Thursday, December 3, 2015

Designing and Teaching Accessible Courses

Learn how to design and teach courses that are accessible to ALL learners through a free 6-week professional development course. This online MOOC offered by Open SUNY will help you gain a better understanding of accessibility as a civil rights issue and develop the knowledge and skills you need to design learning experiences that promote inclusive learning environments. The Access MOOC begins on February 22, 2016 and ends on April 5, 2016.

During this 6-week course, you will learn how to:
  • Recognize and address challenges faced by students with disabilities related to access, success, and completion.
  • Articulate faculty and staff roles in reducing barriers for students with disabilities.
  • Apply the principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) in designing accessible learning experiences.
  • Analyze the benefits of Backward Design when developing learning experiences.
  • Use Section 508 standards and WCAG 2.0 guidelines to create accessible courses.
  • Determine which tools and techniques are appropriate based on course content.
You will have the opportunity to earn badges that recognize your mastery of these competencies. You will engage in thoughtful discussions, participate in peer review assignments, take short self-check quizzes, watch videos, and explore relevant readings.

Anyone may enroll and participate in the MOOC. It has been designed for faculty and staff in higher education at any type or level of institution.

Why are we recommending that you take the Access MOOC? Watch this short video: Accessibility MOOC.

Follow these steps to register and participate in the MOOC:
  1. Register at Canvas Network:
  2. Share and follow the conversation on Twitter using #AccessMOOC
  3. Follow the Access MOOC Facebook Page:
The course is a collaborative effort of faculty and staff from SUNY Empire State College and SUNY Buffalo State College, funded by SUNY Innovative Instruction Technology Grant.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Principles for Good Practice in Education Series: Encourage Active Learning

Chickering and Gamson (1987) recommended seven practices to improve teaching and learning for undergraduates. Those key principles are based on 50 years of educational research and were compiled in a study supported by the American Association of Higher Education, the Education Commission of States and The Johnson Foundation.

The Seven Principles are:
  • Encourage active learning
  • Encourage contact between students and faculty
  • Develop reciprocity and cooperation among students
  • Give prompt feedback
  • Emphasize time on task
  • Communicate high expectations
  • Respect diverse talents and ways of learning
This post will focus on Encouraging Active Learning.

Active learning is defined as "students [that are] engaged in more activities than just listening. They are involved in dialog, debate, writing, and problem solving, as well as higher-order thinking, e.g., analysis, synthesis, evaluation" (Bonwell & Eison, 1991). Learning is not a spectator sport. Students need to do more than sit in class listening to a lecture, scrolling through a PowerPoint slideshow, and reading the textbook. They must be given the opportunity to talk about what they are learning, write about it, relate it to past experiences, and apply it to their daily lives. Making the material part of themselves is the best way to learn.

According to research by Prince (2004), twenty minutes of listening to a lecture is the maximum amount of time that students can process information effectively. 

Some tips to Encourage Active Learning:
  • Provide real-life scenarios to help students apply theoretical concepts
  • Provide application activities that go beyond the topics and activities provided in the textbook
  • Ask questions frequently that require participation through discussion groups, polling (Moodle Choice or Feedback tools), learning partners, or games
  • Encourage students to suggest additional resources that relate to the topic such as YouTube videos and articles
  • After providing test results, ask students what they will do differently to prepare next time
  • Provide a variety of options for the completion of tasks and major assignments  
For some excellent examples of how others are engaging their students in active learning visit these articles:
Educators are more important than ever as experts in our chosen areas, the leaders and the role models for our students. It is up to us to engage our students with relevant and current methods, set the standards high, and develop life-long learners (Online Learning Insights).

Next in the series: Encouraging Contact Between Students and Faculty


Bonwell, C., &  Eison, J. (1991) Active Learning: Creating Excitement in the Classroom, ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Report No. 1

Chickering, A. W. & Gamson, Z. F. (1987). Seven principles for good practice in undergraduate education. Washington Center News.

Online Learning Insights. (2012). How-to remain relevant in higher ed with 'active learning'.

Prince, M. (2004). Does active learning work? A review of the research. J. Engr. Education. 93(3), 223-231.

University of South Carolina, Center for Teaching Excellence. Seven Principles of Good Practice in Undergraduate Education.