Hello. I'm Scott Ready,
and thank you for joining us today
for EduALL: Back To School Edition.
This session is Key Learnings from Going Fully Online.
So that you know, we're featuring
Verbit's live integration with Zoom today that
enables you to view
a live transcript throughout the sessions.
To enable the transcript,
you can click on the arrow next to the CC button,
on the button menu bar,
and then click "View Full Transcript."
With me, I have two leaders in
this space that are here to share with us today.
I'm very excited to introduce you to these two.
Nazely, would you introduce
yourself and then we'll go to Korey?
Hi everyone. My name is
Nazely Kurkjian and I am the Coordinator of Disability,
Diversity, and Nontraditional Student Services
at the State University of New York.
Hi everyone. My name is Korey Singleton.
I manage the Assistive Technology Initiative
at George Mason University.
We're about 30 minutes outside of Fairfax,
Virginia, and I'm very excited to be here. Thank you.
Well, I'm very excited
today that we have the opportunity to hear how
things have been taking place
and what this change has incorporated.
The agenda for this session is first of all,
Going Remote: The SUNY and the George Mason Perspectives,
Common Challenges from Going Online,
Opportunities Presented from Online Environments,
Addressing Engagement of Students Learning Online,
and Specific Technologies that
are Fueling Experiences Effectively.
When we look at online learning, offerings have really
grown as how we are able to deliver education.
This was actually prior to COVID, but since COVID,
we're able to really look
at the opportunities that are being
presented and being able to
capitalize on those opportunities.
Some of the online learning that's not new
is the trends that we're seeing that
is shifted to online learning and
mobile that were prior to the virus.
As you can tell with the gray hair, old enough
to remember when online learning was even
first introduced and how
that shift has taken place over the last several years,
the last 20 years.
As of June, 50 percent of
higher-ed students had taken
an online course in the past year.
More than three-fourths of
the US higher-ed institutions and
students were relying on Blackboard or Canvas,
Moodle or D2L Brightspace platforms.
The increase of retention rates,
which I think is something that really speaks
strongly to all of us in education,
is that eLearning and online learning offerings were
increasing retention rates by 25-60 percent.
So we're looking at trends that really are
providing opportunities for our students to engage.
We like to ask your participation.
We have a poll that we're going to ask you,
and this is a multiple choice,
you can answer more than one.
It's not limited to just one.
But in your opinion,
what is the primary challenge that's facing
higher-ed students learning online currently?
Again, you can choose more than one,
so don't feel like your limited to just one option.
Very good, we're seeing a 32-percent response rate.
Oh, it's going up.
We're up to 44 percent.
Some of you might be having a hard time choosing,
go ahead and select.
Excellent. We're seeing that the results show that
64 percent said that technology issues were
the overwhelming challenge that
is facing higher-ed students.
Right behind that, at 57 percent,
was a tie for Zoom or web conferencing
fatigue and the lack of
in-person dialogue and collaboration.
Thank you for participating in the poll
and sharing what your experiences are.
Now let's transition and discuss about the key learnings
from needed versus nice-to-have
in the online learning offerings.
This is where I really want to
hear from both of our co-presenters
today as to where is
this experience taking place at your institutions?
Great. Thank you so much, Scott.
To echo what you were saying before,
we have been greatly expanding
our distance education offerings
at SUNY, and Korey shared
with me as well at GMU,
but the pandemic really required all of us to
go online and that
required more flexibility and
understanding of our students and colleagues.
We anticipated that students who
previously did not disclose to our institutions
may request accommodation in
this new learning environment and we knew
that they may not easily be able to retrieve
documentation from their
secondary schools or medical providers.
Many of our faculty never
expected to teach online either,
and so we all had to quickly
familiarize ourselves with online teaching methods,
both synchronous and asynchronous,
and the accessibility challenges
or benefits of one of the other methods.
So all departments and
all perspectives were constantly adapting.
In the context of student disability services,
some of our offices were more prepared
to operate remotely than others.
Some offices had home grown or
data management systems that made it seamless to
provide their operations at a distance and
other offices who had largely paper based operations,
struggled a bit more to move everything
online and that was new for their students as well.
To add, we had to
re-imagine traditional accommodations such as
note takers that may not be
necessary or looks different in an online environment.
For us, proctoring exams
was the most disruptive change for us.
Typically this service is provided to faculty for
those who teach in person
through the Disability Services office,
and with the transition to remote learning,
that responsibility largely fell in the professors' lap.
So they had to do things like learn how to extend time
on exams and quizzes in the learning management system.
I'll add to what Nazely was saying.
A lot of what we saw from the faculty and
student perspective really fell
into just a discomfort with using technology.
There are a lot of faculty members
who have never really taught online,
as Nazely mentioned, were
never expecting to teach online.
So for them to have to
quickly switch from a course that was designed
totally to be face to face in a brick and mortar sense to
an online environment in
a synchronous manner, was really difficult.
They found that difficult in the sense
that I think there was this community move to say,
''Let's just get through the spring semester.''
So everything that was pushed at that point in time was
focused on synchronous instruction,
trying to keep it as seamless as possible,
and then we'll deal with asynchronous once we
get to the summer months and heading into the fall,
and that's where we are now.
So we see the challenges.
You're on mute there.
I'm so sorry. Dog was barking.
Work from home issues.
We saw quite a bit of challenges going online,
and I think, to
come off of what Korey was saying, the scaling,
and we all just needed to move
everything very quickly and get
it to a place where
everyone in all these different parts of New York state,
with all of these different kinds of devices
and things, were quite challenging.
Disability services, or our information technology units,
perhaps, didn't offer the same assistive technologies
remotely to students or the computers that we sent to
our student maybe didn't have
those assistive technologies on those devices,
and so access to technology in general,
and especially remote access to
assistive technology were challenging for us,
and then the barriers
with the scaling of some of the platforms we were using
in the literal accessibility of some of
those telecommunication technologies and
other kinds of platforms that we needed to use
to switch out what we would do in person,
like workshops and webinars, or yeah, workshops
and trainings for webinars and virtual engagement.
What I'll add to that is that we
noticed while there was
this huge shift online at George Mason,
George Mason had been doing a lot in terms of
for probably about eight or nine years now,
there had been a lot of heavy investment in that area.
There was already infrastructure in place to
support captioning and transcription.
Designing of asynchronous courses.
It just wasn't scaled up to 5,000 courses, for example.
You may have had 1,000 courses that were online,
but now you do try and figure out how to
support up to 5,000 different courses moving online.
The number of resources that you need to have,
the number of staff members, instructional designers,
and other types of support staff in place to support
this quick move was just daunting for everybody.
But interestingly, from an assistive technology,
and ICT or Information and Communications Technology
around like captioning and transcription.
New third-party software solutions.
Document accessibility, in essence,
making Word, PowerPoint, and PDF documents accessible.
We didn't see huge numbers in the spring,
and that was because as
our Center for Teaching and Faculty Excellence and
our Office of Digital Learning folks
put in place these course development primers,
which were these, essentially,
these primers to help faculty members
with learning how to transition their
face to face courses to an online environment.
A lot of those didn't start happening until May.
There was a lot of discussion and
preparation in March and April,
but they didn't really happen until May.
But we've seen huge jumps in
the summer in the amount of money that we
spend on captioning and transcription,
the amount of time and effort we
put into remediating Word,
PowerPoint, and PDF documents.
Those shifts didn't show up in our spring numbers,
but in our summer, and fall numbers,
they've been through the roof.
Yeah, I would agree, and that definitely presents
an opportunity for accessibility in our profession.
Obviously, being online inherently
provides the ability to reach more people.
Because space is not so much an issue on some
of these teleconferencing platforms.
We can have 100 people,
500 people or more,
and so SUNY was also very innovative and offered
extensive faculty and
professional development workshop for
improving the accessibility of documents and videos,
and delivery methods, and
reviewing the accessibility of third party products.
It really brought us closer together and empowered us to
brainstorm solutions that will definitely improve
the experiences for our students
and colleagues this fall.
I'll also add that
beyond disability services and faculty,
this has really reached student affairs,
admissions, and other campus offices
has increased their accessibility awareness,
and so they've started reaching out to us
asking what statements they can offer,
what accessibility services exist,
contracts or agreements that we have to ensure
that there's equal participation
in their offerings as well.
I'll just add one more thing
on because we had to move online,
our disability services offices and
other departments who also heavily rely on paper,
have certainly improved the technology and
digital offerings to enable
students and professionals to do
their jobs more effectively at home.
I'll agree. There was so much forgiveness
happening in those March and April Months.
There was just a whole lot of community building happened,
a lot of rallying happened to make sure
that people were able to get through the semester,
not only in the faculty and staff side,
but just definitely on the student side, obviously.
That flexibility was a huge part
of what made getting
through the end of the semester a success.
It's certainly been the case now as we have moved through
the summer months and start to transition into the fall,
just understanding where people are.
A lot of our students who are not in
situations where they can just turn on the camera
and sit at some room
alone and just start engaging in the course.
Some of them may not have a camera at home,
some of them may not have working technology at home,
and in many cases, or they may not have
access to WiFi as easily as some others.
We have a number of non-traditional students.
Of course with kids being home,
they're also trying to take classes while you have,
in my case, a five and
a seven year old running around being loud,
but we're all in that same boat.
I think that there's a lot
of sense of community that's come in with that.
But some of the things we did here on our campus was
there are a lot of students who did not feel
as engaged at the end of the spring semester,
they didn't feel as a part of
the course once everything transitioned online.
Some of the strategies that we
talked to faculty members about engaging
students is not only in how they develop and
transition a face to face course
to an online environment,
and how you build that to be
an engaging asynchronous course
with discussions and all kinds of other things,
but also just simple things like checking in students,
sending an email, reaching out to
individuals directly or even
having small group meetings and
sessions so that students feel like they
have an opportunity to talk to
the faculty member in not just
engage through email or
engage through some large discussion group.
Those are some of the things and then
also just best practices.
Naza and I had talked about this a lot early on.
Some of the things we've focused on,
when we talked about accessible course design
were not necessarily around assistive technology,
or how that engaged with a website, or anything like that,
but just providing descriptions for images.
Very basic things about who benefits from captions.
Not just those who may be deaf or hard of hearing.
But we have a huge number of students,
who also take advantage of the captionings.
We have a huge number of
faculty members who speak English as a second language,
who like to have
captions for those students who may not always
understand what they're saying
at different points in the course.
Certainly when you get into
a very difficult subject matter and things like that.
Those are a lot of the key points we pulled out.
I know Nazely has some thoughts as well.
Yeah, Korey. I think you hit on all of them.
I think that our students were definitely overwhelmed,
perhaps distracted in their environment.
There's a lot going on in the world at this time,
and so that, the inflexibility and
compassion is what we've been
emphasizing to our faculty and professionals.
Working with students individually
now more than ever to ensure
that they can meet the learning objectives in
this course with what they have at home.
I think this is a great opportunity for us also
to have deeper conversations with faculty about
what's required in the courses.
Things like attendance and what
formats things are submitted in.
Really re-imagine how to best
meet the needs of
different learners with different styles
and how they manage their time.
I think that that was really
great for us to be able to engage
our faculty about how
to design different test assessments,
and so that was something that we did as well.
In terms of specific technologies
feeling effective online instruction.
In addition to the existing
academic technologies that we used,
such as early alert tools,
campuses added trainings to promote the use of,
we have Ally on many of
our campuses through the learning management system,
which helps faculty identify
the accessibility conformance of
some of their electronic materials,
and also utilization of
built-in accessibility features and
other kinds of services,
such as with our captioning providers
and document remediation services
within campus supported platforms.
We were in a similar boat.
We just implemented Ally, so
we've been piloting it
since the beginning of the spring session,
and we're planning a for a full roll out in the fall,
but one of the things we've tried to do,
we handled document remediation in-house.
So for example, with Ally,
while it may point to a number of different things,
with so many different things
going on for our faculty members right now,
as far as learning how
to move a face-to-face course to an online course,
and just engaging in an online platform in general.
We've tried to minimize
the number of things that they have to think about.
So for example, with Ally,
some of the easiest things to do are to go ahead and
add alternative text descriptions to the images.
So start there and then the next thing we can
do is help you with adding
alternative text descriptions for example,
to documents that you may have in your course.
So trying to help them
navigate some of those simple things,
so that accessibility doesn't feel like
this whole other thing that
they have to tackle as they move into
the fall have been some of the things we needed to do.
We've also taken a look
at a lot of third party applications,
because the number of faculty members
are wanting to provide
more engaging types of tools in the classroom.
So we've looked at things like GoReact,
looked that some of the other publishing platforms,
and tested those for accessibility to
identify where there are
particular challenges around a lot of these things.
So there's been a huge move towards interactive tools.
Another example would be like H5P,
which has a lot of interactive question types,
that you can embed directly
within a learning management system.
So we have a number of faculty members using those,
and it's trying to guide
them towards those that are accessible,
and those that we know will be
a particular challenge for students.
So we've tried to provide
a more targeted route for faculty members to move in.
We do not really have the power to say
no when it comes to accessible course design,
nor do I think we really want that power
for all of the heat that is going to
come back whenever you say no,
but we do want to make sure that we provide
guidance on where potential pitfalls and
accessibility challenges may come into play,
when you talk about working with individuals who may
have any type of learning challenge, for example.
I will just add, because
one of the questions that I saw in the Q&A,
that we also had to explore
the challenges of exam security software
as we scaled our online teaching.
That proctoring service, as I mentioned before,
that used to happen in person was no longer available,
and so we saw a lot of
faculty departments adopting exam security software,
whether they were lock down browsers, or monitors,
or live proctoring services and so there
were some challenges with that,
that we had to work on a case by case with
students to provide alternative accommodations.
Like Korey said, we can't really control,
at least at our institutions, what the faculty use
and how they design their courses,
but we can encourage them to
use exam practices that minimize instances of cheating.
Should they still feel the need to
use things like exam security software,
they may do that and work here to tell them
what the possible barriers to act may be,
and try to solve
any unique issues that may come
up with certain assistive technologies.
So at our institutions,
sometimes that means someone live
proctoring via Zoom or something like that.
That's how we've handled some of those situations.
Or purchase an entirely
different assistive technology that
does work with this kind of software.
Excellent. I so love the opportunity
to hear from other institutions
as to what's taking place,
and it really helps
everyone to feel that we're not in this alone,
we're not recreating, reinventing the wheel
that we are able to really glean from each other.
Participants, this is your opportunity.
This is your opportunity to ask two of
the experts in the field questions
and to pose situations that you're experiencing.
So please, in the Q&A
feature within Zoom, please post questions.
We have a few minutes left of this session,
where we'll be able to actually ask those questions.
Let me ask Danielle.
Do you have questions that have been posted yet?
If not, I have one.
Scott, I think let's start with your question just
because living and breathing the space.
Okay. How, at both SUNY and George Mason,
are you also addressing
the student engagement in non-academic events?
So the classroom is one aspect and
being able to ensure that students are able to
engage in their academic experience,
but there's still much more to that student life cycle,
then only the academics.
How are your institutions addressing this?
I'll go ahead and go first, if you want,
unless you want to take it.
Go ahead, Korey.
So one of the things, we've
gotten a lot of requests for how do we
handle live captioning for
any types of nonacademic events.
Obviously, there's a huge amount of cost that goes
into providing live
captioners, if you were
going to do something like that.
So an example would be we had a
career services fair back in May.
A huge, there were a bunch,
it was basically handled on some virtual platform.
I can't remember the name of it to save my life,
but there were a number of
different rooms, and every vendor had their own room,
every potential employer had their own room,
and basically, this platform did not
have support live captioning.
So one of the things we had to do
was be very aggressive about reaching out,
specifically to those individuals who we knew
might need live captions,
and saying please let us know beforehand so that
we can ensure you'd have access to which you need,
because it was such a fluid event,
and you can move from one room to the next fairly easily,
and it wasn't integrated in a platform.
We basically were able to set up a couple of students
with live transcribers that
pretty much followed them from room to room.
We had a blind and low vision student who participated as
well and the platform wasn't supported.
It did not support screen reader access,
but they did have call in numbers
for every particular vendor,
so that we can ensure the student had
as smooth an experience as possible.
But one thing they agreed to do was not
to ever use this platform again, going forward,
because of all the issues that we ran into,
and then had to try and find workarounds
for within a very short time frame.
So I think for any of those live events,
one of the things we've tried to do is
encourage there is a way for them to request,
for example, live captioning and
transcription for an individuals that need
an accommodation through our disability services office.
But for those who may be hosting events,
don't necessarily have a request
and want to be more inclusive,
we try to point them towards
some freely available automatic
transcription services out there,
like Web Captioner,
like what's built into Microsoft PowerPoint,
like what's built into Google Slides.
Things that you can do that
don't cost a whole lot of money,
and it shows that you're trying to be more inclusive,
and we call that live
captioning without a budget, essentially.
So obviously if someone's making a request,
you go and use a live transcriber and a paid service,
but if there is no request and you
want to be as inclusive as possible,
you can trust services like that.
Nazely, do you have anything that you'd like to add
in the last 30 seconds?
No. We pretty much do the same thing at SUNY,
we're encouraging folks to use
free or low cost built-in accessibility features,
such as the automated captioning and obviously to
provide CART or virtual
remote, video remote interpreting upon request.
Excellent. Nazely, Korey,
Thank you so much for your wisdom and sharing
what's taking place within
your organizations with all of us,
and we are going to wrap up this session
so that everybody can make
the transition into our next one,
which is Web Conferencing and
Online Learning: Tools and Security.
We have two excellent presenters in that session,
so let me encourage you to join us in
the next one by clicking on
the link that's in your agenda.
Thank you very much.