Camosun Faculty Story #47: Sue

Sue is an instructional designer and one of my colleagues in eLearning (part of the Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning) at Camosun.  I wanted to speak to Sue so she could tell me, and you, about her experiences supporting faculty when we all moved to online teaching in March 2020.  On a personal note, going back in time to when we in eLearning were working long hours helping faculty and students navigate this new world brought back feelings not just of exhaustion but also of the excitement we felt as our faculty colleagues began to see first-hand the benefits of online teaching, something we have known for years.   

One of Sue’s passions is accessibility and Universal Design for Learning (UDL).  In fact, she was a co-author (2015) of the BCcampus Accessibility Toolkit.  Sue tells me that while eLearning had offered some workshops on accessible design and had some accessibility tools available in D2L (namely ReadSpeaker) prior to March 2020, when everything moved online “challenges around accessibility hit people like a brick wall and I think we had one of our greatest teachable moments possible for digital accessibility.  We saw more awareness around issues students were having enhanced by the fact that faculty themselves didn’t have the right infrastructure to teach online.  That shared lived experience, of a sudden lack of access impeding your ability to do something, well you can’t manufacturer that.”   

Sue also reminded me that we had enabled another online accessibility tool just prior to the pandemic, BBAlly (aka Ally) which we turned on across D2L in June 2020.  “We were barely through wrapping up the pivot term when we turned BBAlly on across the system and as a result, I have had way more interest in accessibility workshops and learning about UDL skills since 2020.” But the accessibility tools we had incorporated into our D2L system turned out to have a broader impact, beyond, for example, simply converting text-to-speech.  “We learned that Textaid was also a great asset for our language programs. Faculty teaching Japanese, Spanish, and Korean were able to use TextAid to support some spoken and written assessments that they had struggled to do even before COVID.” 

In addition to accessibility tools, our streaming media service, Kaltura, had only been enabled for a year or so and “we went from barely having started to use it to an exponential production of videos, which quickly shone a light on the poor quality of auto-captioning in services like these. While many faculty recognized that this bad video captioning needed to be fixed and wanted to do that work, they were overwhelmed, sometimes to the point of tears, by the work this added to their already heavy load. That was the motivation to rattle the cage for some professional captioning support.”  And now, we have access to a captioning service, REV, to assist faculty with their video captions in Kaltura.   And as Sue notes again, good video captions are not just useful for people with hearing impairments.  “You can watch videos in locations where you have no sound capabilities, students have access to a searchable transcript for study purposes, etc.”  

In terms of assessment, Sue recalls faculty struggling with assessment methods that would not work in a fully online environment.  Instead, they needed to ask “what if I provided more options for students to be able to complete the assignment? What if instead of a time-based test it was a take-home exam? Some Faculty were looking at their assessments with fresh eyes for the first time in years. Coming up with alternate assessments exemplifies UDL by exploring flexibility in the way we get students to show they’re engaged.  I think that this focus on alternative assessments, in one of the biggest shifts to UDL we’ve seen.” 

While Sue wonders how much less stressful the move to online teaching would have been if content had been built with accessibility and UDL in mind, she says, “there is no going back from the spotlight on accessibility and the awareness that’s been developed around the tools to support accessible design. I think we raised the baseline a bit, and while we’re still going to have new people who are not there yet, I’m confident that most faculty can, and will, use these tools without the trepidation they may have had before.”  

When talking a bit about rewards Sue has seen over the past two years, she tells me “I am more aware of the multi-dimensional challenges each individual student is dealing with because I’m dealing with them more myself too.” This also means that while she had to press pause on the UDLProject she was working on pre-COVID, “these past two years have provided much additional material for that project that I couldn’t have even imagined.” And building from that awareness of what overwhelmed students were experiencing, well she found herself supporting faculty who were similarly overwhelmed from trying to support those students. “I had to meet faculty members where they were at, trying to make things work for that individual in the moment realizing they were just keeping their heads above water. So, if I can help you to achieve this thing that’s more important than even you know at this moment, let alone how you would do it in the future, well, like any new language you learn the vocabulary, then you put the words together, and then start to build sentences. When you talk about accessibility and UDL, you can find a point of entry and then build thoughtfully from there. I think the way we were all meeting faculty where they were at was in many ways a UDL model of support.” 

If there was one shining moment for Sue, “I think coming out of this we have forged a tighter bond with our colleagues in the Centre for Accessible Learning (CAL) and that we now have the foundations from which we can continue to build a model of collaboration in our teaching and learning community. We are all committed to creating good online learning experiences for students and faculty, and because we work with so many different groups, we’re in a position to influence change. So having CAL be more of a partner, for me, that’s amazing and is a model other Post-Secondary Education institutions should take note of.”  And what really resonated for me was Sue’s comment that, as a result of increasing online options at the college, “we’re a three-campus college now and we in eLearning sit mostly on this third campus. We need to make sure that we are supporting students and faculty fulsomely and accessibly in this third campus environment.”   

When I asked Sue what some of her biggest lessons learned over the past two years were, she tells me “What I have gotten out of the past couple of years is confidence that in our team we have a range of skills and experience.  There are so many skills we need to be current with: technologies, pedagogy, inclusive education, accessibility, decolonization, open education, etc., that each of us alone can’t possibly know it all.  So, it’s a huge asset to have, say, a colleague who is deeply focused and committed to bringing open education practices, examples, and opportunities to the college. I can both participate in those and continue to develop my expertise so I can work with faculty, but I don’t have to be the expert in everything to recognize expertise and to draw on it.” 

Advice Sue has for anyone faced with moving to online teaching echoes what so many other faculty have said:  “Work with peers, connect with folks who have been where you are, so you are not recreating the wheel, try something small and build your confidence in lower stakes moments, and don’t feel afraid to reach out and borrow ideas from people.” We reflected a bit on how learning to teach online is similar to training for a marathon: you do it gradually, upping your mileage as you go.  “Of course, March 2020 was like running a marathon with no training, multiple times.  But in normal times, take it slow.  Oh, and get a good chair at home for all your online classes and meetings!” 

I wanted to end with Sue’s reflection on where she feels we, as eLearning and CETL, are now as a team. “We as a unit no longer face concerns about feeling left out because of being on different campuses, because we have a more universal place for us and faculty we work with, in this new, third campus.  I also have deeper relationships with faculty, some of whom I had worked with very little before, and I feel like I have a much deeper awareness of what’s going on in different parts the college than I ever did before. Even amongst our CETL community I feel like our communication and collaboration is stronger.” Our third campus has enabled and supported this enrichment, so we need to respect and nurture it going forward. 

Please Stop Creating PDFs that Aren’t Accessible

Do you create your PDFs by photocopying the source material? Do your PDFs have any handwritten notes on the pages?

If you answered yes to either of these questions, you should know that many students can’t read these PDFs at all.

  • A photocopied PDF is just a picture of the page. It is 100% inaccessible for any student who uses text-to-speech tools to access course content.
  • Handwritten notes in PDFs present challenges for ALL students, and are also unreadable for text-to-speech tools.

Before you spend hours at a photocopier scanning your course readings into PDF files: STOP!

Take your clean (i.e. no handwritten notes) source materials to Printshop Services and ask them to scan your course readings as OCR’d* PDFs. (OCR is a scanning process that extracts the text from the source material; PDFs scanned for OCR are readable for most students.)

For more information about accessible print materials, see:

*OCR = Optical Character Recognition.

eLearning Tutorials Site Updates

Good morning all!  As I return from a nice long vacation, the eLearning Tutorials site is calling my name, asking for some overhauls.  Yesterday, thanks to colleague Sue Doner, I got started, revamping the Accessibility tab with new resources created and curated by Sue, so I invite you to have a look.

The four main topic areas you will now find are:

Assistive Technology Tools Available in D2L, where you will find more information on BBAlly, ReadSpeaker, and TextAid, as well as information on how to add these tools to your course.  Tutorials are available for both students and faculty on how you can use these tools to support your teaching and learning.

Tutorials for Making your Digital Content more Accessible is where you will find links to the Open Textbook Accessibility Toolkit (BCcampus) and a variety of Accessibility Checkpoints materials (created by Sue Doner) to help you make your WORD documents, images, audio, and video files more accessible for your students.  There is also information for you on how to use BBAlly (in D2L) to support you in fixing accessibility issues you might have in your Content files.

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) Projects at Camosun is where you can find information on some of the UDL work people at the college are working on.  We would like to keep adding projects to this page, so if you are also working on a UDL project (or working on ways to support your students using UDL principles) and would like to share that with us, email Sue Doner at doners@camosun.ca.

Finally, Academic Accommodations at Camosun is where you will find information and tutorials around accessing and implementing academic accommodations through the Centre for Accessible Learning at the college.

If you have any questions about the information or tutorials on these Accessibility pages, please send me (Emily Schudel, schudele@camosun.ca) or Sue Doner (doners@camosun.ca) and email.  We hope you find the resources useful!

NEW!! Setting a Student’s Quiz Accommodations from the Classlist in D2L

This tutorial is designed for faculty who have previous experience using the various tools in D2L and will cover the steps involved in setting a student’s Quizzes accommodations through your D2L Classlist.  While you can set accommodations for students from the Quizzes tool using Special Access (to add more time, etc.), you can also set Quizzes time limit accommodations for an individual student so that you don’t have to change this in every quiz.  Note that this feature is ONLY for setting a student’s time limit accommodation for Quizzes at this time (May 2021 – this tutorial will be updated as new accommodation features are added to D2L).

For further information, please contact elearning@camosun.ca for assistance.

Steps

  1. Go to the Classlist in your course.
  2. Click on a student’s drop-down menu (the down arrow) and select Edit Accommodations.Click the drop-down arrow next to a student's name and select Edit Accommodations
  3. In the Edit Accommodations pop-up box, select Modify Time Limit and then either set a Multiplier of original quiz, or the Extra time (in minutes – for example, if the quiz is an hour long and the student needs time and a half, add 30 minutes). You can also select Always Allow Right Click, for example if a student needs to be able to access accessibility tools in order to complete a quiz.  Then click Save.

    Add accommodation settings and click Save

  4. An icon appears next to the student’s name indicating added accommodations. A student will also see this icon in their view of the Classlist and will be able to check their accommodations.

    Instructor View of Classlist Accommodations

    Accommodations icon in instructor view of Classlist

    Student Views of Classlist Accommodations

    Classlist icon and drop-down to View Accommodations

    Student view of icon and drop-down in classlist

    Specific accommodations information

    Accomodations information

Things to Remember

You can still use Special Access in a quiz to overwrite an accommodation on a quiz-by-quiz basis. Note that when you overwrite an accommodation using Special Access, you will get a warning describing the impact of overwriting an accommodation. Further accommodation options and enhancements are planned for this year, so this tutorial will be updated as needed.

Captioning for Teaching & Learning Video Resources

What are Captions?

Captions are the text that is synchronized with the audio in a video presentation. Captions are important when people need to see what is happening in the video alongside a text-based alternative to the audio information.

What should you include in captions?

  • ALL speech content
    If there is speech that is not relevant, it is usually best to indicate in brackets that it has been excluded from the captions. Example: [A & B chatted while slides were loading]
  • Descriptions of relevant non-speech audio are also usually provided in brackets in your captions.
    Example 1: [doorbell rings]
    Example 2: [example of music by XXX plays]Background noise that doesn’t have any contextual relevance can be left out of your captions.

Who Needs Captions?

Captions provide comprehensive access to the audio content in videos for students who:

  • Are deaf or hard-of-hearing
  • Are in a noisy environment and can’t hear the audio
    OR
    Are in a very quiet public environment and can’t play the audio
  • Are not a native-English speaker and need written-word format to support understanding

“As a student, I need captions when I watch videos from my instructor because…”

  • “They use a lot of scientific terms and/or proper names that I haven’t heard or seen before”
  • “The audio in the recording is fuzzy/muffled/poor and it makes some of the material really hard to understand”
  • “They have an accent and I don’t always understand what they are saying”
  • “I have to share my space with other people and I can’t always play or hear the audio when I need to watch the content”
  • “They speak too quickly for me and I miss important information”
  • “I have a hearing disability and captions are the only way I can get the content my instructor is talking about”

Types of Videos Faculty are Creating & Uploading to Kaltura (My Media)

Faculty creations include videos of:

  • Introduction to instructor
  • Demonstrations of course concepts (how-to, hands-on, practical examples, etc.)
  • Mini-lessons / mini-lectures
  • Presentations (e.g. narrated PowerPoint)
  • Interviews / Guest Speakers

Commonly asked question: “Should faculty upload recordings of live-class Collaborate sessions to My Media?”

  • It is not necessary for students’ review purposes to upload recordings of your live-class Collaborate recordings to your My Media. Students can access class recordings directly from the Collaborate section on your course site or via a direct link to the recording.
  • Suggestion: only upload the recording of a class Collaborate session if you need to provide an improved version of the recording by adding captions – and can commit the time to editing any major errors created by the auto-captioning.

How Do I Provide Captions with My Videos?

Always Available: Auto-captioning in Kaltura (My Media)

When you upload video files to Kaltura (My Media), Kaltura’s captioning algorithms automatically generate captions for your videos.

However, it’s important to know that components like background noise, proper names, specific terms/jargon, and variations in pronunciation can present challenges for these algorithms. Sometimes those challenges result in errors. The auto-captioning in Kaltura is approximately 70% accurate, which is comparable to the auto-captioning in YouTube.

You will need to edit your auto-captions. Because auto-captions may include errors that will negatively affect students’ comprehension, you should be prepared to review and edit the auto-captions before you publish your video to students. This is especially important when your video is the primary or sole means by which students get this particular content; they will have no other text-based representations of the concepts or terminology to refer to for comparison.

Available in 2021: (Some/Limited) Captioning support through eLearning

If you are creating teaching & learning video resources for your course(s), you may be able to access some professional captioning support through eLearning.

The budget we have to pay for this service is limited, so we will begin by considering teaching & learning projects that meet the following criteria:

  1. Video is a re-usable and/or shareable learning object; video is not limited to one single course offering. For example:
  • Demonstrations of course concepts (how-to, hands-on, practical examples, lab demos, etc.)
  • Mini-lessons / mini-lectures / presentations (e.g. narrated PowerPoint, Kaltura Capture video; max. 30 minutes)
  • Presentations (e.g. narrated PowerPoint)
  • Interviews or Guest Speakers
  1. Video is authored by the instructor.
  2. The audio quality of the video is reasonably high. e. the spoken word can be understood without having to work too hard to hear it.

Additional consideration will be applied to teaching & learning videos created with the assistance of Camosun’s Audio Video Services.

Out of scope: We will not be able to provide professional captioning support for recordings of live-class Collaborate sessions, or student assignments.

Wondering if your videos might be eligible for some professional captioning support?

If you are creating teaching & learning video resources for your 2021W course or are planning to develop video resources as part of your Scheduled Development plans, you may be able to access help with creating accurate captions.

Please contact Sue Doner [doners@camosun.ca] and Bob Preston [prestonb@camosun.ca] with your inquiries.

 

Introducing the new ALLY tool in D2L course sites.

As you prepare for a more digital Fall 2020 term, wouldn’t it be great if there was a tool that was always on hand to help make to your online course materials more accessible?

We are happy to share some welcome and exciting news with you, in the form of a new tool we will be launching in D2L on Monday, June 29. The name of this tool is ALLY, which is entirely appropriate because it’s going to be one of our new best friends.

Here’s a snapshot of why we are excited about ALLY:

  1. Support for all students.

Many students actually need or prefer to access their text-based content on different devices or using assistive technology. ALLY makes it possible for students to download alternative formats to the Word, PowerPoint, PDF, and HTML files you added to the course site.

ALLY generates the alternative formats as soon as students select the option they need; alternative formats include such options as HTML (web page), MP3 (audio file), ePub (for e-readers), Electronic braille, or Tagged (formatted) PDFs. Any student in a D2L-based course can access these alternative options in Course Content.

  1. Support for all instructors.

ALLY provides instructors with immediate feedback and guidance on how to improve the accessibility of their course content. By extension, this improves the quality of the alternative formats students access through ALLY.

Note that you can gradually work on improving the accessibility of your content; you do not have to do everything ALLY recommends all at once.

  1. General institutional support.

ALLY also provides in-depth feedback through its administrator tools (Course Reports and an Institutional Report). These reports provide data on how technically accessible course content is across all courses in D2L and what we could be doing better as a whole.

When will you be able to meet this new Ally?

  1. You can email the Centre for Excellence in Teaching & Learning [CETL@camosun.bc.ca] to request a copy of the recording from the 1-hour information session Thursday, June 11.

    ALLY tutorials and tips will be added to the eLearning Tutorials site over the summer.

  2. ALLY will be enabled across D2L on Monday, June 29.

UDL and Moving Online

I am re-blogging this post from Seanna Takacs at KPU, as I think it is very important in this world of sudden shifts from face-to-face to online.  It is not just about putting everything into D2L, but about how to engage with your students and looking at various and flexible modes for doing so.

UDL and Moving Online

 

Camosun Faculty: Please share this message with your students! (time-sensitive)

Dear Camosun College Students,

** Do accessibility-related challenges impact your student life at college? **

Accessibility challenges for students at college can be the result of a mismatch between what you need to succeed as a student and how components of college experiences & environments have been designed.

For example, you may have experienced accessibility-related challenges associated with a physical or learning disability, or associated with speaking English as a second language, or associated with financial limitations, or associated with the use of technology at the college.

The 2019/2020 “Universal Design for Learning (UDL) Project: Phase 2” is a faculty/student-partners project at Camosun College. Our project team is interested in hearing your stories about accessibility-related challenges in college life, learning what would help to minimize those challenges, and creating learning tools out of your stories that will help our college community better understand how we can all help design experiences and environments that are more accessible for everyone.

** What does our college community need to know about accessibility-related challenges? What do you want us to know? **

We invite you to share your stories with us between February 24 to March 16, 2020 in small groups (Sharing Circles) or anonymously (Online Form).

Questions about this project may be directed to: Sue Doner, UDL Project team leader, in the Centre for Excellence in Teaching & Learning (doners@camosun.ca).

Information about this project and a schedule of opportunities for you to participate may also be found on the project website “Practical Applications of Universal Design for Learning

UDL Guidelines from CAST

Want to dive a bit deeper into Universal Design for Learning?  Well, aside from coming and visiting our own Sue Doner or her website, there are some amazing resources you can check out online.  One I am going to highlight today is CAST – the Centre for Applied Special Technology, which just released an updated version of their UDL Guidelines.

“The UDL Guidelines are a tool used in the implementation of Universal Design for Learning, a framework to improve and optimize teaching and learning for all people based on scientific insights into how humans learn. Learn more about the Universal Design for Learning framework from CAST. The UDL Guidelines can be used by educators, curriculum developers, researchers, parents, and anyone else who wants to implement the UDL framework in a learning environment. These guidelines offer a set of concrete suggestions that can be applied to any discipline or domain to ensure that all learners can access and participate in meaningful, challenging learning opportunities.

Find out more by visiting The UDL Guidelines.

BCcampus Accessibility Workshop Resources

Awhile back, I posted about the BCcampus BCcampus Inclusive Design Webinar Series.  But I since realized that I hadn’t followed up with a link to the resources which were posted later at BCcampus.

So, without further ado, here are the Accessibility Workshop Resources which include the presentation slips, and information on how to create accessible webpages, Word documents, PDFs, PowerPoints, etc.

If ever you have questions about how to create accessible documents for your WordPress sites, D2L course sites, or Open resources, or about how to create and edit closed captioning for videos you create in Kaltura, contact desupport@camosun.ca to arrange to meet with an instructional designer.