St. Thomas E-Learning And Research - The Intersection of Technology and Pedagogy
Accessibility, Best Practices, Tips, and Tricks

Making Your Canvas Site More Accessible

Canvas as a Hub for Accessibility

Glori Hinck and Jo Montie

Glori Hinck and Jo Montie of STELAR recently presented at the InstructureCon 2019 (Canvas) conference on the topic of accessibility in Canvas courses.  It wasn’t that long ago that disability activists were fighting for physically accessible public spaces.  As educators, we need to advocate to make digital spaces, including our online course content, accessible to everyone.  What’s more, all students will benefit from a proactive approach to accessibility, not only those with documented disabilities.  For example, students may have an undiagnosed learning disability or English may be their second language.  Take a few moments to experience web accessibility from the perspective of a student with a vision or hearing impairment or loss of mobility.  Can you zoom your Canvas site to 200% without loss of content or functionality?  Navigate without a mouse?  Understand the content with the volume turned down?  Not sure how to get started?  Review the sites below for more information about accessibility.

Accessibility Resources

Accessible U

The University of Minnesota’s Accessible U website provides a wealth of information on how to make your course content more accessible.  They recommend starting with 6 core accessibility skills:

  1. Headings and Document Structure
  2. Hyperlinks
  3. Video Captions
  4. Bullets and Numbered Lists
  5. Color and Contrast
  6. Image Alt Text

STELAR Accessibility Course Site

STELAR has created a course site for sharing information and resources around accessibility.  Contact us via email at stelar@stthomas.edu if you would like to be added to this site.

Center for Faculty Development

You can also learn more about your role in creating an accessible, inclusive classroom at the Center for Faculty Development’s Accessibility page.

Canvas Accessibility Checker

Did you know that Canvas has an Accessibility Checker?  Simply click on the accessibility icon on the right side of the text editor for an accessibility report on a Canvas page.

 

 

 

 

 

This post was written by Glori Hinck, EdD, an Instructional Designer for the St. Thomas E-Learning and Research (STELAR) Center at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn. To learn more about this topic, please visit our website at www.stthomas.edu/stelar or email us at stelar@stthomas.edu.

Best Practices, Tips, and Tricks

More Ideas about How to Enhance Your Online Discussions

This post builds off another post I wrote in May 2018 titled Enhance Your Online Discussions. In that post, I spoke briefly about best practices for writing online discussion prompts and shared some ideas I learned about at a conference. If you haven’t read that article, I recommend you start there and come back here when you’re finished.

In this post, I will highlight a few more techniques I learned about at the April 2019 Online Learning Consortium (OLC) Conference that took place in Denver, CO.

Using Images

This method allows students to share an image either in lieu of or in addition to what they would normally post. For example, in a marketing course, you could ask students to visit a local store and take pictures of a marketing display. They would then share the picture(s), perhaps with a short description or analysis, in the discussion thread. This could apply to any course where pictures of things found in nature, workplaces, schools, museums, or factories would be relevant to the content. Pictures of different types of infrastructure might also be valuable in some disciplines. This method provides variety and allows both you and your students to bring some creativity into the course.

Bringing In Outside Discussions

This method gives students a prompt around a particular topic, and students then discuss a particular viewpoint or set of questions with someone in their life, like a friend, colleague, or family member. These discussions can happen either in-person or over the phone. After this conversation has taken place, students log in to their online discussion board, share a reflection, and consider the ways their views on the topic may have changed during the course of their conversation. This method is a great way to add an in-person element to online discussions and to switch things up.

Role Play

This method works well if you want students to discuss a thorny issue that has many different viewpoints and stakeholders. Before the discussion takes place, students will be assigned to play a certain role as they participate in the discussion. For example, if you want students to discuss vaccinations, they could respond from the viewpoint of a pediatrician, a parent who is morally opposed to vaccinations, a parent with a child too young to receive vaccinations, an unvaccinated college student living in the dorms, or any other relevant stakeholders. This gives students the opportunity to think about an issue from a perspective that may be different from their own or that they haven’t previously considered. It also reduces the likelihood of the “Great point, I agree!” responses that are regrettably common in online discussions.

Fishbowl

In the fishbowl method, the class is split into two halves. One half participates in the online discussion as normal (inside the fishbowl) while the other half watches the discussion as an observer (outside the fishbowl). Once the discussion has closed, the students who did not participate consider what they learned by hearing and reflecting on what they saw their peers share and respond to several reflection questions. They then submit this response directly to the instructor as an assignment.

 

So there you have it! Four new ways to spice up your online discussions and create more variety in your online courses. Feel free to leave us a comment below if you try one of these methods in your course or have ideas other than those shared here.

This post was written by Karin Brown on behalf of the St. Thomas E-Learning and Research (STELAR) Center at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn. Please visit our website at www.stthomas.edu/stelar or email us at stelar@stthomas.edu.

STELAR Partnerships with Faculty

Dean Yohuru Williams Visits Media Production Students in OEC Multimedia Production Studio

Dean Yohuru Williams of the university’s College of Arts and Sciences visited the OEC Multimedia Production Studio on May 2 to observe TommieMedia staff producing two segments of their Locker Room sports report program.

TommieMedia production team with Dean Yohuru Williams

TommieMedia production team with CAS dean Yohuru Williams

 

During his visit, Dean Williams offered words of praise and encouragement to the students, saying how impressed he was with their level of commitment to their work and that their commitment shows in the quality of their recordings.

 

Mark Neuzil, Communication Journalism professor noted, “The student journalists were very appreciative of the visit by the dean. Many of them were in new roles for the broadcast, and they did their jobs well. And they didn’t seem too nervous with a celebrity in the control room.”

 

Inside the control room during production

“My favorite memory of his visit was when he joined me during my debriefing after the show.”, said Studio Producer MacKenzie Bailey.  “He shared his thoughts on how well our show ran in comparison with his prior experience in other high-level media productions. I’m glad we had the chance to show him part of what student media is capable of at the University of St. Thomas.”

 

Dean Williams is no stranger to high-level media production.

Chatting with students and staff after the day’s recording

 

Dan Lamatsch, STELAR video engineer and OEC studio manager noted, “It’s pretty neat to know that the dean of the university’s College of Arts and Sciences knows exactly what it takes to make high-quality media.  He’s been interviewed by many media outlets and has recorded several segments for CNN docuseries on broadcast television and on Netflix.”

 

STELAR supports the OEC Multimedia Production Studio in OEC.  TommieMedia is the university’s student-run multimedia news production organization.  It is an immersive on-campus employment option for students enrolled in a Communication Journalism (COJO) degree track including journalism, reporting, graphic design, public relations, media production, videography, photography, or advertising.

 

Watch “TommieMedia’s The Locker Room”

 

This post was written by Dan Lamatsch, Senior Engineer for AV Technologies for the St. Thomas E-Learning and Research (STELAR) Center at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn. To learn more about this topic, please visit our website at www.stthomas.edu/stelar or email us at stelar@stthomas.edu.

Technology Tools

Art History in 3D

Virtual reality has been around for about two years now, and new educational applications are emerging every day. In the first image below, Dr. Heather Shirey’s art history class use the ClassVR system to view a 360-degree image of the Temple of Palmyra, in Syria (bottom image), giving students the illusion of standing in the middle of the temple. These detailed, 3-dimensional images become particularly precious as this historical site has been significantly and intentionally damaged by warfare in recent years. The ClassVR system is a group of connected virtual reality goggles that can be controlled from a central location, allowing a professor to send images to all headsets at once, create playlists of related subjects, upload their own 360-degree photos or allow students to explore on their own. When it’s time to leave virtual reality, they can all be shut down at once, too! If you are interested in exploring ClassVR for your own project, come talk to us in STELAR!

ClassVR in Art History

Temple of Bel, Palmyra

Temple of Bel, Palmyra 15.jpg” by Bernard Gagnon (Own work) is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

This post was written by Eric Tornoe, Associate Director of Research Computing for the St. Thomas E-Learning and Research (STELAR) Center at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn. To learn more about this topic, please visit our website at www.stthomas.edu/stelar or email us at stelar@stthomas.edu.

Paleofuturism

“Just double-click on the seagull…”

One interesting (“interesting” meaning a mix of “humorous,” “encouraging,” and “demoralizing”) aspect of paleofuturism is finding decades-old technologies that were called “obsolete”…yet are still alive and well today.

In January 1987, Fred D’Ignazio wrote that “The desktop metaphor came from computer designers’ image of computers as business tools, as information processors. We process information at desks, they reasoned, so why not make a computer simulate a desktop? The computer as desktop is a valid, viable image. But it’s only one image. It’s time for us to search out new images that relate more to our senses, feelings, and imaginations.”

This sounds like a great idea… but how much progress has been made in 30 years?  (Hint: very little.)  Does that lack of progress toward an alternate metaphor mean that humans are unable to escape the confines of an image that was established for us decades ago?  Or have we arrived at the best metaphor there is and that’s why we stick with it?

D’Ignazio gave an example of the kind of alternatives he was envisioning at the time:

The Seagull "Finder" - I had a conversation with award-winning science fiction writer Orson Scott Card a few years ago. We talked about new metaphors for computer operating systems and what would be appropriate for children. Scott closed his eyes and dreamed of a child sitting at a computer. When she turned it on, a picture of a seagull flying high over a blue ocean appeared on the display screen. The seagull was (to use Macintosh terminology) the "finder." As the child flew her gull over the sea, little islands appeared with coral reefs, atolls, and palm trees. The islands were files. If the child wanted to acess a file, she steered her seagull (via some pointing device-like a mouse or a finder) to the island. This sort of imagery might sound inappropriate for today's files, which consist mainly of text and numbers. But it will not be out of place for tomorrow's files, which contain pictures, voices, music, charts, graphics, animations, and photographs.

We’re definitely living in the world of “tomorrow’s files” yet we still seem bound to a virtual desktop.  Some VR environments are starting to approach this alternate vision: when you don an Oculus Go headset, you find yourself on a beach, surrounded by floating screens that you click.  Your phone or iPad doesn’t have a “desktop” but a… “home screen,” perhaps?

Those alternatives are a far cry from a flying seagull.

A dozen years ago, “Second Life” helped connect people to one another and flying (seagull-like) was a mode of transportation from one area to another… but it was much less efficient than simply typing in coordinates to a very DOS-like box.  But Second Life itself is another example of a technology and “computing environment” that died (no pun intended).

Are we stuck on the desktop forever?

This post was written by Eric M. Larson, an Instructional Systems Consultant in the St. Thomas E-Learning and Research (STELAR) Center at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn., from his very typical desk on a computer with a very traditional desktop. See it in person down at STELAR in the lower level of the OSF Library, where you’ll find yourself among friends. You can also email us at stelar@stthomas.edu.