Expert Tips: Designing & Delivering Instruction That’s Engaging & Accessible First

By: Verbit Editorial

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This guest blog was written by Dr. Misty Cobb, EdD, MBA, a transformational education & technology expert. In her role at Verbit, Cobb works with K-12 and higher education leaders on best practices for using technology to provide accessible and equitable learning opportunities for all students. Cobb earned her Doctor of Education from the University of Alabama where her research centered on transformational learning in faculty professional development.

Earlier this summer, Verbit conducted a study among 100 students with disabilities and 132 higher education professionals at colleges and universities in the US, United Kingdom, Canada and Australia.

Here are some key points of note from the students with disabilities surveyed:

  • 91% reported having a learning disability
  • 32% reported a physical disability
  • 93% reported having an inability to focus and engage in remote learning
  • 90% reported that they miss interaction, collaboration, and campus events with friends and classmates
  • 85% reported that they have access to ineffective technology (Wi-Fi and connectivity issues, out of date technology, etc.)
  • 95% reported uncertainty or anxiety due to the pandemic

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For higher education faculty to know that a student needs a specific accommodation, a student must disclose a disability. Of the professionals who responded to the study, 38% stated that they offer accommodations for students only upon request. At the same time, these professionals overwhelmingly believe that less than 50% of students in need of an accommodation actually disclose their need.

Given this information, here are some simple tips to switch from responding to a request for accommodation to designing and delivering instruction that is engaging and accessible first.

Use video

Students reported that video helped to bridge the gap of isolation and loneliness sometimes associated with remote learning. Here are some questions you can ask yourself as you are thinking about your courses:

      • What portions of your class and instruction can capitalize on the use of video?
        • Course overview
        • Instructor introduction and welcome
        • Unit/chapter/project overviews and introductions
        • Exam prep/review
        • Individual student feedback

Reuse video

What video(es) already exist that can be reused “as is”?

      • Do other professors teach the same subject? Do you co-design or share content?
      • Is there content on the web you can use as is or modify? Reference Creative Commons copyright licenses to understand licenses and how you can use content.

Use breakout rooms

Use breakout rooms in Zoom or your online meeting platform of choice. Breakout rooms can be used to facilitate small group discussions. Another option is to use breakout sessions for formative assessment or to give and receive feedback.

Use screenshare and other capabilities

If possible, teach students to share their screens and/or use the whiteboard feature. This often works better for smaller classes where breakout rooms might be less feasible.

Use captioning

Caption first. Use a service like Verbit’s to ensure fully accurate live captions or the built-in captioning options available in many video hosting services today if you must. Ask your Accessible Learning partners or Learning Technologists for help and suggestions for specific tools or solutions that may be available at your institution. Closed captioning will help students with disabilities, but also the majority of students overall to engage more effectively with their course content.

Consult trusted resources

Consider using an evaluative course rubric to explore other ideas and suggestions for making your course content more engaging and accessible. Consider the Quality Matters Rubric, Blackboard Exemplary Course Rubric, the SUNY Online Course Quality Review Rubric, the Quality Online Course Initiative Rubric or the California State University Chico Rubric for Online Instruction.

For more guidance on how to effectively design and deliver courses to students in today’s increasingly more online and hybrid environments, as well as in person, reach out to our team. We’d love to discuss some easy fixes and ideas with you.