Tips for Getting Your Colleagues to Adopt Universal Design for Learning [TRANSCRIPT]
PATRICK LOFTUS: All right. Well, thank you all for joining us today in this webinar entitled “Tips for Getting Colleagues to Adopt Universal Design for Learning.” I’m Patrick Loftus from 3Play Media, and I’ll be moderating today.
This webinar is presented in conjunction with the Online Learning Consortium, and is being live-captioned. You can view those captions by clicking on the link in the chat window of your control panel.
Today I’m excited to be joined by Dr. Tom Tobin, who is an accomplished author and speaker on topics related to online teaching and accessibility in higher education, and is currently writing the book Reach Everyone, Teach Everyone– A Practitioner’s Guide to Universal Design for Learning in Higher Education.
We have about an hour of this webinar, the presentation itself lasting about 45 minutes. And we’ll leave another 15 minutes at the end for discussion and questions. You can ask questions by typing them directly into the questions window at the bottom right of your control panel. You can also download the slides and the handouts for today’s webinar in that same control panel.
Please feel free to ask questions throughout the webinar, and we’ll compile them at the end for Tom to answer. Also, this presentation is being recorded. So you’ll receive an email tomorrow with a link to that recording and slide deck.
And this presentation is being live-tweeted, so feel free to use the hashtag #a11y and tweet @3PlayMedia. So with that, I’ll hand it off to Tom, who has an excellent presentation prepared for you all.
THOMAS TOBIN: Thank you very much, Patrick. And thanks to 3Play Media for hosting me today, and also to Patrick and his colleagues who are hosting as well.
Let me get switched over here to show everybody the presentation, and just confirm with Patrick that you can see the opening slide now.
PATRICK LOFTUS: Yep, looks great.
THOMAS TOBIN: All right, fantastic. Well, thank you everybody for coming onto the live webinar. And if you’re looking at the recorded webinar, thank you very much for taking the time as well.
I want to start off with a couple of housekeeping things for everybody to know about. And that is, if you’re here on the live webinar, make sure that somebody at your location is near the keyboard because we’re going to have some opportunities for reflection and interaction throughout our time together today. And if you’re looking at the recording of the webinar, have a piece of paper and a pen handy so that you can do some thinking and writing as well as you’re going through with us.
So what I’d like to do is talk to everybody a little bit about how to get your colleagues to adopt universal design for learning. Most of us on the webinar are all rock stars with UDL. We know that accessibility is the way to go to help everybody with better learning interactions.
But let’s think about those people at your institutions who might not see the value in it, or who might have objections or concerns. That’s what this webinar is all about today. How can we help to spread the word in a way that people will listen, adopt, and do?
With that, I’d like to jump right in to the very first interactive element. And that is, just think of how your colleagues often respond when they hear the phrase “universal design for learning.” So just in the questions window, what words or feelings or phrases come to mind? Just key one thing in there right now that your colleagues say when you say “universal design for learning” at your institution.
And Patrick’s going to run through a few of those and call out some highlights.
PATRICK LOFTUS: We have some common themes– overwhelmed, too much time, I don’t have time for that. What does that even mean? Anxiety. More work.
THOMAS TOBIN: Yep, I’m hearing a few common themes here, too. And one of the things that happens when we say “universal design for learning” is our colleagues make an essential mistake. And that is, most of our colleagues who are faculty members and some of our designers, when we say “universal design for learning,” they think “individual accommodations.”
Most of the time when people think about inclusive design, what they’re really thinking about is that time when a student came to them with a piece of paper that said, I need time and a half on my tests, or I need some other treatment to help level the playing field for myself. And some of the things that everybody is keying in into the questions window are typical responses– I don’t have time for this. It’s extra work. In other words, it’s an emotional response.
And it’s easy to make that mistake. When you and I, folks on the webinar, talk about universal design for learning, we’re talking about making broad changes that help everybody. But what people actually hear sometimes when we say those things is they’re thinking about making one change one time for one person. And it’s almost always an emotional response.
Now, even if they say the right thing and they say, yeah, I’ll do it, it’s almost always underpinned by things like this.
– I got a bad feeling about this.
THOMAS TOBIN: So those of you who are Star Wars fans will recognize the voice of Harrison Ford as Han Solo saying, “I got a bad feeling about this.” And when we think about making accommodations for students, it’s almost always a surprise. The student comes with that piece of paper usually at the end of the second week of a semester-long course, and it’s almost always something that a professor hasn’t seen coming.
– Trust your feelings.
THOMAS TOBIN: So if we listen to Obi-Wan Kenobi and trust our feelings on this one, if we are advocates for universal design for learning at our campuses and institutions, when we start talking about good design, what people hear is, oh, this is more work. Oh, this is frustrating. I don’t know where to begin.
– Release your anger.
THOMAS TOBIN: And in some cases people get mad, because it is extra work for them to do. Hey, I thought I had all my prep done for the semester. Now here’s some special thing I’ve got to do.
And so what I’d like to suggest is that when we are trying to help our colleagues see the benefit of universal design for learning, we have to do something counter-intuitive. We have to uncouple UDL from what’s in their minds, which is serving people with disabilities.
– No different! Only different in your mind. You must unlearn what you have learned.
THOMAS TOBIN: And so what I would like to suggest is we should listen to Yoda. In this case, Yoda’s telling Luke that he has to set aside his preconceived notions about what the Force really is.
And we can help our colleagues to set aside their preconceived notions about what Universal Design for Learning really is by doing a couple of specific things. And that’s really the focus of what I want to work on with everybody today.
In order to do that, I’d like to introduce you to a completely fictional colleague of mine. Those of you who are good with languages will be able to read his name as “Read More Books.” And he is a literature professor at a large Midwestern institution– completely fictional, completely made up. If anyone tells you that he’s actually based on my friend Michael who teaches literature at Indiana University, I’ll deny it.
But Reed, in our fictional example, teaches a course on detective fiction. So just to get into that mindset, think about all of the film noir and detective fiction that you know about– The Thin Man, The Postman Always Rings Twice, The Maltese Falcon– and think about the kinds of words and phrases that conjure up that 1940s noir aesthetic.
So think about things like femme fatales, smoky rooms, fedoras, trenchcoats, murder, intrigue, different kinds of cocktails. I’m trying to think of some myself. I’m sure you’re coming up with a few more, as well.
So our friend Reed teaches detective fiction. And what does he want his students to do? He wants them to get immersed in that world and mindset. He wants them to get so into the novels that they’re reading and the films that they’re watching that they go find alternative versions of them, that they go out and get really engrossed, and they go study even beyond what Reed is asking his students to do.
Now, what do Reed’s students actually do? Well, chances are Reed’s students are probably working adults with families at home, and so when they’re reading just the minimum for the course they’re probably reading them on mobile devices, like a Kindle or even their phones when they’re on the bus on their way to work, or they have the read-it-aloud version of the audiobook on CDs or as a data file plugged into their car audio when they’re driving back and forth to pick up the kids from school and going to soccer practice and taking care of their elderly parents.
Most of our learners today are adults with other responsibilities in their lives on top of their studies. So if our learners aren’t the ideal where they have lots of time for study and they don’t have other things in their lives, if our friend Reed is changing around his course, what he wants to do is he sees that most of his students have mobile devices already.
In fact, the latest Pearson study on mobile device ownership says that about 62% of college and university students in the United States and Canada as of 2015 have a laptop or a desktop computer at home. 84% of them own a smartphone– not just a phone that makes calls, but one with internet access.
And those folks that have those smartphones are trying to use them in micro-moments for learning. There was a recent Google study that came out. And Google was trying to target advertising and help merchants, but they know that people turn to their phones now when they have moments where they need to learn something or need to connect with other people to find out new information. Google calls them snackable moments.
And with 84% of undergraduate and graduate students owning smartphones, if we move down closer to the federal poverty level, the percentage of students who own a smartphone actually goes way up. It’s closer to 94%.
Why is that so? Well, if the choice is between buying a desktop for your home or the choice is buying phones for yourself and your family, the phones win every time. They do more for your life. They help you to stay connected. And they’re less expensive over time, and you can pay for them month to month if you want to. In fact, the phone I’ve got sitting here on my desk is a pay-as-you-go phone, and it works just plenty fine for me.
So if Reed is starting to see that his learners in his courses are on their mobile devices all the time, he wants to reach out to them in a way that gives them just a few more minutes for study than they would have otherwise had. And if we can provide our students with maybe 20 more minutes for studying during their busy days and if they didn’t have that time previously, that can be the difference between I’m struggling in my studies and I’m keeping up with my class.
Now, our fictional friend Reed has a little bit of a nightmare, though. He thinks, well, if I’m going to reach out to people beyond my face-to-face classes, I might have to be the 24/7 professor. I might have to be always on. If a student sends me an email message at 3 o’clock in the morning, by 4 o’clock in the morning I should respond.
And his nightmare kind of looks like this, that he’s got a video chat going with all of his students, he’s got the learning management system open, he has his email open, and then there’s a back channel chat going on over here. And gosh, what else has he got? He’s got student work open on his computer. Is he shopping on eBay there too, I think?
But he’s got a lot of things going on, and he’s afraid that he’s going to have to be the hyper-connected professor. This is where we come back around. And let’s think for a minute about how we could help Reed to supplement his face-to-face teaching in that film noir and noir detective novel course, or maybe even replace it. What’s one thing he could do to reach out to his students who are on mobile devices?
Take a second, if you’re looking at the live webinar, to key in one idea into that questions window. My colleague Patrick will read and give us a bit of a summary here. And if you’re listening to the recorded webinar, this is a good time to grab a pen and a piece of paper and do the same thing.
We’ll wait for a couple of seconds here while people put their thoughts in.
PATRICK LOFTUS: Some people are saying short videos, micro lectures, frequently asked questions, record mini-lectures, podcasts, multimedia videos, office hours– digital ones– be explicit about your availability.
THOMAS TOBIN: These are all splendid ideas. And thank you, Patrick, for doing a little summary here.
You’ll hear one of the themes in all of the things we’ve heard so far– they all have to do with multimedia. Almost nobody suggests make a full set of your text lecture notes and just post those. Almost everybody jumps right into, well, make a quick video.
And the reason for that is the more that we can extend instructor presence beyond just the face-to-face classroom– or for fully online courses, increase instructor presence so that students feel that they know who the instructor is and that the instructor cares about them and how they’re doing in the course– that leads to better student retention, satisfaction, and persistence. We’ve got a couple of decades’ worth of studies that show that. I’d be happy to share that stuff with you after the webinar is over with, as well.
Why don’t people say, just put your lecture notes up online? Well, because it tends to be a little boring and a little dry. And if we want our students to pay sustained attention, we should also chunk up our ideas for them, as well.
So all of the suggestions we’ve heard are really good ones, and they’re on point. And this is how we help our colleagues who don’t think that universal design for learning is for them, or if they think it’s too much work, this is where we can help convince them that it’s actually in their own best interests.
So let’s help out Reed here just for a moment. Let’s take a pause and define Universal Design for Learning. And while we do that, you can see some lovely 1940s and 1950s hardboiled crime comic book covers.
Our colleagues at the Center for Applied Special Technology, or CAST, in Boston are the neuroscientists who came up with why good Universal Design for Learning actually works, why it cements ideas in people’s heads and helps them to path through the educational interactions that we’ve designed.
So they talk about making multiple ways of keeping people engaged. So that it’s not just the way-to-go messages that you post in the learning management system.
It’s also just giving people time estimates for how much would each of these things take when you’re working on this homework– how long do most people take to read this or watch this video? How much time should you estimate that you’ll need in order to accomplish this assignment? Keeping people engaged and motivated to move from one thing to the next.
They also talk about multiple ways of representing information. And this is what we all think about when we think about universal design for learning. If you have a video, you should have captions for it. If you have an audio podcast, you should also have the text-based transcript of it, as well.
And the folks at CAST also talk about having multiple ways of learners providing a demonstration of their action in various ways– so giving them choice about how they demonstrate their skills and their learning. Multiple action choices is one that a lot of folks don’t think about all that often. We’ll talk a little bit more about that in a couple of seconds.
What I’d like to do with you now, though, is encourage you not to share this version of universal design for learning with your colleagues, at least not at first. What I’d like you to do is when you have that colleague who says, this is too much work and I didn’t see this coming and it only benefits people with disabilities, I want you to say that universal design for learning is really just plus-1 thinking.
In other words, if you have an interaction in your course, whether that takes place face-to-face or whether that is part of the learning management system or documentation or videos, if you have an interaction that students have with their materials, with each other, with you as the professor, or with the wider world, then use that plus-1 thinking and allow students to do that in more than one way. Give them a choice.
And so if you think about it in terms of plus-1 thinking, the faculty member who says, well, I have 82 two-minute videos in my course, do I have to caption all of those tomorrow? Well, according to the law, yeah, you probably do. In terms of being able to start somewhere and not suffer from analysis paralysis– meaning, this is such a large job and I’ll never get to it, so I won’t start– just think about plus-1 thinking.
So let’s continue on in this same vein. Some folks will say, well, wait a minute. I thought that universal design for learning was just for people with disabilities.
One of the things you can say to your colleagues who say things like that is that universal design for learning isn’t really about accessibility– people with disabilities getting access to information on an equal basis– as it is about just access. Chop the word down. Take the ending of the word accessibility off, and turn it into the word “access.”
And when you talk about access, hold up your phone and think about that single mother who has to put her kids to bed at 10 o’clock at night but still wants to watch the videos for your chemistry professor friend’s course. If she can go to the transcript or if she can turn on the captions and turn the sound off, she’s just found a few more minutes for studying that she didn’t otherwise have in her busy day. And again, that can be the difference between I’m struggling and I’m keeping up.
So let me share a bit of inspiration from Sam Johnston. Sam is one of the neuroscientists at CAST. And I had an opportunity to talk with her a couple of years ago, and she said, we want a situation that is good for everyone. It’s thinking about what has to happen at the level of design that makes accommodation less necessary.
Now, most of you on this webinar know that accommodations are making one change one time for one person. That’s the student with the piece of paper who comes to you at the end of the second week of class.
And if you’re designing interactions so that a broad swath of people can gain access to those interactions in more than one way– that plus-1 thinking– then you’re automatically reducing the number of people who have to put a hand up and say, treat me special. Treat me differently. And so this is the powerful thing that can unlock, for a lot of our colleagues, why good inclusive design is a useful thing to do as well.
Oh yeah, and one other thing that I’ll suggest– if at your institution it’s only on faculty members to adopt universal design for learning, you’re going to have a much harder time of it. One of the things that successful programs across the United States and Canada share is that it’s not just the people in the Disability Services Office, it’s not just faculty members, it’s not just the Teaching and Learning Center who are doing good universal design for learning.
The most successful institutions– I’m thinking of the University of Cincinnati, the University of Dayton-Ohio, San Francisco State University, the University of Colorado system– what they’ve done is– excuse me, McGill University up in Canada as well– what they’ve done is they have trained the people in media services, the people in the registrar’s office, anybody who serves students and who serves faculty members who serve students.
Those folks are trained in good universal design for learning principles as well so that when a faculty member goes to the media services area and says, hey, I’d like to explore lecture capture, the folks in media services immediately say, we can help you with that. We’ll help you break up the information. And we’ll help you with the captioning too, because that’s just how we do business at our institution.
If it’s part of the culture, then it’s much easier on everybody who’s involved. So UDL cannot be just a responsibility of faculty members.
So remember, our friend Reed wanted to make a video for his students. And if he wants to do that video, he can take some or all of your advice, like doing captioning or putting the text transcript into the learning management system or near the video where it’s being hosted.
Let me share five quick strategies for doing universal design for learning that you can share with your colleagues. What I’ve done is I’ve taken the three different pieces of universal design for learning and turned them back into that plus-1 thinking
So strategy one, probably no surprise– start with text. If you’re working on a video or an audio podcast for a course environment or if you’re part of a support unit at your institution and you’re creating content that’s going out on the registrar’s web page or the financial aid web page and you want to do a video or an audio, start with a script. Just putting down the notes for what you’re going to say means that you automatically have a plus-1 for that multimedia.
When you’re thinking about faculty members, if they’re thinking about putting their presence out there in a polished way, you can say to your colleagues, hey, when you recorded your lectures, did you just wing it or did you use a script?
If you were winging it, you probably had to do a lot of editing, or you left in all the “uh” and “um,” and the digressions and the stops and starts. So starting from a script helps faculty members to put their most polished and professional touch on the multimedia that they create, and it means they automatically have a plus-1.
So if strategy one is starting with text, strategy two is make some alternatives. So far, we’re following that CAST model here. Here’s a chemistry professor in her lab. She’s looking at one of her articles that she’s just published in a prestigious journal. And two students from the university are filming her and interviewing her about the article.
And you’ll notice some dotted lines here in this image. In the lab, the image of the screen that the professor is looking at leads to a PDF of the article itself. So we can have that article up there on the web page and have it as a downloadable format as well for people who want to download it or enlarge it.
There’s a gentleman with a video camera who is taking a video of the chemistry professor. And we have some dotted lines here that point to a still camera, as well. So oftentimes, if you have video, if you take still images out of that video– maybe six or eight still images that are key images from the video– and then you put some text alongside them, what you’re doing is you’re helping to reduce the cognitive load for people who are trying to follow along with the information in the video.
By moving from video images to still images, you’re also giving people a much better study guide for reviewing the information and content later. And you’re making something searchable, because the text that goes along with the still images is much easier to find using search techniques.
So strategy one was start with text. Strategy two, make some alternatives. Third of our five strategies– let them do it their way. We talked about multiple means of learners demonstrating their skills. That’s what this is.
In a learning interaction, if one of the assignments is to write a three-page essay, well, these green bars here on the screen are equals signs. So we see a traditional three-page essay over on the left-hand side, but there’s also audio podcasts.
There’s also a student who has turned the selfie camera on her phone to good use. And she’s made a video and posted that up online. So long as the assignment has the same objectives, give students plus-1– more than one way– that they can demonstrate that skill.
Now, there is an asterisk to this part of our presentation. If the format is the assignment, of course, ask students to work only in one format. For example, I teach business writing courses and we still teach people how to do memos.
You all remember memos– inch margins, Times New Roman font, single-spaced, date, to, from, subject. Don’t put a greeting. Start off with the request for information, get to the point, and then end with a request for action, and don’t sign it at the end– memos.
Now, if I asked one of my learners to take a choice that they could write their one-page memo or they could turn on their selfie camera and dictate the memo by video, how would I know that video had the correct margins, the correct font, the right spacing? I definitely couldn’t. And so with that assignment, my students have to give me something in Microsoft Word.
Now, when they’re drafting, I do give them choices wherever I possibly can. So if they’re just drafting one or two of the paragraphs, I say do that in a word processed format or do that as an audio file and then transcribe it later when you’re doing the final thing. Again, just offering the choices allows students to feel that they have more control over their assignments and their learning, and that their professor is paying attention to how they learn best and how they demonstrate their skills best as well.
Strategy one was start with text. Strategy two was make some alternatives. Strategy three– let them do it their way. The fourth of our five strategies is go step by step.
Those of you who learned how to drive using a formal technique, like driver’s ed in high school or taking driver’s ed courses from a private firm, think about where they taught you to put your hands on the steering wheel for maximum control. Those of you who grew up when I did you probably are thinking in your mind 10 and 2.
So if you imagine a steering wheel as a clock– by the way, for those of you under 18, a clock is this thing with two sticks, and it’s round and it helps you to tell the time– you put your hands at 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock for maximum control.
By the way, they don’t tell 15-year-olds 10 and 2 anymore. They tell them 9 and 3, because of airbags. If you have your hands at 10 and 2 and the airbag deploys, your wrists will cross, you’ll probably break your wrists just before they whack into your forehead and you give yourself a concussion. So they tell people put your hands at 9 and 3– the opposite sides of the wheel now– so in case the airbag deploys, it just pushes your hands out away from your body. Maybe you get a little bruise.
Why am I talking about driver’s ed and where to place your hands? Well, 10 and 2 is also a really good memory aid for how to chunk up information versus doing. So if you give people information for about 10 minutes, you should then pause and for two minutes ask people to do something, to take an action.
So in this fictional example here, students might want an intro video and then read a case study for about 10 minutes, but then post a response to that case study in the discussion area of your learning management system, then come back and read another scholarly article, watch another video, and then maybe ask them to go out and find examples that helped to prove or argue against one of the points from the information that they’ve gotten.
The idea of taking things in incremental chunks really helps people to pace out their time, and also helps them with time management because you’re helping them to estimate how much time they’re going to have to spend.
And every once in a while, a colleague will put their hand up and say, well, I want my students to pay sustained attention. I want them to read for 20 minutes at a time or half an hour at a time. I want them to consume big, complex things. I want them to conduct experiments that last for half an hour.
That’s entirely all right. This is a rule that’s meant to be broken. But just don’t expect your students to pay that sustained attention all the time. Chunk it up where you can chunk it up.
So if strategy one was start with text, two was make some alternatives, three let them do it their way, and strategy four is going step by step, our last strategy that you can share with your colleagues is to set content free. And I mean this in two different ways.
The first way is to set content free from the clock. You see there’s a clockface with an X over top of it. What I mean by that is, the more that we can provide students with an opportunity to get access to those interactions– with them and the materials, them and each other, them and us, them and the wider world– outside of the normal times when we usually do those things, we are therefore giving our students more access for studying, more time for studying during their busy days.
Most of you will know the statistics on when the busiest times are for gaining access to college or university websites and learning management systems. They’re between 11:30 AM and 1:30 PM– so the lunch hour– and then another spike between midnight and 2:00 AM.
Our students are burning the midnight oil. We, as faculty members and developers and support staffers, probably aren’t. So if we can put more of the interactions that we have with students out there for them to do on their own time, we’re buying more time back for them. So set things free from the clock.
And set things free from format requirements. A lot of us teach courses that require specialized software. I’m thinking about our friends in the math department especially, who use things like Maple and SPSS. If you’re not familiar with these pieces of software, they are modeling software and statistics software.
So if I’m a math professor, I could post in the learning management system a Maple file with a particular example, and ask my students to look at that example and use it to study for a test that’s coming up.
The problem with that is it means that students now have to be on a device that has Maple installed in order to be able to do the studying. They have to be in a computer lab on campus or they have to have a laptop open.
What we need to do is give it to students in a format that they can get at on their phones, on their mobile devices. So if I’m one of those math professors, I can use that software and use a screen recording software, like Jing or Screencast-O-Matic or Camtasia, in order to take a screen capture of what I’m doing. I’ll talk into my microphone, just like I’m doing with everybody now, and I’ll show the process.
And then that video, I can host that in my own repository for my institution or I can put it up onto YouTube or Vimeo or Flickr and share it out in a public way. Then, in order for students to be able to follow along with my example, they don’t need to have my specialized software. All they need is a video player, and everybody’s phone has one of those.
So those are the five strategies. So let’s check in with our friend Reed and do a little thinking about his video. What are some of the things that Reed could do if he wanted to make a five-minute introductory video to his film noir class?
And I’ll put up the five techniques here on the screen. And I’ll ask everybody who’s on the live webinar, go back to your keyboard and help our friend Reed. He’s teaching that course on film and film noir and the noir novel.
What are some of the things that Reed could do in order to extend what he’s offering his students– the interactions that they have with the materials, with each other, with him, or with the wider world? What’s one thing he could do to extend that video out or to supplement what he’s doing beyond just video?
Take a couple seconds here. I’ll ask my colleague Patrick to do a little reading and summarizing. And if you’re playing along with the recorded version of our webinar, this is a good time to pick up that pen and piece of paper again and do a little thinking as well.
PATRICK LOFTUS: Some people are saying quizzes or games, provide transcripts, use VoiceThread to allow for commenting and critique, make content available online 24/7, create a watch guide with photos, PowerPoint, social media to set up a virtual classroom where discussions can take place, closed captions. Ask student when together to act out noir characteristics.
THOMAS TOBIN: Yeah. And you’ll notice that when we first talked about what are some things the ways that we can get beyond the physical classroom, almost everybody jumped into we’ll make some videos and we’ll do some multimedia, and we’ll make sure that they’re accessible.
Now I’m starting to hear a lot of suggestions that have the students doing role play, or that are getting students to be creative or allowing students to see information in more than one way– doing a study guide that has pictures and text with it. And that level of interaction, if you’re starting to think about reaching out to your learners on their mobile phones, actually frees us up to be a little bit more creative.
And one of the other nice things about working on accessibility is that if we broaden our lens– and this is how we can get our colleagues interested in this– we’re actually doing ourselves a favor. We have fewer students who are going to ask us the same question over and over and over again, because they’ll be able to figure stuff out better if they have a choice as to how they encounter that information.
We’ll have fewer students who are falling behind, because students will choose how best, or in some cases, how is the only way that they can respond to us. And our students are going to have a better time of it in the class, and our student ratings at the end of the term likely to be higher as well. And we do have lots of years of big studies that show that, as well.
So now you’ve got some really good tools– and really good ideas, from what I’ve heard– about how we can reach out to our colleagues who might not be convinced that UDL is going to save them time and effort and is going to be good for their students as well.
So I’d like to suggest these radical shifts for getting people to buy in to UDL. We should shift our conversations away from people with disability. I have to be careful when I say that, because we should still advocate for the rights of people with disabilities to get equal access to education.
But if we broadened the conversation toward access and technology, we can make a much more compelling case that doing the work of UDL helps us to save ourselves, as faculty members and designers, time and effort so that we can focus on the real reason we all got into education, and that is supporting students having those conversations and being more present with them.
If we shift away from a mindset of I have to do these particular things, and shift into a mindset of just plus-1– if you have it one way as an interaction, plus 1. And shift away from training just faculty members, and include administrators and support staffers in universal design for learning so it becomes part of your campus culture.
The folks at the University of Cincinnati have an initiative called Going from Compliance to Commitment to Culture. And that’s exactly what we’re doing here with these radical shifts.
– No more training you require, already you know that which you need.
THOMAS TOBIN: In other words, now that you have Yoda’s blessing, it is definitely time to go back to your institutions and spread the word about universal design for learning.
Before we go, though, I do want to just have one quick recap. My wife and I were going grocery shopping a little while ago. It was wintertime in Chicago. For those of you south of the Mason-Dixon line, what you see on the ground there is slush. It’s car exhaust and dirt and grit mixed with snow. It was a pretty nasty morning.
And my wife continued on into the grocery store, but I stopped right there in the parking lot and I took a picture. And I got on Twitter and I posted this picture. I said, dear @ name of grocery chain, this is @ThomasJTobin. I’m at your River Forest, Illinois location. Not cool.
And the reason I said “not cool” is, as you can see, the cart return– and for those of you in the south, the buggy return– is sitting in one of those parking spaces for people with disabilities. And I thought, that is way uncool.
Well, I’ll tell you the power of social media. Not five minutes later, my pocket buzzed, I took out my phone– I hadn’t even bought my bananas and oranges yet– and on my phone was a tweet back from the corporate office that said, hey @ThomasJTobin, indeed not cool. We’re calling the store manager right now. We’ll fix this.
And I pumped my fist right there in the vegetable section of the grocery store and I though, yes, this is a win for today. And then I forgot about it until my wife and I came out of the grocery store. And I looked, and indeed, there was someone parked in that spot. Hooray!
Except that the folks from the store just moved the cart return over into the stripey part so that they couldn’t really open their door. So what’s the moral of the story here? The idea is not to aim for perfection, but aim for progress. Are we all behind in captioning all of the hundreds and thousands of videos that we have on our servers? You bet we are.
Are many of our institutions not even in compliance with the existing laws, like the Americans with Disabilities Act, Section 508 of the Rehab Act, and then newly refreshed ICT provisions of the Rehabilitation Act that have adopted the WCAG web accessibility suggestions as requirements now? Are we all behind on that? You bet we are.
But just by firing up our hands and saying, we’re so far behind, we’ll never catch up, that puts us into what I mentioned before, analysis paralysis. We don’t even start. So the idea is to keep our eyes on making good things happen for our learners and doing it in a way where we’re going to get the most bang for our buck.
So here’s a suggestion. Think about where the students always ask questions. Every time you teach a particular course or every time one of your faculty members teaches that course, in week 3 they always just get bogged down and they get stuck. That’s a great place to do universal design for learning.
Where do students always get things wrong on the tests and the quizzes? Well, that’s a great place to do universal design for learning and create multiple ways for them to study on those concepts.
And where do students always ask for alternative instructions or directions or explanations? If the students are saying, hey, professor, I like what you said but I really don’t get it still, can you say it another way? That’s a great place to put up some UDL, or multiple ways of representing the information.
So with that, I hope I’ve given you a number of different specific tactics that you can use at your institution to help talk to your colleagues who are faculty members, designers, senior leaders, and show them the importance of good inclusive design, including universal design for learning.
We have a few minutes left in our hour, and we’re right here at 15 minutes left. So that concludes the formal portion of our presentation. And I’d love to take questions and ideas. Patrick has been kind enough to keep an eye on the questions that have come in. And if you’re on the live webinar, now would be an awesome chance to fire away, ask whatever questions.
For those questions that we can’t get to here on the live webinar, the folks at 3Play Media will collect them and I’ll respond to them on Monday when you get your link. I’m hopeful to have a response to most of the common questions. And if you’re looking at the recorded version of this, if you do have a question or a comment, I’ll put my contact information up at the end of the Q&A here as well.
So Patrick, do you have a couple of questions to start us off with, or takeaways from our time together?
PATRICK LOFTUS: OK, so some questions coming in here– someone is asking, how do you get the word out to faculty that training in UDL is available, or resources for captioning, et cetera, are available?
THOMAS TOBIN: One of the things that I’ve seen at other institutions that’s worked very, very well is to work with faculty champions who already know the value of good inclusive design. Have those folks talk up the idea of I didn’t have to do all this work myself, and I worked with the Teaching and Learning Center, the folks in the Disability Services Office, the folks in the Media Services area, the folks in IT.
Wherever you can, play up those partnerships where it’s the faculty member being the subject matter expert who is suggesting, well, if I had this multiple ways or if I could get students to communicate in different ways, it might open things up. Those are the examples that allow faculty members to convince each other that it’s an important thing to do.
Now, there’s a flip side to that coin, as well. If your institution is undergoing a broad change that applies to everyone– so for example, in 2012 my former institution, we were moving from one learning management system to another one, which meant that our Teaching and Learning Center suddenly got very, very visible on campus– if you have big institutional changes that are happening, those are often good places where you can put good inclusive design into part of the goals for moving through those changes.
So while we have all of our courses back in the shop, so to speak, or we’re moving to a new learning management system, as was my case, or if you’re adopting a new set of standards or going to a new review standard– or even if there’s just new leadership at your institution– those are things that can happen top-down in addition to those bottom-up strategies that I mentioned before.
PATRICK LOFTUS: Great. Thanks, Tom. Next question here– a lot of our faculty members are stuck in their ways. How do you get them to change?
THOMAS TOBIN: A lot of our faculty members were stuck in their ways, as well. And we can’t make everyone change. It’s an impossible goal. What we can do is at the level of the institution, to say here are the goals that we have– inclusive design, access to education for all.
And then at the individual level– when you have those hallway conversations in the cafeteria, in the faculty meetings, when you have those one-on-one or only a few people kinds of conversations– what you do is you say, well, I made this one change in my course and now most of my students don’t ask a million questions, and they pass the midterm.
And then just be quiet for a minute. The people who are set in their ways will say, what did you do? How did you how did you make this happen? How did you reduce your workload? And by putting it in terms of I was able to reduce my workload, I was able to save myself time and work and energy, and by sharing universal design for learning as a way of doing a little work up front to save yourself as a faculty member a lot of work on the backend, many of the folks who are fairly set in their ways start paying more attention to that. Because who doesn’t pay attention to something that could save themselves a lot of time and effort and energy?
And one of the cool things about universal design for learning– you don’t have to look very far to find an example of a faculty member who tried out even some middle universal design for learning things, like putting up text-based transcripts in addition to the video content because they already started with a script.
It didn’t take them a lot of extra work, and they can definitely turn into evangelists for, hey, this work is worth doing. It helps my students be more successful, and it helps me to focus on the things I want to focus on instead of answering a million questions or having to dive in with just one student and make one change one time.
Just the fact of being able to reduce the number of accommodation requests alone is worth making the argument. So those are a few different ways that you can approach people who are, as the questioner politely put it, are set in their ways.
PATRICK LOFTUS: Great advice, Tom. Thank you. Another question here– our faculty believe that they should be compensated for creating alternative measures. What’s up with that? How do I respond to that?
THOMAS TOBIN: That’s a real thorny question, because at some institutions big broad changes like accessibility changes are funded. We have a lot of institutions– I’m thinking of a couple on the East Coast right now– who have big grants that they’ve obtained in order to help faculty members to make those kinds of changes.
And if all we’re doing is expecting faculty members to make the changes, I’m kind of on the side of your faculty members should be compensated in some way if they’re going to have to do a very large amount of effort and work by themselves in order to bring their courses up to compliance with the law.
And this is where we get into a conversation. Compliance with the law is a minimal set of expectations. And you can talk with your legal counsel at your institution and talk with your folks in your disability services area as well– they will be able to quote you chapter and verse what needs to happen in order to be compliant with accessibility laws.
But if we want to move into people making a commitment to doing things in an inclusive way and then making that part of the culture, we absolutely have to involve the support areas of the institution, like the folks in media services, like the folks in IT, and move out beyond just the folks in the teaching and learning and disability services areas.
With more support from their support people, faculty members are much less likely to say, pay me to do it, because if it’s just on them, yeah, pay me to do it is a reasonable response.
But if it’s a campus-wide effort and faculty members have a team of support around them, and if faculty members kind of don’t have a choice– if they go to the teaching and learning center and say, I want to try flipping my classroom. Oh, great. And we’ll make it accessible at the same time. If it’s just how things are done, then there’s much less of an incentive to have to say, by the way, this is onerous. Pay me for it.
PATRICK LOFTUS: Great. Thanks, Tom. Next question here– do you feel that we will start seeing schools have specific departments for handling accessibility? Will it be that critical?
THOMAS TOBIN: I think it already has become that critical. There are a number of campuses who are, within the past year, hiring multimedia and accessibility champions. And that job didn’t really exist maybe two or three years ago. I’m thinking of, for example, the University of Colorado system, where they have a number of campuses with accessibility champions on campus who have dual appointment in the Disability Services area and in the teaching and learning area of the campus.
So those jobs, if you go out on higheredjobs.com and search, are starting to crop up now. And so I think it is that important.
And if you think about in 2010, the US Department of Justice wrote what’s called a Dear Colleagues letter. And in that letter they said, we are going to be looking specifically at accessibility issues to make sure that colleges and universities in the United States are following the law according to Section 508 and 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
To put it real simply, they were looking to make sure that people’s public web presences were accessible, and that there were multiple versions of multimedia out there, accessible versions. And what they found was lots of people were out of compliance. They weren’t even meeting the legal requirements that they were supposed to meet.
And that’s why now, you’ve seen lawsuits from the National Association of the Deaf and the National Federation of the Blind against colleges and universities across North America. I don’t think those lawsuits are meant to really earn lots of money for these associations, or fame or notoriety. They’re meant to bring public attention to a challenge that’s been there for a long time and that it’s high time we needed to fix it.
One of the reasons– I’ll go to our friends in Canada here. In 2016, Justin Trudeau, the prime minister, was asked by a reporter, well, why do you have so many women and people of color and people with disabilities and native peoples in your cabinet? And he just looked at the reporter and he says, it’s 2016. Meaning, it’s high time that they should just be part of our culture. And I think that those lawsuits have brought welcome attention to the issue of accessibility.
And what we want to do on our campuses is turn that fear into positive emotions. And that’s why we started talking out about trusting our feelings and having a bad feeling, and release your anger. We need to turn those “I’m afraid” moments into we’ve got this, we can do this. And it helps all of our students so we’re not doing a lot of work scrambling just to help out the people with disabilities on our campus– although we should– but we’re doing that work in order to reach out and make an easier time of the interactions for everyone.
PATRICK LOFTUS: Great. Thanks, Tom. A couple more questions here we want to get to– someone’s asking, what do you do with the support of the college just isn’t there, when you don’t have administrative buy-in or staff support?
THOMAS TOBIN: And I’ll add to that question, what do you do when you don’t literally have enough people to do the work that you know you need to do? So if you’re looking at a resource constraint– you don’t have the funds, you don’t have the time, you don’t have the people, or you don’t have the upper division buy-in from your senior leaders– that’s when it’s especially important to do a little triage, to prioritize the efforts that you have, and to draw a line in the sand.
A lot of places that got sued by the National Association of the Deaf and the National Federation of the Blind lost those suits and ended up with plans in place to get back on track mostly because they didn’t have plans in place. So good intent counts for something these days.
And if you have a plan in place for where you’re going to start– OK, as of February 1, 2017, all of our videos that are on our public website are going to be captioned– that’s a place to start. And if you can prioritize the work that you’re doing to match up to the people you have, that’s one thing to do. Where do students always have questions? Where do they get things wrong on the tests or the quizzes? Where do they end up asking for alternative explanations? Those are great places to focus and start.
And you should also take a look at what resources are available to supplement what you’re doing. Can you bring on graduate student workers? Can you go find grants? There’s a bunch of them for people who want to make their content more accessible.
And I know that our colleagues here are 3Play Media have lists of some of the folks who give out those grants. So there’s a lot of things that you can do to keep things moving in a good direction.
I’ll ask Patrick to give me control over the presentation one more time here, and then we’ll wrap it up.
PATRICK LOFTUS: Sure. One second, Tom.
THOMAS TOBIN: Yep.
And I just want to mention, if you’ve enjoyed what you saw here, I specialize in issues of quality in distance education– so things like academic integrity and cheating, accessibility and universal design, copyright, and how to evaluate online teaching– and I’d be happy to continue the conversation with anybody who’s seeing this webinar, whether that’s a 20-minute phone call or it turns into a larger conversation. You can just go to my website at thomasjtobin.com, and I’d be happy to continue the conversation with you.
I want to say thank you very much to everybody who’s been here on the live webinar, everybody who’s watching the recording, and to Patrick and Lily from 3Play Media for asking me to come today and share some time with all of you. Thanks. It’s been a great pleasure.
PATRICK LOFTUS: Great. Thank you so much, Tom. Same to you, for that great presentation and discussion session. To everyone who attended, thank you so much. And keep an eye out for an email tomorrow with a link to the recording and slide deck. And we hope you have a great rest of your day.