LMS Team Adds Accessibility Aid to Help Prepare for Fall 2020

If you have been in your Blackboard courses in June, you may have noticed that there are additional icons that appear in the instructor view and in the student view.  We’ve added a tool called “Ally” to Blackboard Learn.  This tool gives two different sorts of assistance: one for students; and one for instructors.  The instructors can also see and access the student tool.  These new tools help us to meet our legal and moral obligations to our students with learning differences.

If you create items natively in Blackboard (with the exceptions of some specialized HTML coding) all of the content is compatible with national and international standards for accessibility and universal design for learning and compliant with the provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act.   If, however, you choose to add items like PowerPoint decks, Word documents, PDFs and videos, it is the responsibility of the instructor, in normal circumstances, to make the additional materials compliant.

We recognize that many of our courses have content that has evolved over time, and so this tool will give instructors the opportunity to review their course content with a new set of “eyes” and to review their current content by today’s accessibility standards.  It will also allow students to have a digital assistant that can attempt to correct a number of issues without instructor intervention and in so doing, keep more students on track.

Student View:
Blackboard Ally Alternative Format Image

Students do not see the instructor indicators and do not have access to an accessibility report.  They only get an indicator beside each item for which Ally can assist, that will give them access to a tool which may be able to help them move forward and have some level of access to the content.  If the instructor has also made the recommendations the tool recommends, the student’s options will be significant.  If the instructor hasn’t done anything, the tool may still be able to remediate the content to an accessible alternative.

Instructor View:
Instructor Visual Indicators

Ally gives instructors tools to audit all added content except audio and video and to see to what degree the documents, presentations, and images in your course are considered compatible by current accessibility standards.

As an instructor, you can work on your course content in two ways, by using the indicators in the course content, and by running your full accessibility report from “Course Tools.”

The indicators give you a fairly intuitive workflow with scoring that is based not on how “bad the problem is” or even how fixable the issue may be but on how a screen reader or other assistive device will encounter, and importantly, navigate, what you’ve given the students.

When you are in your course, you click the symbol and Ally will launch an assistant tool that will give you recommendations and remedies for making the file more accessible.  The CFC can help you walk through any confusion or difficulties you have with the tool or you can review our current help document on the tool, watch this short video introduction, or review this use guide.

If you are interested in seeing the status of your whole course you can go to the Course Tools and run an Instructor’s Accessibility Report.  You may even take some delight in running the report both before and after you do the work to make it more accessible for more learners.
Image of Accesibility Report in Menu

Three recommendations as a teaching colleague:  1) Don’t be too hard on yourself if you get the red gauge, in many cases it will be a case of a document that you haven’t “tagged” and the tool can assist you by doing the tagging directly from your Word or PowerPoint original;  2) Fix the easy things first; 3) Remember that this is an act of compassion and empathy in addition to helping us meet our legal requirements.

Together we can continue to work to design our Fall 2020 semester so that every learner can succeed in an environment that values equity and difference.

Let’s Get Ready for Summer! Moving Rapidly to Remote Instruction

We want to give a huge shout out to all instructors who made the shift to remote instruction with lightning speed so we could finish out the spring semester! As the parent of a graduating senior, I am so appreciative of everything you are doing so all of our students can complete this term.  Has it been easy?  No!  Has it been comfortable? No!  Are you making it work? Yes! If you’d had more time to make this move are there some things you would have done differently?  Absolutely!  

Guess what? We DO have more time to prepare our summer courses that were going to be offered in person, but now need to be moved to remote instruction. And we DO have the workshop to help you do just that!

Moving Rapidly to Remote Instruction (MRRI) will help you rapidly develop your face-to-face course for remote instruction for this summer’s semesters. If you are planning on teaching a summer course that needs to move online quickly, attend this three-week online workshop that will walk you through an intentional course design process and provide the expertise of the Coulter Faculty Commons and experienced WCU online faculty in designing and facilitating remote instruction.  This is not the full Online Course Design Institute, which is for online courses that will be taught next Spring.  Instead, we have more time to prepare for the summer courses and design them to be more enjoyable by you and your students.

Dates:  May 11 – May 31
When: There will be a combination of live Zoom sessions, recorded tutorials, content and assignments/deliverables.  You will have the opportunity to have 1:1 conversations with CFC staff and experience online faculty. Expect to commit 8 – 10 hours each of the three weeks to complete this process and be ready to teach.
Where:  Fully Online through Blackboard, Zoom, and Teams
Outcome: By the end of May, you will have your online course designed and developed, in Blackboard, with a teaching/facilitation plan in place.  You will also have the support of colleagues and the CFC throughout the summer.

The workshop is free and open to all instructors, including adjuncts.  Please register, to let us know you are joining us and to allow us to ensure that we have enough facilitators to make this workshop successful!

Prepping for Finals Workshops This Week

Image show an open notebook and books, pen and paper

We still have a few more workshops available this week!

The end of the semester is quickly approaching and to help you prepare your final assessments for the online environment, we are offering research-based best practices segmented into four workshops. WCU does not have an online proctoring solution and, because of technology challenges and privacy concerns for students, the LMS Governance Committee, whose members include experienced online faculty, have voted not to adopt any online proctoring solution, including not requiring students to use Zoom or Panopto to video themselves while taking an exam (1).  These workshops, which will be recorded, will be accessed from within the Blackboard Learn for Instructors course (2) in which all instructors are already enrolled. No need to sign up, just show up!

Additionally, the Educational Development Team is open for group or individual consultations to partner with you to complete this work.  Go to https://affiliate.wcu.edu/cfc/partners-in-pedagogy/ to schedule with us!

Writing Better Exam Questions

The key to reducing cheating in online exams is to write exam questions that require knowledge application rather than knowledge recall. In this workshop, we will go through the basic steps of taking your existing exam questions and writing better questions.

At the conclusion of this workshop, you will be able to:

  • Identify question stems
  • Use Bloom’s Taxonomy to write higher-order thinking questions
  • Write questions that require application of knowledge instead of recall

Session Schedule:

  • Monday, April 20, 10 am
  • Tuesday, April 21, 2 pm
  • Wednesday, April 23, 1:30 pm
  • Thursday, April 24, 10:00 am

Designing Alternative Assessments

Faculty looking for alternatives to deploying a final Blackboard test will benefit from this interactive workshop. We will explore strategies for connecting prior student work to a final assessment, including the use of reflection-based narratives, photography, infographics, and student presentations. We will examine various technological tools with an eye towards those that are expedient and efficient for faculty use, including considerations for grading and student feedback. Faculty will be asked to share their ideas for their final assessment with peers.

At the conclusion of this workshop, you will be able to:

  • determine an alternative assessment strategy for your final exam
  • select a tool which is expedient and efficient for grading
  • identify various methods for providing student feedback

Session Schedule:

  • Wednesday, April 22, 10 am
  • Thursday, April 23, 1 pm
  • Friday, April 24, 1 pm

 

Creating and Using Rubrics for Faster, More Consistent Grading

Multiple choice tests are popular assessment techniques because they are simple to develop, quick to deploy, and easy to grade. Using alternate assessment techniques are marginally more challenging to develop and deploy but place a considerably greater demand on an instructor’s time to grade. Well-constructed rubrics can save an instructor a significant amount of time and still provide the students with meaningful feedback.

At the end of this workshop you will be able to:

  • Develop rubrics that measure the student learning outcomes of an assessment
  • Associate rubrics to assessments in Blackboard
  • Use rubrics in the Blackboard Grade Center to grade assessments

Sessions:

Friday, April 24, 10 am

 


(1) – LMS Governance Committee decision regarding online proctoring – can be accessed from within the Blackboard Learn for Instructors course.

(2) – Go to wcu.edu > QuickLinks > Blackboard or go directly to https://wcu.blackboard.com/ to log in.

Image – https://collegeinfogeek.com/open-book-exam/

 

CFC Open Sessions for Online Design and Blackboard

Open Neon Sigh

Open Help Sessions for All Instructors

The CFC is hosting additional open sessions for all instructors to learn how to effectively facilitate online learning and engage students using Blackboard and its general suite of tools. We will be offering these sessions through the following video-conferencing link:

https://us.bbcollab.com/guest/da120265dc4b4471a96d1bbd8b388946

Dates and times are as follows:

Monday, March 23 – March 25
1:30 – 3:00 p.m.

 

Blackboard Logo

 

 

The PLEA for using just-in-time over in-real-time teaching modes!

It is easy to just assume that you will be able to have live class sessions online using Zoom or Collaborate at the same time and day they have been scheduled, but that will not produce a good learning experience for the students, nor will it be pleasant for you as the instructor.  We gathered a couple of really good posts that align with our approach to moving online quickly.

Do This, Not That

~Alison Wang, Online Teaching Do This Not That

Click on image to download the PDF. Creative Commons License Attribute No Derivative, No CommericalShared through Creative Commons, Attribute, No Derivative, No Commercial Purpose.

 

Do This, Not That Graphic

This has been flying around social media, but it’s one of the good ones. She refers to particular systems and programs but her advice is right on.

Please do a bad job of putting your courses online

What? Did I hear you correctly? YES!

As Rebecca Barrett-Fox says “You are NOT building an online class. You are NOT teaching students who can be expected to be ready to learn online. And, most importantly, your class is NOT the highest priority of their OR your life right now. Release yourself from high expectations right now, because that’s the best way to help your students learn.” ~https://anygoodthing.com/2020/03/12/please-do-a-bad-job-of-putting-your-courses-online/ 

And we like her list of 10 considerations:

  1. Your students know less about technology than you think. Many of them know less than you. Yes, even if they are digital natives and younger than you.
  2. They will be accessing the internet on their phones. They have limited data. They need to reserve it for things more important than online lectures.
  3. Students who did not sign up for an online course have no obligation to have a computer, high-speed wifi, a printer/scanner, or a camera. Do not even survey them to ask if they have it. Even if they do, they are not required to tell you this. And if they do now, that doesn’t mean that they will when something breaks and they can’t afford to fix it because they just lost their job at the ski resort or off-campus bookstore.
  4. Students will be sharing their technology with other household members. They may have LESS time to do their schoolwork, not more.
  5. Many will be working MORE, not fewer, hours. Nurses, prison guards, firefighters, and police officers have to go to work no matter what. As healthcare demand increases but healthcare workers get sick, there will be more and more stress on those who remain.
  6. Some of your students will get sick. Others will be caring for people who are ill.
  7. Many will be parenting.
  8. Social isolation contributes to mental health problems.
  9. Social isolation contributes to domestic violence.
  10. Students will be losing their jobs, especially those in tourism and hospitality.

Other recommendations she puts forward that we promote as well:

  • “Don’t do too much. Right now, your students don’t need it. They need time to do the other things they need to do.”
  • Make all assignments due at 11:59 pm on the same day of the week. Make them due on Sunday at 11:59 p.m. instead of Friday so that they use the evenings and week-end to get work done.
  • Allow students to take every exam or quiz twice so that if there is a technical problem (such as getting kicked out of Blackboard), they will have another opportunity to complete the exam.
  • Record lectures only if you need to.  But use the TED talk method: no longer than 18 minutes and focused on one concept, big question or idea.
  • Don’t fuss over videos.  Don’t worry about your ums and ers. It helps if you write a script (also provides a transcript for ADA purposes) and read through it a few times.  Then practice 5 times just the first few sentences or first few slides. That will get you into the recording without the jumpstarts we do at the start.
  • Do NOT require synchronous work!  Students’ life and schedules have been turned upside-down as well. A good use of Zoom or Bb Collaborate is to use it for office hours or tutoring sessions. But make it optional.
  • Do not use proctoring or ask students to record themselves when taking a test.  This is a violation of their privacy and they did not sign up for an online course.
  • Remind them of due dates. This is not hand-holding!!  They need contact from you and as we said before, their lives have been turned upside down.  Be kind to them and kind to yourself.  Be supportive and encouraging, Be a mentor and coach!
  • Respond to them when they ask for help.  These are anxious times and they will need encouragement.

We will continue to share quick tips and helpful resources over the next few weeks!

 

Assess Your Students’ Changing Needs – A Survey Template

Student needs are changing during this move to offering alternative modes of instruction. Faculty who want to find out what challenges students are facing can utilize a new web form created in Office365. 

The form can be modified by faculty prior to sending out. The survey should take students 5 minutes to complete, and asks for the following types of information:

  • whether students expect to have reliable Internet access
  • times of day students expect to do online work
  • preferences for asynchronous or synchronous activity
  • accessibility requests (content in different formats, for example)
  • basic psychological and physiological needs

The survey form is available below. Note the options for modifying the survey questions, collecting data, and sending out the link (the Settings icon can be found top-right of your screen, to the right of the Share button).

Open the Form


A heartfelt thank you to our colleague Dr. Mae Claxton, Professor of English, for reaching out to the CFC with this idea.