Dear SPS faculty,
We hope your fall semester is off to a smooth start. During the month of September and October, OFDIT is offering a different online training almost every day of the week to help you put new skills in your online teaching toolbox. There is something for everyone, whatever your schedule so please review our training calendar and read more about some of the sessions below.
We are excited to be running trainings on Turnitin, a new CUNY-wide writing assignment tool with a plagiarism checker, an easy-to-use grading interface, and a user-friendly peer-review function that students can use to review their own and their peers’ writing.
We have also added two new training topics to our growing list of one-hour online sessions: Facilitating Group Work and Monitoring Student Progress in Blackboard. Student group work encourages active engagement with course material and develops interpersonal skills that will be vital on the job market. Our group work training covers the technical details of Blackboard’s Groups tool as well as strategies for how to facilitate group work in an online environment. Monitoring student progress can be difficult in an online class. Our training on this topic introduces the tools that Blackboard provides to help you keep abreast of who is doing well in your course, who needs a little encouragement, and who might need more support.
In addition to these new topics, we have several sessions of oldies-but-goodies on offer, such as creating videos for your courses, using VoiceThread as a multimedia discussion tool, and using Blackboard to its fullest potential to make your course more effective and your life easier. Last but not least, Creating Accessible Documents for Your Course covers how to create Word, Excel and PDF files that are accessible to screen reader users and more easily understood by everyone. One of the biggest advances of the online education revolution is the potential for higher ed to be inclusive of all students; this training gives you a couple tools for following through on that promise.
To read about all of our upcoming training sessions, click here. To sign up for scheduled training sessions, fill out this form.
Wishing you a wonderful fall, and looking forward to working with you,
Antonia, Krystyna, and Sarah
Besides our outstanding musical ability? Our goal of promoting accessibility!
If you tuned into the Grammy’s last month then you may have noticed musician Stevie Wonder’s call for greater Disability Rights. His appeal is part of a broader movement of people across the country and around the globe working to make institutions, including universities, more accessible to all people.
Locally, instructors here at CUNY SPS are joining the ranks of other educators to make their schools, classes, and course materials accessible to people with disabilities.
Keeping in mind the diversity of our students, faculty, and staff, including individuals with disabilities, OFDIT collaborates with instructors and administrators to make all of our online learning environments accessible and inclusive, and to contribute to a richer learning environment. In order to fulfill this goal we created an Accessibility Resources Site listing materials on Universal Design in Learning (UDL), as well as how-to guides for creating accessible course documents.
This month we continue our efforts through the introduction of a new Accessibility Training Series covering how to use the tools already at your disposal to make your online courses accessible to all students. Sign up for our short lunchtime training sessions on accessibility features in Microsoft Word, captioning course videos, and more. We look forward to continuing our work with faculty to ensure that we serve all of our diverse students!
Antonia, Dominique & Sarah
PS: Check out our latest UD Nosh post on the third UDL principle, featuring your colleague Prof. Julie Maybee from the Disabilities Studies Program as our co-author! (Thank you, Julie!)
The beginning of the semester is always a good time to try something new to make teaching more effective and more efficient. We’d like to start the spring semester with both a pedagogical tip and a practical tip that hopefully will make your courses more successful and less time-consuming to manage.
Pedagogical Tip: Be consistent in both the structure and formatting of elements in your course site. For example, compare these two screenshots of my announcements page with each other:
While it’s true that the second picture looks a little boring, compared with the variety in colors, titles, and fonts in the first picture, students will find it easier to develop the habit of attending to weekly announcements and to absorb the information they contain when the structure and the formatting are consistent.
Another reason to keep formatting consistent and low-key is to make text more accessible to screen readers, i.e. text-to-speech programs used by the visually impaired. Screen readers can get tripped up by inconsistent formatting or text with lots of different types of emphasis. So pick a font that you like and stick to it, and pick either bold, underline, or italics for emphasis, and stick to that. It will make things easier for both you and your students!
See our Accessibility Resources Site for more information on accessible course sites and materials.
Practical Tip: Keeping your Dev sites up to date. As you all know, the process of getting online courses up and running at the beginning of the semester can be a bit hectic (or even very hectic). A great way of making your own life easier is to keep your Dev site updated with all the changes you make to your course during the semester (the ones you want to keep, of course). You have a couple options for how to go about this:
- Always make changes to the Dev site immediately after making them in your live course
- Keep a log of changes as you make them in the live course site in a document or spreadsheet. You can even keep this document in your course (just don’t make it available to users). Then, at the end of the semester when things are not so hectic, take an hour or two to sit down and add all the changes you want to keep in your Dev site.
Why is this so useful? Once you’ve updated your Dev site, your course is ready to copy. All you have to do at the beginning of the next semester is adjust all the due dates and availability dates for time-sensitive items in the course. This makes for a relaxing break!
Have a great spring semester,
Sarah & Antonia
Come out and join the Office of Faculty Development and Instructional Technology in celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). We honor this milestone with a webinar on how to make teaching and learning accessible to students with diverse educational needs.
Accessibility as Good Pedagogy: Universal Design for Inclusive Learning
Wednesday, 12/2/2015 from 12:30 – 1:30 PM ET
Please register here even if you cannot attend the live webinar. A recording will be available to all registrants.
I am happy to co-facilitate the webinar with Christopher Leydon from the Office of Student Services. In this presentation and Q&A session we will introduce the principles of universal design for learning (UDL) and how their use not only accommodate students with disabilities but also benefit other diverse populations within the SPS faculty and student body. The importance of these practices lies not only in the requirement to make our educational environments inclusive, but in their ability to help us as effective educators.
Please register here. We look forward to you joining us next week!
It’s that time of year again, SPS Faculty: warm layers, the return of all-things-pumpkin, and the Office of Faculty Development and Instructional Technology helping you to bring tech innovation to your teaching.
As we enter the fall season we are also happy to welcome our two newest Instructional Technology Assistants, the indomitable Sarah Kresh and Dominique Nisperos who are joining us from the CUNY Graduate Center programs in Linguistics and Sociology respectively. They look forward to sharing their knowledge and helping you to create the best possible experience to your students.
We begin October with new sessions on how to make your course content accessible and dynamic. If you are new to video-lectures, fear not! If you’re a seasoned video vet, you can take your skills up a notch. Sign up for our Course Video Bootcamp (Oct. 26 – Nov. 2), and in just over a week we will get you on track to produce hauntingly engaging videos that your students will scream over! This bootcamp is learner-focused and will be adapted to beginners and experienced video-makers alike.
We are also kicking off a new endeavor this fall semester: In our training Making Your Course Accessible to All, we will introduce the principles of Universal Design in Learning and explain how a few considerations help ensure that all students can understand, navigate, and contribute to your online courses. Register today!
And don’t forget our weekly online TechHelp Drop-In Hour on Wednesdays from 6-7pm EST in case you’d like some immediate one-on-one support.
Join us! We are looking forward to working with you in trainings that are all treats, no tricks.