Episode 7-Accessible Online Pedagogy
0-0:13 Orthotonics Accessible as Gravity plays and fades out
0:13 Hello and welcome to Accessagogy a podcast about accessibility and pedagogy. I’m your host Ann Gagné and this podcast is recorded on treaty 13 on the traditional land of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation.
0:28 Welcome to episode seven! In this episode we are going focus on things that you can take into account if you are teaching an online course or if you are teaching a hybrid course with online components.
0:43 Most of the suggestions here are about teaching a course online synchronously, but if you are looking for some asynchronous suggestions or things to think about you may want to look at episode 4 about accessible emails and LMS design choices that should be able to support you. Again what I will be talking about in this episode is not a comprehensive list but may be a good place to start in terms of things to think about. And it may be the kind of thing that you are looking for as I know some of you are finishing up semesters, but folk like me are actually getting ready to start summer term next week.
1:22 So there are 6 things I will be discussing in this episode, outlines, using the chat, cameras, microphones, breakout rooms, and tools. You can use the transcript to forward to any part of the components that I’ll be talking about that interest you, and skip over some that you don’t want to hear about.
1:45 So number one, have an outline for the class that lets learners know what to expect that day. This can include high level topics that you are going to discuss, but also, and probably more importantly, a list of activities that learners will be doing either alone or as groups or teams and when roughly to expect them during class time, so halfway through, you know, towards the end of class, at the beginning of class, those kinds of things. I will link to a tweet by sarah madoka currie that provides this kind of timed template that I’m suggesting here, just an example for you to look at.
2:27 Why this is important is because some learners need to know what to expect, especially if it’s going to involve group work or something that could need their camera, or sharing of screens, or using their microphone. Remember that most learners will join online classes from home so the preparation needed is a bit different than joining into activities if they were in a classroom on campus. If learners are care givers, for example, they may be joining class while also taking care of a child or a relation. Giving rough markers as to when to be ready for something will make the transition to those activities a bit smoother for everyone.
3:11 Which leads me to number two which is use the chat. The chat was the number one thing that instructors mentioned that they missed when they returned to campus or teaching on campus. The kind of backchannel that the chat provides can allow for conversation, insight, to make sure that students are understanding concepts, but also allows for a building community. There are many things that you can do with the chat and I will have a resource from Cornell University that gives some suggestions that you may find useful and that I’ll put in the show notes, and you can modify these things depending on your discipline but also how many students that you’re teaching online course. In larger online classes there may be sort of some sheer volume situations where the chat might be just too much and so you’ll have to consider maybe taking into account grouping or having chat activities based on different groups or teams to support learners being able to read the information that their classmates are sharing.
4:23 Number three cameras. I know that there was a lot of conversation about the need to have cameras on and how instructors were talking about teaching to black boxes when the pandemic started, but I’m here to tell you that learners do not owe you a camera on. I know you probably don’t want to hear that, but it’s true.
4:46 Unless you have a specific learning outcome for your course that requires the learner’s camera to be on, forcing students to have cameras on all the time, for example, is just putting up cognitive load asks and I have a link to different posts one from Karen Costa and one from Charlotte Hyde from earlier on in the pandemic that talk about this.
5:11 I will say though that from an accessibility point of view sometimes cameras on or off can become an access friction point. So you know going back to this conversation about how some instructors just felt more comfortable having at least some cameras on so that they could have some visual cues. Another example is that for some hard of hearing folk or whether that be the learners in the class or the instructor themselves or folk who read lips, having cameras on for a class is very important so they know who the speaker are and they can you know see the speaker.
5:49 But again there may be others in class where having that camera on is an accessibility issue that may affect their ability to participate in some activities. There may also be some technological issues like bandwidth as a reason why cameras do not work for everyone. So the important thing to remember here about cameras is that all learners are coming into this learning space with different needs, with different tech, with different personal responsibilities. Learners do not stop having those sort of responsibilities in your online class just like they do not stop having those responsibilities if they’re taking a class with you on-campus.
6:31 And so the same goes for number four which is microphones. If learners are joining class from a place where they cannot use their microphone, for example, maybe a quiet space in library, then providing alternative ways for them to communicate, like the chat, would work much better. Also again they may be, the learners may be, taking care of children or others and so they would need to be quiet and having microphone on just isn’t possible all the time. Unless you have a learning outcome for your course that specifically needs them to have the microphone on, so say for example, you’re teaching a language speaking class, well then it would make absolutely you know a hundred percent sense that the microphone would be on. And otherwise, there are many different ways that the students can communicate with you instead.
7:26 Number five breakout rooms. Now breakout rooms are pretty much a staple for online courses and this is where, you know, having an outline at the beginning of the course really flags learners to see when these breakout rooms are coming, if you have a couple of them during the class, so that they know, that they’re ready, and they know what to get ready for those breakout rooms.
7:51 In terms of breakout room activities it would depend on you know that sort of balance between having the students you know have time to work together in that breakout room and how many students you want in that breakout room. You want to make sure that the breakout rooms are not necessarily an awkward space, you want it to be a space that’s constructive, it’s not a space where the students feel they are wasting time. And so I would suggest something like having 4 or 5 learners in one room. Why that number? Well, if there’s just one or two that can’t use a mic or a camera, in a particular you know class one week or whatever, or they are in a space you know, where they can’t because their bandwidth isn’t great, and there are aspects of the activity that could still be supported by the others in that room. It also makes the room not too overwhelming for those that may have anxiety speaking in larger crowd spaces or other group work needs.
8:51 Sometimes, depending on the class, you may have to do a paired activity in a breakout room, or you would like to do that. This of course can also work, but that may also mean you may need to go from room to room to make sure that the pair is supported and that you don’t just have one learner doing all the work or doing you know just kind of talking to themselves because the other is in a space or place where their connectivity doesn’t allow them to do that.
9:18 And finally number 6 tools and apps. So there are many tools and apps that can be embedded in online you know teaching platforms like Zoom or Teams or whatever your institution uses. These tools help support the learning outcomes, they can help create sort of a tangible place where the activities and brainstorming can happen, they can also help support more creative space for learning and allow the learners to express themselves outside of the chat.
9:49 However, it is really important to make sure that learners know how to use the tools that you’re asking them to use before you assign them in an activity or breakout room in your online course. So maybe having a link in your learning management system about how to you know use the particular tool, or even dropping that specific link into the chat at the beginning of class when the learners are joining, will help remind them, oh okay I need to know this tool, or this is something that we will be using today and also opens up a space for them to ask any questions that they may have about the particular tool or maybe they just don’t know how something works.
10:33 So that’s it, that’s the six tips that I wanted to discuss today in terms of setting up your course for you know online accessible pedagogy. So just a reminder for the things that we did talk about today, having an outline is really important, how to use the chat which will depend on the course that you’re teaching, some considerations about cameras, some considerations about microphones, other things to think about when you’re doing the breakout rooms, for example, how many students and learners to have in those breakout rooms and how to support that as an instructor, and then finally, you know being open to using different tools and apps as long as the learners know how to use them.
11:18 I hope you enjoyed episode 7 of Accessagogy with this overview of things to think about about accessible online pedagogy for your online or hybrid courses.
11:28 Remember as well that I also want this to be a space where you can ask questions and share concepts that you would like me to discuss. So if there’s anything that I mentioned here about online courses, or making online courses more accessible, something that you would like me to clarify or maybe even more resources that you need about a particular thing, please ask.
11:47 As well if you have ideas or aspects of your pedagogy that you would like me to address in this podcast, please feel free to send me an email at Accessagogy so that’s acc e ss a gogy at gmail dot com. I will try to include as many suggestions as possible in the podcast because ultimately this podcast is for you. So that’s it, that’s episode 7 of Accessagogy, thanks so much for following along and asking how can I make my space more accessible today? Have a great week!