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LVAIC Universal Design Workshop Offers Guidelines for Creating Accessible Courses

January 28, 2019, @ 4:14 PM
Speaker and facilitator, Thomas J. Tobin, PhD, addresses the participants of the LVAIC Teagle Universal Design Workshop at Lehigh University.

Speaker and facilitator, Thomas J. Tobin, PhD, addresses the participants of the LVAIC Teagle Universal Design Workshop at Lehigh University.

On Friday, January 25, 2019, LVAIC offered a Universal Design Keynote Address, Workshop, and Learning Lunch. This workshop began with a keynote address from the facilitator, Thomas J. Tobin, PhD. Tobin serves as professional speaker and consultant. Nearly 50 faculty and staff from across the LVAIC community gathered at the Mountaintop campus of Lehigh University for this event.

The keynote address, Access and Accessibility: Why Residential Learners Do Hybrid Programs Better, discussed Universal Design for Learning (UDL) as a way to structure hybrid courses and service interactions for learners at residential colleges. In particular, Tobin encouraged instructors to reach students where they are: utilizing smart phones to send instant notifications to students rather than only contacting them through learning management systems, setting up phone conversations with students to encourage retention, and developing courses and materials in a way that all students have the potential to access these resources without needing to identify themselves as having accessibility concerns. Attendees engaged with Tobin’s ideas to explore ways in which these ideas have the potential to apply to campuses across the LVAIC community.

This keynote address was followed by a workshop, Reach Everyone Teach Everyone with Universal Design for Learning, focused on the goals of:

  • provide students with better access to learning,
  • offer learners more time for study and practice in their busy days, and
  • save faculty members time and effort in the bargain.

This workshop followed two sessions: Session 1: Expanding Learner Choices and Session 2: How to Talk to Your Colleagues about UDL. This first session encouraged instructors to offer multiple options for students in their learning experience. For instance, rather than requiring all students to submit the same assignment in the same format, Tobin offered reasoning for allowing students to choose their own means of submitting a project, either as a paper, video, or presentation. The focus of this session was on:

  • Accountability: Assessing student performance with respect to job preparation, prerequisites, and university or college program goals
  • Student Progress: Assessing changes in student performance over time as a result of instruction (assessment of learning)
  • Instruction: Probing student responses to instruction in order to optimize the course of learning (assessment for learning)

The second session of this workshop outlined ways in which instructors could encourage their peers to undertake these same practices. The main goals for this session were for participants to be able to:

  • reduce the accessibility challenge down to a manageable set of tasks,
  • experiment with access methods in just a few key parts of courses,
  • determine where UDL thinking can save time and effort, and
  • talk with colleagues to encourage and instruct them on using UDL in their own courses.

This program served as part of the LVAIC Teagle Hybrid Learning Grant. For more information on this grant and its goals, visit the Teagle page of the LVAIC website.

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