Inclusive learning and teaching environments course – week 3

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This is the last week of the course. It focuses on how we can use technology to encourage collaboration in a range of learning situations and the emergence of the ‘technology power user’. Again an amount of learning materials are covered. I’d like to summarise it into five aspects.

First, preparing to support online learning inclusively. Aiming to ensure that the education is as inclusive as possible for disabled students.

JISC has provided guides to supporting online learning. It is imported to make online students feel they are connected with the institution.

Well-designed course activities can make them feel involved, but it’s useful to provide additional online social spaces, such as dedicated discussion forums or regular live chat sessions, to encourage interaction. This also provides an opportunity for students to feed back about the course and their learning experience.

Provide accessible support materials. For example the “Essential Digital Skills and Awareness” resources on the Southampton Solent University website.

The Journal of Inclusive Practice in further and higher education, Issue 5.1 Special Edition (2013) included ten research articles about the disability services in educational institutions.

The SCOPE website lists information of assistive technology and services for disabled people.

Second, considering accessibility when using social media, multimedia, mobile, mind mapping, and cloud technologies. Social media technologies allow people to connect and share information easier. Multimedia technologies allow people to interact with learning materials through multiple ways. Mobile technologies increase the flexibility of reaching online resources without location limits. Cloud technologies make backup, recovery and store documents easier. Mind mapping technologies provide another way for people to present their learning outcomes.

It is necessary to mention the JISC Digital Student Project again. Ray’s story shows how social media technologies can help his learning.

Many universities started to adopt social media and media technologies in teaching. For example, Queen’s University provides Social media accessibility of Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

Apple, Windows, and Android mobile phone system providers all published accessibility support guides.

Inclusive design is an important part of accessibility and usability. The University of Cambridge developed an Inclusive Design Toolkit which has helped me to understand the terms of ‘Design for all‘, ‘Universal design‘ and ‘inclusive design‘.

Third, considering accessibility in assessment. Thinking about offering different assessment modes and different choices within tasks to allow students to show their learning outcomes. JISC’s Making Assessments Accessible is the handy guide to get started.

Creating accessible examinations and assessments for disabled students article provides some useful suggestion for inclusive assessment. It is from the SHEFC-funded Project – Teachability: Creating an accessible curriculum for students with disabilities.

Plymouth University students and academics talked about their experiences of inclusive assessment and gave their advice on best practice.

A short video created by the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) introduces the way of designing assessment.

Inclusive teaching resources: Offer Flexible Assessment and Delivery generated by RMIT University is a useful guide for people to design, deliver and assess learning inclusively.

Introduction to Accessible Standardized Testing aims to provide design guidelines for building accessible standardized testing tools for Open Education Resource (OER) authors. It is from the Floe Inclusive Learning Design Handbook, which is a part of the Floe Project produced by the Inclusive Design Research Centre at OCAD University.

Fourth, thinking about “digital wellbeing“. Digital wellbeing is defined by JISC as follows. It brings the concerns such as workload, lack of time to explore digital approaches, stress and information overload, the responsibility staff take for the wellbeing of students, cyberbullying, and managing time.

The capacity to look after personal health, safety, relationships and work-life balance in digital settings.

Fifth, what can I do in my practice? I think it’s important to be aware of the inclusive teaching and learning as the first step. When I create new materials, bearing in mind the “born accessible” is the key. Talking to people about the inclusive teaching and learning when I support them is a slow but necessary way to make it happen.

More useful resources and tools:

Important developments in technology for Higher Education from 2017 to 2021

A diagram to summarise the important developments in technology for Higher Education

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Inclusive learning and teaching environments course – week 2

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This week, we had overwhelming information on the topic – how we can develop inclusive learning and teaching environments.

First, we need university-wide strategies and disability policies that help staff to understand the Equality Act 2010 or relevant Disability Act requirements and guide staff to realise and change mechanisms to support disabled students. These are two examples of Cornell University and University of Plymouth which show how they have suggested staff to foster inclusive teaching and learning environments. I think the checklist for inclusive teaching (from University of Playmouth) is particularly useful. It should be a part of the baseline (or sometimes called minimum standards) for VLE and relevant learning technologies in supporting online activities. It should guide not only the academic staff but also all support/professional staff.

Second, can technology helps? Yes, but we need to know limits of a technology, policies supporting disabled students, and teaching approaches. For example, the following statement is on a list of suggested good practice of communication in an inclusive way. It shows technology is not the first solution, we need to change our approaches before use a technology.

Notes or slides uploaded to a content management system or virtual learning environment 48 hours before the event.” (section 2.2)

Then we discussed the use of technologies such as lecture capture, presentations, note taking, TTSe-books, e-journals and students support.

So how about supporting students in different subjects such as STEM, Arts or Architecture? Think about the learners who are with mobility limits, hearing impairment, colour-blinded, or dyslexia, how assistive technology can support them in undertaking reading, assignment, writing, typing, or presenting? Through a few real learner cases, we discussed what should improve, what technologies can be used and what resource formats creators need to generate. My immediate taking includes:

Timely, the latest Inclusive Teaching and Learning in Higher Education as a route to Excellence guide identified 5 risks of adopting a strategic approach to reasonable
adjustments and what possible mitigating actions the HEP can take
.

Resources for us to understand inclusive teaching and learning:

Tools for supporting inclusive teaching and learning:

Blended Learning Course week 5

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The last week of the course is about wider issues around blended learning: digital skills, inclusiveness, and flexibility. I didn’t expect that it is short and pass quickly.

I wasn’t aware of the Agored Cymru’s Essential Skills Wales provides standards for employment in today’s workplace. It includes essential skills for learners (Level 1-3 – Application of Number, Communication, Digital literacy, Employability, Skills for work and life) and essential skills for practitioners (Level 3 – Digital literacy, Employability, ESOL, Literacy, and Numeracy; Level 2 – Supporting Adults and Young People in Essential Skills). The resource I refer to the most is the JISC Digital Student project of exploring students’ expectations and experiences of using technology. I have learnt what I have done, I could do, and can do for students’ experience in my work through viewing the students’ stories.

I haven’t tried the Open University Being digital Self-assessment pathway, but it looks like a well-designed group of activities for helping learners to assess their digital skills and check if their online learning is effective.

The most impressive statements for me are below. It’s not very new, but it’s very useful to see the research evidences.

Learners’ digital experiences are strongly dependent on the confidence and capabilities of their teachers, but currently staff workload and career pathways are hindering staff development. (Digital Student: Further Education: FE learners’ expectations and experiences
of technology – Synthesis report
)

We must be careful that the educator’s ‘flexibility of time’ is not taken to mean ‘elasticity of time’. This is an absolutely critical issue for the successful introduction of blended learning. The effects on teacher workload are typically ignored in education strategy and policy documents, in the false assumption that going online is cheaper. It can be, but only if it is managed in a long-term and innovative way, which it rarely is. (section 5.5)

The JISC guide to using the assistive and accessible technology in teaching and learning is a handy resource for us to support inclusive teaching.

The Technology Outlook: Community, Technical, and Junior Colleges 2013-2018 is an US project report. It listed top ten trends impacting technology decisions and top ten most significant challenges. In this week I also attended an Educause webinar which shows the technology shifting to meet students’ learning requirements. It is worth reading the analysis. I jot down the impressive statements for me from the two reports as follows.

People expect to be able to work, learn, and study whenever and wherever they want. (p.17)

Education paradigms are shifting to include online learning, hybrid learning, and collaborative models. (p.17)

The workforce demands skills from university graduates that are more often acquired from informal learning experiences than in universities. (p.18)

The demand for personalized learning is not adequately supported by current technology or practices. (p.19)

Too often it is education’s own processes and practices that limit broader uptake of new technologies. (p.19)

The empirical evidence strongly suggests that blended learning conditions (where at least a quarter of course content is delivered online) produce significant gains in student learning. (section 4)

In addition, I have to thank Professor Neil Morris and Professor Diana Laurillard make the course interesting and easy to follow, share good practice tips, and open learning materials to wider audience. Many useful materials about blended learning are available from the University of Leeds.

More resources and tools:

Blended Learning Course week 4

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It’s a busy week as I started another course “Inclusive Learning and Teaching Environment“. Both courses are interesting and useful which I enjoy taking. However, I feel I was tied up in most of my spare time. I definitely spent more time than the suggested 3.5 hours. I feel a bit ease after read Diana‘s tips – “Give yourself permission to ignore the rest!”.

This week aimed to help us to learn designing a blended learning course.

How can we embed technology effectively in the curriculum? The DADDIE model is a useful approach to planning and rethinking the way we support learning. I remember my colleague once introduced us to use this model. We perhaps already work through some of these steps when designing a course. However, we may not think strategically through each step to ensure that the course aligns well with the defied learning outcomes and addresses the learners’ requirements. I found an OER online book Teaching with Technology, which introduced a Backward design approach to curriculum design. It helped me understand when the assessment and learning activities design should be started in the design process and why. Also, it reminded me the ABC curriculum design method which I learnt from the ALT conference.

I really like Diana’s interpretation of “incorporating digital technology into the assessment process”, which linking to the curriculum design and the technologies that I already know: assessment tools, e-portfolios and digital feedback. It helped me to rethink how I have supported the use of the technologies.

What’s the difference between flipped learning and blended learning? So far, I have learnt that both approaches apply technologies. For example, flipped learning uses technologies for supporting self online learning before students come to class. Then in the face-to-face classroom, the knowledge learnt online is applied in the session, and technologies can be used to support activities in classroom too. Blended learning uses technologies for supporting self-online learning and face-to-face learning alongside each other in order to provide a comprehensive learning experience in a session. There are overlap, but they emphasise different pedagogic focus. These resources are very helpful for us to understand both approaches.

The most important learning in this week was to design a blended learning activity using the following structure.

  • Title
  • Age group and/or curriculum level
  • Intended learning outcome
  • The sequence of activities
  • An outline of the formative assessment for the activity

It was easy to follow because the activity allowed us to learn constructively (see the steps below). But it was not easy to complete. I did jot down different technologies I could use and activities I could deliver. However, with the criteria, the learning outcomes and assessment in mind, I ended up to simplify it and choose the most useful technologies for supporting the activities. I knew why I choose them and why I didn’t use other technologies.

  1. review a design example using this structure and discuss it according to the most important criteria;
  2. considering the criteria given, to design an one-hour blended learning activity;
  3. publish my design for others to review;
  4. reflect on this activity.

As usual, I list the more useful resources I learnt here.

Inclusive learning and teaching environments course – week 1

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I had joined the Digital Accessibility course early this year. When I noticed the Inclusive Learning and Teaching Environment course, I joined it too. I found the topic of accessibility and inclusivity is very useful. It not only helps my work but also makes me see the design and use of technologies differently.

There are many sessions in this week. A lot of reading and reflection on inclusive teaching and learning environment and practice.

The first important learning for me is the concept of “inclusive teaching“, and the related terms including “reasonable adjustments“, “individual interventions“, and “accommodations“. These terms may be used in different contexts and in different countries, such as reasonable adjustments can happen in education, workplace, or society as long as it is people-related. For me in the educational context, these terms have the same aim that is to break barriers and provide opportunities for everyone to achieve their full potential. 

The second important learning for me is the differences between the Social model solution and the Medical model problem. I might have taken the Medical module in many situations which I thought I was doing disabled people a favour. Actually it “creates low expectations and leads to people losing independence, choice and control in their own lives” (from the Scope website). As an ESL speaker, I probably did not realise the language I have used too. The handy guides are Inclusive language: words to use and avoid when writing about disability and Planning for Inclusive Access in Wales Good Practice Guidance Toolkit.

The third important learning is the concept of “born accessible“, which means “in the context of inclusive design for learning and the benefits to students of providing multiple formats” (quote from the course). For me it is vital when we create a material, we should produce it in a right way, an inclusive way. Doing this is not easy as providing accessible multiple formats materials requires the creator to know each tool’s (the technology) features well. For example, knowing where to Add alt text to images in Microsoft Word or PowerPoint; any action that uses a mouse, can also be completed by a keyboard; add subtitles or captions to a video either when record it or after using an editor tool. As a first step, providing guidelines for the creating accessible materials is essential.

The most useful resources that I can use straightaway are below. There are more waiting for me to digest.

Blended Learning Course week 3

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This week focused on three topics: VLE, Open tools and open educational resources (OER), and there were some interesting activities to help us learn the topics.

The first activity I’d like to highlight is giving an example of my learning activities through VLE tools and describing the impact it had on learners, and sharing the example on the VLE padlet wall; then critique another participant’s example from my perspective. This activity required us to practise many skills:

  • Reflective thinking on my own practice and pick a proper example.
  • Making online presentation. I decided to make a PowerPoint presentation through video as it is easy for people to follow my example. I could practise my presentation skills.
  • Publishing a post on Padlet, which is an easy-access open collaborative tool.
  • Awareness of public presentation and writing.
  • Critical thinking on my understanding of a topic.

Combining with some case studies, the exercise of selecting open tools to support learners helped me to rethink why adopt a tool. We encounter this kind of question a lot. People often ask us why we can’t use A, why we have to use B, Is B better than A, I cannot see B is better than A, etc. Apart from the elements of the service situation, it has to benefit users (especially learners) in the specific context. I need to help users to see the choices based on a thoroughly understanding of their use case. There are many open tools for different purposes (e.g., presentation, reflection, collaborative writing), personally I like Google tools, Vimeo, Audacity, Prezi, and WordPressSocrative as an interactive tool that allows users to answer questions, is new to me. I will have a look at it and learn the differences between it and Xerte Online Toolkits.

The third activity is that we had an online Q&A session on YouTube. It’s a good opportunity for us to interact with the educators, which reduced the learners’ isolated feeling when took an online course. It’s an excellent example that shows how technology is used to engage learners. Although I was late to join the session, I could read the chat history and watch the part I missed easily. One thing I noticed is that I couldn’t see how many other peers were watching it and on the Chat during the YouTube Live streaming. I learned a bit of how to broadcast with YouTube Live after the session.

I have a page in my blog which lists free online resources for educators. I haven’t updated it for a few years. The study in this week reminded me to keep such information up-to-date. They are on my to-do list now. I’m glad to refresh my knowledge about OER, and particularly like Neil‘s clarification about OERs and Open Access resources.

OERs should not be confused with Open Access resources: the latter also includes e-resources available on websites, but for these resources copyright and permitted usage is either unclear or not defined at all.

Like previous weeks, I enjoy reading comments, organising my thoughts and writing down, and learning from others. A few interesting conversations called my attention:

  • using Facebook in teaching and the inclusive issues for Chinese students in such scenarios;
  • discussions through forum in VLE or Whatsup, the differences?
  • advantages and disadvantages of OERs.

Blended Learning Course week 1

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I decided to learn more about blended learning, so started the MOOC “Blended Learning Essentials: Getting Started” run by the University of Leeds. Taking MOOC is a great way for me to reflect on what I know and refresh my knowledge. It does take time, but it provides an opportunity for me to learn the topic systematically for free. Many thanks for the course creators.

After the first week, I think my view about blended learning changed a bit. It seems technology has an important role in this type of learning. Nowadays technologies become more developed for people to use, so why not adopt some to enhance teaching methods and learning opportunities?

I wonder if taking the MOOC is blended learning? It may not as the course does not have face-to-face sessions. However, from the point of using technologies to facilitate learning, it does use technologies to blended different methods and enables learning.

We have looked at five benefits of blended learning – flexibility, active learning, personalisation, learner control, and feedback. We have discussed the issues encountered in learning and the benefits that blended learning can resolve. We have reviewed a few case studies of blended learning and share views about them. I like this week learning particularly on aspects as follows:

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