Universal design syllabus as learning tool


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One of three slides sets from a workshop on Universal Design for Learning. Other slidesets focus on creating presentation slides and enacting accessible discussions.

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  • Slide Set Title: Your Course Syllabus as an “Accessible Learning Tool”OUTCOME: PRESENT IDEAS ABOUT THE SYLLABUS AS A LEARNING TOOL FOR A RANGE OF LEARNERSSyllabus as record – informed decision-making aided by elements such as course description with learning outcomes (and perhaps course context in discipline, culture, profession); key questions address and skills developed in course assignments/assessments/activities; information about course texts and technology requirements (internet platforms and software, hardware and access, skills required and to be developed).Syllabus as contract – interpersonal academic communication and interaction expectations; written communication guidelines and templates; establishment of classroom climate to support teaching/learning activities.Syllabus as learning tool – “If we posit that a lot of students are indeed unprepared [or that students are differently prepared] socially for college, then what is the solution? A list of rules and explanations in a syllabus is one possible solution, but obviously that one does not work well. A curious educator would be likely to explore what it is that students are expecting from their college classes and use that information as a basis for recognizing what is going to surprise or challenge them In other words, if we state where the students are, we can better explain where we are taking them.” (emich.edu)“if the class is not a game [of getting right answers to get the grade], then what is it?... Approaches differ, but the key elements include commitment to fostering learning rather than solely transmitting knowledge: “willingness to take their students seriously and to let them assume control of their own education,” and a willingness “to let all policies and practices flow from central learning objectives and from a mutual respect and agreement between students and teachers.” (emich.edu quoting Bain 2004 at pp 78-9)www.emich.edu/facdev/docs/EMUSyllabusChecklistSep2011.doc
  • Optical Scan – human tools / technology toolsVisual Learning Screen ReadingScreen ReaderWhite SpaceAlt TextFollow up text
  • Start Here – image of “Tours Start Here” sign from http://www.ottsworld.com/start-here/.Think of this as a one-shot, one image, 3-minute preview to feature essential information to support an essential message about learning in the course. See also Quality Matters (QM) Rubric for Higher Education: http://www.ipfw.edu/celt/technology/documents/qualitymatters_rubric.docGraphical Outcomes – Image of setting up course outcomes as a diagram comes from “Graphic Display of Student Learning Outcomes”: http://chronicle.com/blogs/profhacker/graphic-display-of-student-learning-objectives/27863.Think of this as the map for new travelers who will circle back to it, adding notes as they travel forward – and sometimes backward for a bit – in learning. NOTE: This is a supplement to, not an alternative for, a syllabus narrative that sets out student learning outcomes and descriptions of assignments, which text to speech reading tools will need.See also a collection of graphic organizers including concept mapping, mind mapping and brainstorming templates: http://www.graphic.org/.
  • Please review this with the sample segments from workshop handout on course policy statements:
  • Tours Start Here – image of “Tours Start Here” sign board from http://www.ottsworld.com/start-here/. You could also send your full syllabus and/or upload the syllabus to the U’s Course Guide page: https://webapps-prd.oit.umn.edu/courseinfo/courseguide_selectsubject.jsp?institution=UMNTC. This advanced preview practice will be of use to students who are introverted learners, are leaners with low vision who will scan the document to voice, are learners returning to school who will value this extra time to become familiar with how your course will work, and/or are reading your syllabus in their 2nd or 3rd or 4th language and welcome the time to study the nuances.Unlock Your Syllabus – image of key and lock from http://www.flickr.com/photos/philwolff/4078829747/sizes/m/in/photostream/, CreativeCommons ShareAlike, Non-Commercial License. With an electronic document – ideally a word document so that they can copy, paste, reorganize, change typeface in size and color –all students can create the individualized document needed for learning. Along with doing a jigsaw or syllabus scavenger hunt or feedback memo that lists two questions and two important discoveries about the course, providing an open-access syllabus document allows students to interact with the text throughout the course.Words are Powerful Tools –image with the 4-word phrase “words are powerful tools” is from http://elenaoren.efoliomn.com/wordpower. For ideas on wording policy statements in light of learning outcomes, see the Syllabus Tutorial at http://www1.umn.edu/ohr/teachlearn/tutorials/syllabus/index.html. For more ideas about creating an academic integrity policy statement as a learning tool, see: Students on academic integrity - http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/resources/detail/resource_database/audioandvideo/plagarism_student_views; and Rutgers’ Student Scenario Driven interactive guide - http://www.scc.rutgers.edu/douglass/sal/plagiarism/intro.html. (2) UMinn resources on academic writing – International Students share ideas/experiences: http://writing.umn.edu/sws/multilingual/index.html#voices; Resources for Teachers - writing.umn.edu/tww/preventing/.How to Rethink Your Syllabus http://www.portals.emory.edu/sylideas.htmlCourse Syllabus http://uditeach.r2d2.uwm.edu/?p=67Syllabus Development http://tep.uoregon.edu/resources/universaldesign/syllabus.html 
  • Universal design syllabus as learning tool

    1. 1. + UNIVERSAL COURSE DESIGN: Slideset #3 Your Course Syllabus as an “Accessible Learning Tool
    2. 2. + Develop a Scannable Document  Organization by Design  Be deliberate about font choice, point size, white space & parallel construction of elements.  Cue by key words to move students through the syllabus and set learning tone/climate.  Align images and text for visual and conceptual congruency.  Blind/low vision learners and learners with various disabilities will need alternative text.  First write your syllabus in a traditional word doc format.  Provide an electronic copy of syllabus / course materials.  Tables, figures, images require descriptions: alt text.  Let students know where to find descriptions of images.  Essential elements need to be clearly identified.  Standard scanners read single columns of text. Appearance – How it Reads Format – How it Scans
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    5. 5. + Develop a Learning Syllabus Send a “Welcome” email to the class before you meet: * Introduce yourself; incorporating a video is a good idea. * Name required books/supplies and places to find them. * Provide “how to get started” information for technology tools. “Unlock” your syllabus: * Share an electronic syllabus students can rearrange. * Organize a learning syllabus with outcomes keyed to assignments, classroom climate linked to course policy, and all aligned to clear grading criteria & assignment timelines. Provide a learning context for university and course policies For example, with a plagiarism policy: * Acknowledge students will need to build communication skills. * Address academic integrity concept rather than just list rules. * Acknowledge that no one is a native speaker of “academic."