outside of class in order to increase the “naked interaction” (aka face-to-face) with students inside the classroom.
  • The new classroom is a flat screen. The challenge for universities is to take advantage of the new possibilities that e-learning provides to improve and prove learning across the curriculum.
  • With 79% of students commuting, creating a campus community is more difficult.
  • Social networking is a tool to create communities, connect with students, integrate ideas, apply knowledge, influence student culture, and improve student learning.
  • Teaching is about making connections, and the first thing we need to do is to connect with our students.
“If you don’t use technology as a faculty member, you lose credibility with students – as you are unfamiliar with modern life.”


1 – eCommunication

  • Use e-communication and all of it’s flavors, from text messages to tweets, and  asynchronous to synchronous.  From short bursts to sustained live connections.  Building a classroom community for engaging outside of the classroom for more frequent re-engaging with course materials and concepts.


Learn more about using Blackboard discussion boards, email, announcements, and live connections via Collaborate Ultra at GVSU.

2 – Use Panopto or Podcast Lectures

  • Use Panopto to record lectures and consider using podcasting. Why? Because you can take the time to explain (you may not have time in class to go over examples) and provide focus using audio over a diagram to help students hone in. Students can rewind/re-listen or speed forward. Links to additional resources increase richness. Move content delivery out of class time can give more time to maximize the naked class-time for interaction, integration, and deep processing, and finally student interactions and commenting on video lectures can enhance community and collaboration.


Learn more about using Panopto and the lightboard to create engaging and motivating instructional video content at GVSU.

3 – Learning Modules and Pre-class Quizzes

  • A well-designed learning module or folder in Blackboard provides students with a sequence of activities. Beginning with the learning objective, launching into a presentation of content, and providing practice to review are elements of design. A Blackboard quiz before class can be helpful in learning, while also using rubrics for assessment and assignment learning ensures students are clear as to the expectations.


Learn more about using Blackboard and interactive interactive grading rubrics at GVSU.

4 – Lectures, Active Learning and Student Engagement

  • Lectures are good for showing students the right entry point into the content (the what and why we want them to learn).  To motivate students, it’s ideal if they can witness passion, see connections to the “why” of new ideas, and be inspired.  Lectures can help students make connections. Allow significant time for student reflection even if silence is awkward.  Lectures should only be given when there is a pedagogical need.
  • Is lecture that best technique for the content for the class?  Faculty should ask themselves if their lecture can demonstrate that it will promote the learning outcomes. Lectures work best when students do not take notes because connection comes from attention.  The notes should really only be about a list of things to do.

Students learn by doing.

  • Restructuring in person classes with active learning exercises requires different preparation that a lecture using  PowerPoint.  The key to a good class is to make sure you really need people together in that place before you assemble with them – and have clear goals for your time together. (And if the goal can be better met with technology in/out of class.) Good discussions help students make connections with each other and the content.  The ability to use technology is an essential skill of the 21st century.

“The best education of the future will be hybrid in that there will be a balance of face-to-face interaction and online resources so that the precious F2F time is maximized.  Think about musicians who have a mix of recordings and live concerts.”

  • On student engagement – to improve learning we must force students into more substantive interaction with material outside of class.  (And we can take advantage of technology to help create more meaningful interactions – take online quizzes, organize notes, do assignments, play games, work together, create online learning communities, etc.)
Goal:  Use technology to motivate and challenge students outside of the classroom to provide new opportunities to increase learning.
  • We need to provide more content outside of class, but also more and better ways to engage with that content.  Asking students to read is not enough, we need them to engage and interact with the content. To process it.  To like, comment, subscribe, tag, discuss, vote, take note, bookmark, prioritize, quiz, make connections with the content.

What about you?

What are your strategies and techniques for active learning, best using classroom time, most effectively using technology?

This post originally appeared on #EdTech with Eric in 2015.