Inclusive Digital Access: An inclusive training method

A blackboard with the words, I want to learn more about information science and technologyWalking the walk and talking the talk in training sessions is an important factor in adult learning. So when running a course on digital access, the course designer and facilitator needs to think about both their learners as well as the learners of those taking the course. The way to do this was the subject of an interesting Masters study in Canada using ethnographic techniques. The conclusion lists some useful points that every course designer and trainer should think about regardless of the topic.

In her introduction, Keshia Goodwin makes some pertinent points, “The result of a design is dependent on the outlook of the designer, and the design process they use. In very general terms, standard designs follow the standard design iteration process: define the problem, collect information, brainstorm and analyse, develop, test, revise, repeat. The designer continues this process until the design performs as expected. There may, or there may not be feedback from the potential user of the design while the designer tests for solutions.”
“While developing my design I learned that not only did the learners need to be aware of what an end user may need; I, the instructor, needed to be conscious of, and accommodate learning barriers to my end users. I needed to be inclusive in my instructional approach, and, be accommodating to what my audience may need when I delivered training. The design, at that point, had come full circle, being inclusive and accessible to learners, and to the learner’s future audience”

The title of the study is, Inclusive Access: An Inclusive Design Approach to Digital Accessibility Skills Training

 

Now listen carefully

young girl in a classroom setting looking at an iPadListen closely. To some people, these are words are of little help. No matter how carefully they attend, some of the words go missing. The result is reduced listening comprehension. Hearing aids, FM hearing augmentation systems, and cochlear implants do not provide the speech clarity required to understand every word that is said. This is where captioning comes to the rescue. Research into captioning in learning situations is showing how much students of any age can benefit. This is regardless whether they have good hearing or not.

Anyone who has clicked a YouTube video for Google automated captioning knows it is useless, albeit sometimes funny. Automated captioning programs have improved a lot lately. For example, Interact-AS is designed for school children from about age 7 upwards. The teacher wears a microphone and the in less than two seconds words appear on the student’s computer or tablet. The before and after results show both children and teachers just how much comprehension is being is being lost. 

You can read more about this technology and the benefits to students who didn’t realise how much they were missing. Children who are deaf or hard of hearing are usually diagnosed before they reach the age of 7. Low levels of hearing loss is not always apparent in children who, for example, might have experienced many ear infections. As a consequence they would miss out on the benefits of this technology. Perhaps this further research will reveal the need for routine hearing tests for all school age children. It will be interesting to see how this technology develops and how soon it will become mainstream for all students as an aid to staying focused and learning from both listening and reading. You can read more about the value of captioning in higher education settings for all students.

UD strategies for online courses

Logo of the conference SITE 2017, Society for information and teacher educationThe days of a lecturer or instructor standing up in front of a classroom expounding their knowledge are fast disappearing. Online learning is becoming the way of the future. Universal Design for Learning (UDL) aims to provide materials with flexibility to meet each students’ learning needs. UDL is also pertinent to any presentation in any context. In a conference paper by Bauder and Simmons, digital tools and strategies are discussed that can be used in the creation and development of online and hybrid courses. The goal is to maximize student learning outcomes through a Universal Design for Learning (UDL) perspective.

The presentation slides are very informative and give good advice to anyone making presentations to any group of people – the strategies are based on inclusive thinking and practice. Lots of examples are given. You can go to the website to see the abstract and download the text version. The presentation slides are on a separate tab within the page. 

Being smart from the start: addressing the needs of diverse learners

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) has many followers with much academic writing and conferences about the topic. Indeed, Google searches on “universal design” usually bring up more items on UDL than any other topic. Matt Capp provides an Australian perspective in “Is your planning inclusive? The universal design for learning framework for an Australian context”. The paper published in Australian Educational Leader can be downloaded from Informit, but it will require institutional access for a free view. UDL can be applied across all learning situations and people of all ages.

Abstract: In June 1994 the Salamanca Statement called for inclusion to be the norm for students with disability. Goal one of the Melbourne Declaration aims to provide all students, including students with disability, access to high-quality schooling. The Declaration also seeks to reduce the effect of disadvantage, such as disability, on students. Unfortunately, this is not always the reality in Australian schools. Long standing schooling practices are ineffective for some groups of students, and continuing to do what we have always done will perpetuate rather than eliminate the achievement gap (Edyburn, 2006). One solution to addressing the needs of diverse learners, such as students with disability, is the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework. UDL as a set of principles allows teachers to develop inclusive lessons by planning to the edges of a class, rather than to a core group of learners. Supports and scaffolds are proactively built into the instructional methods and learning materials enabling all learners’ full participation in the curriculum (Hitchcock, 2001). Retrospectively fitting lesson plans with adjustments based on flawed assumptions about the homogeneity of a core group of students consumes much time, and money, with only modest effectiveness. These retrospective adjustments are only the first step towards inclusion (Edyburn, 2006; Hitchcock, Meyer, Rose, Jackson, 2002). By being ‘smart from the start,’ UDL allows classroom teachers to develop lesson plans that are inclusive for all students.

 

UD in Higher Education

view of university of seville library with students sitting at desks. bookcases are in the backgroundWhile inclusive education at all levels is written into policy documents, strategies for implementation are sometimes few and far between. Barriers in many forms still confront students with disability in educational settings. They include the built environment, attitudes of staff and other students, and the design of the curriculum. 

Inclusive University Classrooms: the importance of faculty training article identifies, and explains barriers that students with disabilities experience in higher education. The paper is by a cross-disciplinary group from the University of Seville in Spain. Reference is made to the work by Australians Valerie Watchorn and Helen Larkin on this topic. 

Abstract

The presence of students with disabilities in the universities is increasing. Faculty needs to be trained in order to attend these students and with the objective to offer and inclusive education. The aim of this paper is to identify, describe and explain the barriers and aids that students with disabilities experience in university classroom. Forty four students with disabilities participated in the research. A biographical narrative methodology was used. The university-life histories of the students were complied by making use of in-depth interviews, lifelines and photographs. Results indicate the importance of faculty training in matters concerning disabilities and new technologies, informing to the faculty of the presence of students with disabilities in their classroom, the existence of a specific service to support the faculty and the important of improving a positive attitude toward the disability. These results are discussed in line with other studies. Recommendations are made according to inclusive education and offering keys to universities to provide training plans leading to inclusive education and learning.

The picture is of the library at University of Seville.

Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

Logo of the Ed Media and Technology conference proceedingsHere are links to four published papers on universal design for learning (UDL) from Proceedings of EdMedia: World Conference on Educational Media and Technology 2016 in Canada. Some articles will require institutional access. Here are the links to the abstracts: 

Getting Them Excited: Designing an online course based on the ARCS Model to encourage attention, relevance, confidence and student satisfaction in a general educational humanities class.

Using Multimedia Solutions for Accessing the Curriculum Through a UDL Lens

Theoretical Framework Regarding the Usability of Augmented Reality in Open and Distance Learning Systems

Designing Universal Access for Open and Distance Learning through Human Centered Ecological Design (HCED)

Inclusive practice in higher education

Cover page of the Journal of Inclusive practice in further and higher education.The 2016 Journal of Inclusive Practice in Further and Higher Education includes papers from the International Conference. All articles include the concept of universal design in learning with a focus on neurodiversity.  It covers methods and research in higher education and transition to work. Contributions to this journal encourage emancipatory methods with neurodiverse people, particularly involving their personal experiences.  The Journal is published in Word format making it widely accessible.

The papers cover a diversity of topics such as academic access for diverse learners, thinking and practicing differently, experiences of staff, links between perceptual talent and dyslexia, and modification of exam papers. 

Teachers perceptions of UD for Learning

A collage of words relating to universal design for learningTeachers who have embraced UDL are great advocates for the process of designing learning programs that include struggling learners. However, not all teachers like the ideas – resistance to change being a major factor.

Mary E. Jordan Anstead from Walden University investigated the issues and presents them in her doctoral dissertation Teachers Perceptions of Barriers to Universal Design for Learning.

On page 64 she writes, “Research has shown that students at-risk benefit socially, emotionally, and academically from implementation of UDL. Yet, successful implementation and application of UDL are rooted in teachers’ perceptions. Educational reform that promotes the use of Universal Design for Learning on behalf of equitable instruction for all students requires a positive perception of the UDL model. Teachers need to see evidence of student success rather than being forced to implement the instructional model of the year. Real systemic change calls for work designs that permit teachers to learn, plan, and implement UDL strategies through means such as shared planning schedules to allow department or grade level collaboration, Professional Learning Communities (Hirsh, 2012), administrative modeling, peer modeling, and formal professional development.”  She adds that perceptions are unlikely to change by mandating instructional changes and consequently other methods need to be found.

 

Checklist for written material and oral presentations

Queensland government poster with logoMaking presentations, preparing handouts and flyers need a check over for inclusive elements.

The Queensland Department of Vocational Education and Training has produced a useful checklist for anyone producing written materials or making presentations. The checklist covers all points that should be considered by everyone regardless of whether it is a casual talk with a small group, a flyer to promote an event, a lecture and learning materials for students, or a major conference presentation.

Universal Design Principles Checklist PDF file