------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- At CAST we developed a framework called Universal Design for Learning. Though you ’ve heard about the frameworks during our previous talks, here I’m going to focus in on how CAST is involved in platform + work. Specifically, I’m going to describe what CAST has already done in conjunction with OLI and then discuss how CAST will work with you during the platform plus process.
As you know, CAST uses the UDL framework to help us keep the natural variability of all learners in mind during the course design process. The three components of the guidelines- Provide multiple means of representation, provide multiple means of action and expression, and provide multiple means of engagement - are a guide to helping us to design with the multiple dimensions on which learners vary in mind in the specific contexts in which you work in. During this talk you ’ ll see how we think about variability when designing elements of courses, and in some cases when we look at what aspects of platforms and courses afford the learner. I ’ ll also discuss how we ’ ll draw on your expertise around the community college setting and your specific student population to learn together about how to best design for your students. In the next portion of the talk, I ’ ll explain how CAST worked with OLI to use the UDL guidelines to review their existing platform. This process was important because it is this platform that you will be working with and making your own as you develop your courses.
In the winter of 2011-2012, an accessibility audit was conducted by Jim Thatcher and Kathy Wahlbin to examine the OLI platform and ensure that the platform was compliant with section 508 and WCAG 2.0 Level 1 and 2 ( http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG20/ ) guidelines. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 covers a wide range of recommendations for making Web content more accessible. Following these guidelines will make content accessible to a wider range of people with disabilities, including blindness and low vision, deafness and hearing loss, learning disabilities, cognitive limitations, limited movement, speech disabilities, photosensitivity and combinations of these. Following these guidelines will also often make your Web content more usable to users in general. (From Thatcher and Wahlbin’s accessibility audit). They looked at what they call “ typical accessibility issues ” such as needing more headings and at some content accessibility issues, such as the inaccessibility of flash and Java applications.
Following the accessibility audit, OLI changed many elements of their platform to comply with Section 508 and WCAD 2.0. And they continue to work on this in their courses. For example, many images now contain correct and text alternatives, math formulas are now readable with a screen reader, and image links have appropriate alt text. Most importantly the audit allows us to deeply understand the elements in the platform that allow access to the platform for all learners.
The framework of UDL supports the idea that accessibility is a key first step to creating a learning environment that allows all learners to engage with the material. Examples- alternatives for visual information in alt texts. Goals put in strategic locations, ability to use assistive technology (screen readers etc.) to access the material.
As you know, accessibility means more than just being able to physically access information. Though an accessibility audit and OLI ’ s subsequent changes ensures that the platform has affordances that allow for accessibility for all learners, your grant proposals showed us the need for your courses to ensure that all students are able to engage and persist through the information they need to learn and to be able to share their learning with others. You ’ ve also discussed innovative ideas and research based solutions for building students basic skills while they are simultaneously involved in their rigorous content area courses.
To really engage with material in a way that allows for deep learning, materials must not only be accessible, but the goals, methods, and assessments must be aligned with one another and be engaging, students must have opportunities to communicate their understanding with others, engage with materials in a way that allows them to learn, and students need to have the opportunity to engage with one another (as well as their teachers and perhaps other stakeholders) as a community of learners. These ideas, or principles, fit with what you have told us in your grant proposals-- specifically, your learners often come needing specific supports, strategies, and ways of engaging with the materials and methods of teaching. The goals you set forth for your learners are not only developed by instructors, but are informed by industry partners and by the students themselves. Your assessments may be classroom driven, but they also might be driven by industry standards. We see that flexibility is key in ensuring that all students can achieve the goals of the course. When we look at a course platform, we look not only for accessibility in the way that Thatcher and Wahlbin did, we also think about how all students can access and engage with all aspects of the course.
In order to understand the affordances that the OLI platform offers, we conducted a UDL review. The UDL review used the UDL guidelines (shown on the previous slide) to show how course designers and curriculum developers could anticipate the variability that exists among learners and then address that variability in the flexible provision of supports, challenges and assessments. This review identified enhancements that could be made to the OLI platform in order to help TAACCCT course developers meet the needs of varied learners. Of course, this review was conducted on OLI ’ s already-developed courses, and so this is just the first step in the UDL instructional design process. Platform and tools are only useful in so far as they translate into course design strategies and mechanisms that support students and instructors to make the best use of these affordances in the service of teaching and learning. Through the platform plus process and resources we share, CAST ’ s goal is to help you move toward “ UDL thinking ” around how to leverage variability rather than considering it a challenge to be overcome.
The UDL review had two components. First, we reviewed the flexibility of the OLI platform to address the potential for learner variability in the environment. We posed the question: Can the OLI platform through its functionality be used to meet all of the UDL guidelines if needed, as defined by the course goals and the strengths and weaknesses of students enrolled in the course? We also conducted an evaluation of how the course or curriculum design process is successful or not at building such flexibility into the actual course. We asked: To what extent does the actual design of OLI courses meet UDL guidelines for content, support and interface design given course goals and anticipated range of learner variability? We found that OLI ’ s will allow for your learners to have options for exploring materials, for communicating with one another, and for expressing what they know. As part of our process with you, we ’ ll provide some of what we know about best practices in terms of how technology can be leveraged to support the learning methods that you already use, such as I-BEST that have been shown to be effective. Our guidance will help you to think through how to use all of the affordances of the platform in a way that is best suited to your needs and to your students. [examples of platform possibilities- using Google translate plug-in; options for expression - writing, draw, record, interactive links to build background knowledge etc etc.] During the platform plus process you will build your own course, so we think of the UDL review as a living document. It is one that will inform how CAST, OLI and ultimately you understand how to build in accessibility for learning into your courses, but the document will necessarily change as you share more about your context and your student population. We need to think with you about how the flexibility in the course design meets the needs of actual students enrolled in the course. Are teachers and students leveraging the flexibility in the UDL course design to its greatest effect given individual strengths and weaknesses? Are the UDL guidelines applied in such a way so as to promoted deep learning opportunities for all students aligned to the course goals?
How will CAST work with you during the platform plus process? The OLI platform is a collection of tools for creating and delivering online instruction that embeds practice and feedback throughout for a complete, supported learning experience. So, it needs your thinking and your enhancements. CAST will work with you to first help you think deeply about the variability of your learners and to systematically think about the context you ’ re in, your goals, methods, materials, and assessments. Since the platform captures data on student interactions, we ’ ll think with you about how best to use this data to provide meaningful feedback to the learner, the instructor, and your course development team. Much of CAST ’ s role during this “ working with ” will happen through what we ’ re calling “ modules ” or short tutorials that you can use as you develop your courses.
We know that your learning environments will be unique. Here, we ’ ve provided just one example of how we think about combining best practices with course design knowledge and the UDL guidelines. Engagement is promoted when there is the right difference between the level of challenge in the task and the learner ’ s skill level. When we think about how to design with the right level of support and challenge, we want to make sure that the support is leveled to reflect the current level of understanding the student has and provides the student the ability to get to the next phase of understanding. However, in community colleges (and everywhere) the initial level of understanding for all students is not the same and so we need flexibility in the materials and methods so that there are varying levels of support and instructional methodologies. Part of understanding where students come in will be from using what you know about your students as a baseline, but your course will also be continuously enhanced if you use the platform ’ s data that is collected on the user ’ s experience to tweak and enhance your courses. One example of the way that some community college and other industry related workforce programs have used tools to follow this guideline is to involve students in engaging with each other to build an understanding of the information.
Voicethread is a tool that is being widely used to support multiple means of expression in formal education settings. Tools such as voicethread can easily be embedded into courses and teachers and instructional designers can be provided with strategies for how to teach using these tools. Consider this example from a photo journalist and how he has been able to share a story and start a conversation that offers and invites in multiple means of expression. In one scenario discussed by educause a student is studying to become an occupational therapist at a community colleges. I n her first year, she took a course covering specialized therapeutic equipment that students used under the supervision of a clinical professional. To prepare for labs, students reviewed videos of the devices in opera- tion. The instructor had included a verbal explanation with each video using VoiceThread, an application that lets users add voice or text annotation to visual media, creating a Flash-based animation. Emma could click a thumbnail photo of the instructor to listen to the explanation of the device while watching the actions unfold on her computer screen. There were also photo icons of other students who had used VoiceThread to add their own suggestions, alerts, or cautionary comments, which included audio clips and text balloons. One of the post-lab tasks for this year ’ s students was to leave a comment in VoiceThread that might be useful to future classes. Emma became increasingly interested in studying human and animal interactions and their impact on human health, so she took a series of online courses to become certified in animal-assisted therapy. These courses culminated in a practicum where students worked on community projects, developed a presentation, and defended their work before an online jury of peers and practicing therapists. Students photo- graphed or took video of the everyday activities of their internships, uploaded this media to VoiceThread, discussed the issues at stake, and talked about the impact of animals on the health of the humans they met. The resulting Flash animation was then embedded on the course site for jury critique. At first, Emma was uneasy offering verbal critique of other students ’ work. Listening to previous jury assessments, however, she noticed that input from the instruc- tor and the therapist set a professional tone, and she began to understand what kinds of peer comments would be most helpful. As she watched and heard about prison inmates training dogs as assistance animals, autistic children riding horses, and young adults caring for zoo animals in a program that curbed youth violence, she was surprised at how the voices and images of her peers and fellow jurors supported a strong sense of community—even though she had met very few of the people in person. This example not only suggests various ways that students might engage with material, but it also hits upon flexibility in the way students are assessed and flexibility in how When you think about the goals of your courses- both specific (i.e., students come away with a specific mechanical, technical skill) or something broader such as a goal around problem solving-- CAST will provide suggestions about how to think through your goals and some ideas around not simply tools, but ways of using tools, that can help you achieve your goals. As we provide some of these examples, we expect that your team will being generating more and perhaps better examples that can be shared with your own consortium and hopefully with others as well. We see our work in platform plus as a jumping off place for creative an innovative solutions.
This example not only suggests various ways that students might engage with material, but it also hits upon flexibility in the way students are assessed/ in the way students might represent their understandings. It also suggests ways that students might engage with one another in a variety of ways. When we share our thinking around design, we ’ re not thinking about a list of “ to dos ” that need to be checked off, but rather about an approach to thinking deeply about a few elements of your course and your population and using those elements to guide exactly what you do.s. TAACCCT grantees are seeking to build career pathways for students, providing them with skills and authentic contexts to test those skills out, as well as building an orientation towards lifelong learning so they can continue to advance in a career path. When you think about the goals of your courses- both specific (i.e., students come away with a specific mechanical, technical skill) or something broader such as a goal around problem solving-- CAST will provide suggestions about how to think through your goals and some ideas around not simply tools, but ways of using tools, that can help you achieve your goals. As we provide some of these examples, we expect that your team will being generating more and perhaps better examples that can be shared with your own consortium and hopefully with others as well. We see our work thus far as a jumping off place for creative an innovative solutions during your own course development.