Hello, thank you for joining me today as I discuss universal instructional design for online learning to increase inclusion of I/DD students in

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1 Hello, thank you for joining me today as I discuss universal instructional design for online learning to increase inclusion of I/DD students in Associate and Bachelor degree programs. I work for the University of Wisconsin Colleges Online and Distance Education program, a part of the University of Wisconsin System. I work in the instructional design department where we work with 18 different academic departments across 13 brick and mortar campuses. Our enrollment has increased over the past three academic terms and we are on track to enroll over 3500 students for the summer term. Our target demographic of students are non traditional, special students, first generation and returning adult or working students. 1

2 Affordable, accessible higher education can help individuals acquire the skills and training needed to apply for and be offered employment in jobs that offer competitive, livable wages. Now we live in a technologically dependent society we do almost everything through the Internet, web applications and various software applications. Higher education is continuing to evolve to accommodate society's increased dependence on technology. With many institutions offering hybrid courses, flipped classrooms, streaming lectures, and fully online courses accessibility is an increasingly important issue for post secondary institutions. The mission of many universities and colleges is to prepare their students to be viable individuals in the work place, to have access to higher wages, independence and professional growth. 2

3 Now as you can see on this slide, there is a significant pay gap between persons in the workforce who have been identified as having a disability versus those without a disability. According to the American Institutes for Research, in 2014, individuals with a disability earned approximately $12,000 less than their counterparts who do not have a disability yet both groups have earned a Bachelor's degree. An even larger wage gap is noticed at the advanced degree level where the wage gap is approximately $21,000 to the disadvantage of persons with a disability. Even more disturbing is that 85% of adults with a developmental disability do not have a paid job in their community. Not only does that hinder independence but it also decreases advocacy and only enhances stereotypes that people with developmental disabilities cannot earn livable wages. Which we know that this is not true. Roughly 13% of corporate disability inclusion programs specifically recruit individuals with an intellectual or developmental disability and while the unemployment rate for individuals with disabilities is nearly twice as much as the general population but look at that, it's closer to 70% for those with an I/DD. Again, access to affordable and accessible higher education can help close these unemployment gaps as well as increase the earning potential for individuals with 3

4 intellectual or developmental disabilities. Furthermore, utilizing accessible online or virtual based post secondary education will even further prepare individuals to enter jobs with competitive, livable wages. 3

5 However, there is little research on how online education can be designed and delivered to accommodate cognitive, intellectual and developmental disabilities. WebAIM has even stated that developers rarely design web content to be accessible to people with cognitive disabilities. This is unlikely to change overnight, because the amount of research related to accessibility of web content is relatively scares. According to WebAIM, such disabilities are sometimes difficult to diagnose. 4

6 I think that WebAIM has it wrong. They are wonderful. WebAIM has excellent resources on accessibility for online users, they are an excellent resource for Section 508 standards. But, when it comes to the concept that the disability must be defined to assist the research in this area of need, I think they have it all wrong. And here's why: 5

7 If we look at the Social Justice Theory Definition of a disability, it states that a disability is "unnecessary social, economic, and environmental barriers rather than physical, psychological, or developmental conditions or impairments." So where WebAIM seeks to diagnose and characterize the disability in order to do the research, the social justice theory places the disability on the barriers, not the person. Therefore, the barriers need to be defined, researched and corrected. And in this instance, this requires an overhaul of traditionally formatted online post secondary education. 6

8 The social justice perspective is important to use when looking at universal instructional design for three main reasons. The first reason is that it is a combination of minority group and social construction models; therefore it focuses on the individual and the environment. This model emphasizes the role played by privilege and oppression in determining the experiences of individuals with disabilities. Secondly, it promotes the exclusion of "ableism" and discrimination ableism is defined as the pervasive system of discrimination and exclusion that oppresses people with disabilities on individual, institutional, and societal and cultural levels. And finally, it is the most inclusive foundational model of universal instructional design. It promotes respect for self authorship and human dignity of all students. The social justice models is the most inclusive model for ensuring that every individual is valued and included in the process of implementing specific interventions. 7

9 So if we apply the social justice education theory to instructional design, we will do the following three things: we precisely define student empowerment which is a combination of the acquisition of knowledge and an understanding of what to do with that knowledge in one's personal live and in the greater society. We also promote social responsibility where students realize their interconnectedness in society and begin to take ownership and responsibility for their community, their society and in the world. Also, we facilitate a transformation of systems where we analyze the issues of power, privilege, systemic inequality, and social transformation by creating socially just institutions and systems 8

10 Instructional design is a collaborative approach to developing online course content. Plans need to be strategic and consider a wide range of issues that go beyond just online pedagogy but also analyze student readiness and accessibility. So we now look more at universal instructional design. 9

11 There are essentially eight guiding principles of Universal instructional Design: One of the first steps of creating universal online learning content is to determine the crucial learning elements. This means that, quite simply, design content and curriculum that is essential to the learning components and outcomes of the course. Also, we want to create a welcoming virtual classroom this is done by creating instructor presence, promoting inclusiveness, and providing a 'human element' to the online classroom setting. Some examples of creating a welcoming virtual classroom include creating instructor videos, offering live chat and video conferencing, and having open discussion forums that are not just centered around the content of the course. Thirdly, you want to create concise expectations it is important to express clearly and concisely what you expect of your students and what your students can expect of you. It is important to use pointed, yet common language in your expectations to articulate these expectations efficiently. Next, you want to provide opportunities to give constructive feedback this can be done best by providing formative assessments for students to display mastery of the content provided, and utilizing summative assessments only when necessary. There are some 10

12 disciplines where this is more easily practiced than others but offering an opportunity to give students constructive feedback creates a student centered approach as opposed to the rigidness of summative assessment feedback. Additionally, you will want to utilize natural supports. Natural supports are personal associations and relationships typically developed in the community that enhance the quality of life for people this can include providing the contact person for accessibility and accommodation for your institution, getting your students in touch with your discipline's department chair, creating mentor groups within your virtual classroom. Also, you want to differentiate your instruction to allow your content and method of delivery to remain flexible and transformable for all learning needs. This does not mean you remove the integrity of your content or significantly modify your curriculum to eliminate crucial learning elements, rather, you are just able to convey the same learning elements and curriculum outcomes in various ways. Another principal to universal instructional design is utilizing diversity in assessment strategies. So a typical online course uses a series of assessments in the following pattern: discussion posts, quizzes, midterm, final, and sometimes a larger writing assignment. While this is fairly predictable, it can create exclusion in many areas of the assessment process. For example, it can create an unnecessary barrier for students who are poor test takers, or it can create an environment that disadvantages students who struggle with text. Finally, you want to promote faculty and student interaction. Some of the best ways to do this is to establish virtual office hours and encourage students to use this time to reach out to the instructor. Be available to the students in more ways than just or discussion boards use the phone, Skype, or a live chat feature in the institution's learning management system. 10

13 So let's take a look at some best practices of universal instructional design to create an accessible online classroom. You want to create content that is transformable, rich and multi modal. Transformable content is content that is delivered in a way that can accommodate different learning needs and styles. Some examples of this is to utilize flexible fonts or fonts that can be enlarged or fonts that can be changed to a more user friendly font. Also, you want to use real text or vector based text in order to reduce pixilation problems. Finally, you want to provide content in a text format for adaptive technologies such as screen readers or JAWS technology. You want to design and deliver content that is multi modal. Multi modal means just utilizing different modes of delivery. For example, in the history sample I showed you, providing an instructor commentary for the text provided. You can use diagrams, drawings, photos and video clips to accommodate your visual learners. You can create audio files to help with the diversity of your content delivery as well. Also, a standard best practice in instructional design is to provide synchronized captions when at all possible to give your students the real time learning experience and if that is 11

14 not possible, then always provide a transcript for audio and video files. Finally, provide audio descriptions of visual events which can be an audio description of a picture or diagram. 11

15 Another important practice of universal instructional design is to focus the attention of the user. You want to do this through three key attention areas: sensory, content, and interaction. To promote user attention through sensory cues, you will want to create content that utilizes soft colors, but of course be wary of section 508 standards for colorblindness basically, you don't want to create an online course that puts bold blue font on a bright orange background. You want to remain consistent and simple when using fonts for textbased materials limit italics or all caps. Avoid background sounds in instructor created videos, so you don't want to create a lecture with dogs barking in the background or children screaming as this will distract the end user. Provide your users audible cues and provide ample amounts of whitespace and avoid complex or "busy" visuals. When focusing the attention of the user through content you want to be sure to focus the important points of the content to the top. You don't want to make your user hunt through the text or within the course to find the important content points. You can also group or chunk the content. Grouping and chunking content means that you put your content into smaller groups for easier user management and memory. And you will want to emphasize important text to draw the attention of the use to pieces of content they will want to pay particular attention to. 12

16 Finally, when focusing the attention of the user through interaction you will want to create multi modal navigational cues to help students navigate the course and provide feedback on user actions. Most LMS's provide user tracking analytics, so if you notice a student getting stuck or not navigating the course as other students, you can provide guidance to that student. And also, you will want to provide instructions for unfamiliar interfaces. If your course uses an additional learning interface like Pearson's MathXL, for example, you want to be sure to provide instructions on this interface. 12

17 When you're designing your content, you want your design structure to be consistent by using similar interface elements, enhancing course and content predictability and use a consistent navigational scheme. Consistency promotes predictability in the course and the content which enhances the end user navigation and success in the course. We do better in all tasks when we can predict, with certain confidence, the end result of the action. You want to make sure you use simple and concise content by using clear and simple language, avoiding tangents and use correct grammar and spelling. This might seem like common sense, but when dealing with content experts, sometimes the little things can be overlooked. We don't want to create complicated online course material just for the sake of displaying expertise we want to keep the content essential to the core elements of the course, really focusing on exactly what the students need to master to meet the course outcomes. Also, you want to provide sufficient time for users. So avoiding time dependent design through Java or HTML or any other timed redirects that can be established in a LMS. And of course, you want to encourage your instructors and instructional designers to remain flexible to allow for accommodations of more time. Finally, you will want to create courses that allow for user recovery you can set up tasks 13

18 that ask users to confirm their choices. For example, before a student begins a timed test, add one extra button that confirms that the student does want to begin the test. And you want to create shorter, multi step interactions. Creating lengthy interactions can cause a student to forget what they are working on or begin a task they were not ready to begin. 13

19 Again, providing accessible online courses for I/DD students better prepares them for an Internet savvy, technology dependent workforce. There are a series of events that take place for students to apply to and enroll in post secondary schools. And many of these tasks mimic tasks that are done on a daily basis in our personal lives. Almost everything we do in society is through a computer from applying to jobs to managing our money and paying bills, we request information from service providers and we shop online. Most of us have been using advanced computer and Internet skills for many years, but for many individuals, content isn't created to promote independence, rather created as a barrier to independence. This includes online courses in higher education. 14

20 If we don't focus more on universal instructional design pedagogies, we are prohibiting I/DD students from having an educational experience that is equivalent to their nondisabled peers. So many post secondary institutions offer online courses and a majority of students take at least one fully online course at some point in a 4 year degree program. Furthermore, this causes I/DD students to lose out on opportunities to learn how to efficiently gather web based information. Since practice makes perfect, we have to remove the barriers that exclude some individuals from that practice. 15

21 So in conclusion, higher education leads to a variety of personal and financial benefits people feel empowered and a sense of accomplishment as they progress through postsecondary education, that empowerment is carried into the workforce where students seek jobs with autonomy and a chance to practice their knowledge and skills for livable and competitive wages. This is a social justice issue, we need to work harder to provide affordable and accessible associate and bachelor degree program for all students. We need to remove ableism and the institutional societal, and economic barriers that create a disabled environment. We need to promote independence through offering accessible web based content to enhance professional and personal independence And finally, we need to provide an equal opportunity post secondary experience which includes online courses for I/DD students working towards Associate s and Bachelor s degrees 16

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