NatSci Digital Accessibility Coordinator

NatSci Digital Accessibility Coordinator

I am excited to share that I have taken on the role of Digital Accessibility Coordinator in the College of Natural Science. My responsibilities will include managing academic accessibility needs for NatSci courses, providing guidance on digital methods for teaching, providing professional development to faculty and staff, and networking with IT and other accessibility folks on campus. I look forward to promoting equitable and inclusive pedagogy practices in our STEM classes. 

OER Leadership Award

OER Leadership Award

Since I created and have been using an open education resource (OER) in my class, I was asked to participate in a faculty panel hosted by the MSU student government, ASMSU, yesterday in celebration of Open Education Week 2021. It was a great panel with multiple faculty sharing their experiences of using OER. I was surprised, though, by finding out that ASMSU was also honoring us with OER Leadership Awards as recognition for using OER in our courses. It always feels so great to be recognized for my work by students.

Accessibility Blog on #iteachMSU

Accessibility Blog on #iteachMSU

The Accessible Course Design Learning Community at MSU, which I co-facilitate, has begun writing blog posts for the new #iteachMSU Commons. We recently posted an article about Alternative Text, featuring experiences of faculty. We provide a discussion of alt-text along with resources, but I feel showing others that even faculty who are “accessibility champions” can still find accessibility topics challenging. We are all working to better our classes and remove barriers to education for all. It’s important for those just starting out in this process to know that each step, no matter how small, is a step in the right direction. 

FLC Road Show

FLC Road Show

Last week, as an add-on lunch event at the Making Learning Accessible conference, my FLC did a brown bag presentation on accessibility, Universal Design for Learning (UDL), and our D2L training course for faculty. We easily had 100 people attend, which was amazing, and we were able to share our message with a number of MSU faculty that we had yet to reach. Additionally, since we piggy-backed on the conference, we had a number of non-MSU folks in the audience as well, and we received really great feedback and discussion points from both populations of attendees.

Our focus on this presentation was to talk about how to promote a culture shift from the negative view of accessibility: “unfunded mandate”, fear of litigation, worry of overwork, to that of a more positive view that is encompassed by UDL. We discussed how by implementing UDL practices into a course, faculty not only help those students with documented accessibility needs but also provide additional learning opportunities for all students. Think of the student who reads closed captioning while working out or a student that uses a transcript since English is a second language or any of the students out there with undocumented accessibility needs. By promoting a culture shift, faculty can come to see that small changes in the classroom can have big impacts on a wide-range of students.

Transcripts versus Captions

Transcripts versus Captions

Today I participated in a Lunch and Learn event at the Center for Language Teaching Advancement on designing accessible course materials. It was run by Kate Sonka and Dustin Defelise. It was a very interesting group because members ranged from undergraduates with little knowledge or experience in accessibility to those, like me, that have spent a decent amount of time creating accessible content to others that have a detailed knowledge of the WCAG 2.0 standards. I love when discussions involve a wide range of experiences and backgrounds.

One thing we touched on that I haven’t successfully included in my courses is the presence of transcripts in addition to closed captioning. For me, captions are relatively easy, since I record my lectures using a script. Then it’s just a few steps using the YouTube captioning tools to get the timing lined up properly. Transcripts are a different beast, though, because a true transcript should be able to be used as a stand alone document without the student needing to view or hear the video in anyway. This means that all parts of the video need to be described. Have an image on a PowerPoint slide? Needs to be described. Showing a data graph? Needs to be described. Presenting a clip of some animal behavior? Needs to be described. I completely understand the purpose of the transcript, but at the moment, it does seem a little overwhelming to imagine creating one for every video.

Does anyone out there have time saving best practices for creating transcripts?

COETC

COETC

I spent the morning at the 33rd Annual MSU College of Education Technology Conference. The theme of this year’s conference was equity in STEM, Computer Science, and Universal Design for Learning (UDL). The first talk I attended was presented by Nate Stevenson from Kent State on designing accessible learning with UDL. We discussed the principles of UDL and about how to think about if content creates barriers to learning for your students. For example, for some students get overwhelmed by the simple length of an assignment. This hit close to home because I tend to combine multiple assignments into one in my online classes. I am now going to reevaluate this decision. He also mentioned the book Design and Deliver by Loui Lord Nelson, which is a book I’d like to check out. 

The second session was presented by Andrew Vanden Heuvel and Jeff Gerlach from Michigan Virtual University and covered improving access to STEM content by using online learning. The majority of the time was spent rotating through stations that gave examples of ways to get student to engage with the content and get hands on experience with science using only household items. It made me wonder what types of activities may already be out there for neuroscience and got my brain thinking about ways to create some.

All in all a well spent morning.