Does your course offer students multiple ways to consume content, complete activities, and demonstrate learning? Accessible course content is good content, as the saying goes, but how can you offer multiple modalities that meet the needs of diverse learners?
The framework to support this practice is Universal Design for Learning (UDL). At its core, UDL is about providing all learners with experiences that include multiple ways to engage, represent, and express. It is about intentional and proactive steps faculty take to create an accessible course for everyone.
These steps often begin with identifying one more option for students, what Tobin and Behling (2018) call a +1 strategy. Ultimately, what is one more way students can engage with content, complete an activity, or show what they know?
You can develop a +1 strategy by considering these questions:
Where do students tend to ask lots of questions?
Where do students often get things wrong on quizzes or tests?
Where do you almost always need to re-teach or explain things in a different way?
The answers can help you develop the framework for meaningful enhancements each semester. You can develop a +1 strategy by starting where you are. You may focus on enhancing course content options first, then expand learning activities or assessments.
Some +1 ideas for expanding content choices beyond reading text include:
Chunk content into smaller videos, with captions (and transcripts if possible)
Offer podcasts for those who are auditory learners
Create evergreen content; that is, it can be repurposed from one semester to another
Some +1 ideas for offering students multiple ways to demonstrate knowledge or proficiency include:
Journaling or blogging
Creating a video
Creating a multimedia presentation
Writing a paper
As you create a +1 strategy, consider Blackboard Ally -- a tool that provides alternative formats students can download in order to access course information in a format they need or want. Students who are prone to eye strain might prefer to download an HTML or ePub format of text for easier reading on a mobile device, or because they want options to copy, paste, search, or highlight passages of text. Students who are auditory learners find listening more helpful than reading and can download an audio format of text. Other alternative formats include electronic braille and BeeLine Reader.
Alternative formats aren't just for a select group of students: They benefit everyone in your quest to design accessible course content.
As always, if you have any questions, please consider the following options: