Utilizing Design Thinking and Technology to Foster Collaboration and Critical Thinking: Part I.

Markus and I often hear instructors talk about the challenges of fostering collaboration and critical thinking, especially when using technology. Therefore, a few years ago, we started to explore Design Thinking and how the Design Thinking model could be effectively used to support teaching data analytics and help students develop an analytical mindset. 

Part I of this blog topic will focus on Design Thinking and the technology used to help students learn data analytics. Part II of the Design Thinking topic, presented in March, will expand upon how Design Thinking can use various technologies to support any learning environment.

So, let’s start by discussing what Design Thinking is and how it works. Design Thinking is a human-centered, creative problem-solving methodology that helps users address various real-world problems by discovering innovative solutions. Design Thinking helps students understand the importance of defining the actual issues rather than just problem symptoms. It provides students with the power of collaborative problem-solving and helps them learn through failure on the way to success. Additionally, Design Thinking helps develop collaboration and creativity skills, which are valuable in assisting students in developing an analytical mindset

Design Thinking and data analytics work well together since both involve understanding the end-users needs, defining a problem, problem-solving through trial and error, analyzing data to identify solutions, and communicating recommendations or results. Since Design Thinking and data analytics both require students to develop an analytical mindset, they are a natural fit. Incorporating Design Thinking with Data Analytics reduces student reliance on memorization or rote learning. Instead, it helps learners develop flexibility, creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, and empathy skills. All of which are essential skills for the workplace. 

The Design Thinking Model is comprised of five stages. (1) Empathize, (2) Define, (3) Ideate, (4) Prototype, and (5) Test. 

The Empathize Phase connects the students to the end-users or stakeholders’ needs. Ideally, students can work with community partners on real-world projects, or they could work with simulated case studies. In the Empathize Phase, collaborative software (i.e., Zoom, Teams, etc.) can connect students with each other and with community partners. This discovery stage is where users of the model start researching and understanding the challenges stakeholders face and consider their needs. The goal of the Empathize Phase is to answer the following question: “What are the stakeholders trying to solve?”

The Define Phase is where students identify the problem. This phase is one of the most challenging phases of the Design Thinking process for students. Too often, students define a symptom of the problem rather than the problem itself. Students quickly learn that if they define the wrong problem, they will spend time looking for the wrong solutions. Design Thinking helps students focus on the importance of identifying the real issues in order to appropriately suggest solutions.

The next phase is the Ideate Phase. During this phase of Design Thinking, brainstorming occurs. Students think about various approaches to solve the defined problems. They need to generate as many ideas as possible and not eliminate anything at this point. By the end of this phase, students can start narrowing down their ideas into options that can be acted on. Technology like Evernote, OneNote, Padlet, Trello, Popplet are great tools for students to use during this phase. These tools can help students collaborate during brainstorming and as they narrow down their ideas to the best solution.

Step four in the Design Thinking process is the Prototype Phase. For organizations looking at products or services, this phase creates something. For student projects, this phase is where ideas get converted into real solutions. During this phase, students also start to understand that they can learn by failure on the way to success. 

The final phase in Design Thinking is the Test Phase. The Test Phase allows students to check their work and determine the effectiveness of their proposed solutions. During this phase, bringing in outside reviewers can be helpful. When students work with a community partner, the community partner will act as the outside reviewer. Data analytics technology tools utilized during the Test Phase can be Tableau, PowerBI, Excel, or other analytical software that creates visualizations. This phase of Design Thinking lets students test their ideas and get feedback from others. Students also use reflection at this stage as they decide what’s next.  

To read more about what Markus and I are doing with the Design Thinking Model and Data Analytics, click on the following link to the AICPA Extra Credit article, A road map for learning data analytics, Models can help faculty teach – and students grasp – this important subject. (Meyer, C., 2021) https://www.journalofaccountancy.com/newsletters/extra-credit/road-map-learning-data-analytics.html

Our March 2022 blog will be Part II of this series. We will introduce more technologies to use with various learning activities and each phase of the Design Thinking process.

2022 Teaching and Learning Toolbox

Enhancing Learning and Productivity with Google Lens!

Google Lens is a free AI-Powered app that utilizes a smartphone camera with machine learning to identify and explain objects to users.  The Google Lens app is available for both Android and iOS devices.  While Google Lens has been around since 2017, the technology continues to evolve.  Essentially, Google Lens has gotten “smarter” over time.  Not only can Google Lens identify images, but it can also easily search, copy, and translate text.  For ELS students, the real-time translation feature can be beneficial.  Students snap a Google Lens picture of the desired text and utilize the Google Translate plug-in to complete the translation instantly.  Google Lens can also identify people, text, math equations, animals, landmarks, products, etc.  Sometimes Google Lens provides resources for further learning exploration, and other times, it gives the answers.

Some key Google Lens features that can benefit both students and instructors include:

Text Selection/Search Tool: This feature allows students to use Google Lens to take pictures and highlight text for later use on their phone or computer, using the “Copy to Computer” command.

Google Lens can capture any text, whether it is on a piece of paper, in a book, on a whiteboard, or website.  Once the text is copied to a smartphone, the information can then be pasted in external sources such as Google Docs, notes, email, or a chatbox.

Today, many students use their smartphones rather than computers for schoolwork.  Therefore, the text and search features enhance the phone’s usefulness.  Google Lens is also useful for quick lookup activities, such as defining unfamiliar words or technical jargon.  Finally, for other students who prefer audio rather than visual learning, Google Lens makes it easy for students to listen to any captured text.  

Homework Assistant Tool:  Students can use Google Lens as a homework assistant.  Students simply scan the question(s), and the app provides resources and/or answers.  For STEM courses, Google Lens combined with Socratic by Google typically includes step-by-step instructions that lead to the final answers. 

Using technology as a homework assistant can be either good or bad.  For students who use Google Lens as a homework assistant, the technology can help get them “unstuck,” which can be particularly helpful as students are learning a topic.  Using Google Lens in this manner keeps students moving forward in their learning process. 

However, a downside of Google Lens is the increased ability to cheat.  Using Google Lens, students can easily take a picture of an exam question to locate the answer.  Before writing this blog, sample questions were used with Google Lens.  The results indicated that publisher-created questions as well as recycled instructor-created questions often quickly located the correct answer.  With this type of technology, students who cheat no longer must enter a question into the search bar and then sort through resources for potential answers.  Instead, they can simply snap a picture of the question, and Google Lens will rapidly search the Internet for the solution.  Since Google Lens uses machine learning, it can sort through millions of sources quickly, and as our tests found rather effectively.  

Productivity Tool:  Google Lens can help students and instructors stay organized.  Information captured by a Lens image can be sent directly to an electronic calendar.  This Google Lens feature can be beneficial for students who struggle with due dates.  Google Lens can also be a helpful tool for instructors attending conferences or networking events.  Information collected with Google Lens (i.e., scan images, texts, bar codes, and QR codes) can be immediately transferred to a file for future reference or follow-up.

To get started or try Google Lens, download the app from your smartphone’s app store, or you can find the Google Lens icon on your Google Photos and Google Search Bar.  You can also find the download instructions at https://lens.google/.

©2021 Teaching and Learning Toolbox

CountThings:  Bringing Image Recognition and Machine Learning to the Accounting Classroom

If you are looking for a free way to introduce students to how image recognition and machine learning can easily complete routine tasks, such as counting inventory, the CountThings app is just the tool. CountThings is a real-world tool used in various industries to simplify counting large quantities of items such as metal products, tubes, logs, lumber, pharmaceuticals, medical vials, livestock, animals, wildlife, and more. While the CountThings paid version is quite expensive, they do offer a free test version and provide sample templates that students can use to experience the app’s benefits. 

The free, demonstrator templates include Xs on white paper, coins, lines on notebook paper, and keyboard keys. All of these templates are normally easy for students to work with and access both in and out of the classroom.  I tend to use the coins template as it is easy for students to relate to counting coins and the time saved by automating coin counting.

To get started, students can download the CountThings app to their iOS, Android, Samsung, or Windows smart devices. Once the app download is complete, students can continue as a “guest” to utilize the free trial. Using the CountThings app is as simple as 1-2-3!

Step 1:  From the app, students select “Take New Photo” or “Use an Existing Photo”. Then students select the appropriate counting template. For example, if students are counting coins, they would select the “coin template”.

Step 2:  Students then click “Count”.

Step 3:  Finally, students review the count and take a screenshot, or they can select “Save”.

If you don’t want to use coins, have the students try the Xs on white paper, notebook lines, or keyboard keys counting template. All of these work the same way. Occasionally, the app will give students an inaccurate count, but if students repeat the process with a new picture, the inaccurate count is normally resolved.  

CountThings Coin Count Template Results

Because CountThings is a tool used in various industries, there are a few brief case studies available on their website that you could use for class discussions. Some other topics I’ve used for discussion include (1) the benefits and cost savings of image recognition and machine learning for inventory management, and (2) the accuracy or inaccuracy of this type of technology and why the template selection might affect the count.

CountThings is a simple and effective way to introduce accounting students to the real-world benefits of image recognition and machine learning applications. If you would like to try the CountThings app, download the app from your smart device’s app store.  To learn more about this technology and its real-world uses go to the CountThings website. Happy counting!

© 2021 Teaching and Learning Toolbox

Bring More Collaboration, Creativity, and Engagement to Your Course with Canva

“You can’t use up creativity.  The more you use, the more you have.”
~Maya Angelou~

Since the shift toward remote learning, Markus and I have been asked numerous times about ideas and tools to bring more collaboration, critical thinking (creativity), and engagement to courses.  This month we are sharing Canva, a technology tool that allows students to creatively collaborate, and instructors to create appealing course materials that support engagement. Canva for Education provides numerous free resources for instructors and students, such as images, fonts, graphics, videos, animations, and visualization and educational templates.  Canva also provides students with a dedicated and safe workspace to share, review, edit, and comment in real-time. For instructors, Canva helps enhance the visual design of your course to create a more engaging learning environment.

While Canva is ideal for enhancing online learning, it also works well with in-person, hybrid, or hyflex course delivery methods.  Canva activities can be shared through your LMS or through applications such as Microsoft Teams. Canva allow students to work together whether viewing, editing, or sharing feedback.  Canva’s real-time functionality will enable students the flexibility to work synchronously or asynchronously as needed.  Canva also helps students stay connected and engage in any course. 

For remote learning, instructors can create a lesson with voiceover, then share it as a video link in their LMS or by email.  Students can also create videos or record themselves speaking in an assignment or project.  Every student in the course has a voice using Canva, whether submitting original work or providing feedback for classmates.

There are numerous ways to use Canva, and it is adaptable for every type of course. The following are just a few ideas that Markus and I would like to share:

  • Design Thinking: Are you looking for a way to implement and manage design thinking projects?  Canva allows students to collaborate on design thinking activities and then provide their insights in an infographic.
  • Portfolios: Canva is a great tool to help students create learning portfolios, reflect on their learning or store information to create a resume or CV.
  • Student Learning Plans: Student learning plans can help students become more aware and engaged in learning.  With Canva, students can set personal course goals, create self-study guides, plus highlight newly discovered interests from the topics covered in their course(s). In addition, asingle student or group of students can use Canva to share their portfolios, allowing for peer-to-peer feedback, which improves the learning process.
  • Group Projects:  Canva makes group projects more appealing.  Groups of ten (10) can be created for free. A Canva group makes it easier for group members to create, share, comment, and revise projects. Students can also engage by liking a group member’s work when no other feedback is required.   
  • Visualizations: Canva allows students to create text-or-image-based graphics, which can often illustrate formulas or problems found in accounting, mathematics, statistics, and the sciences better. For students who find quantitative subjects challenging to grasp, adding a creative, visual aspect to the activity can help these students more easily “connect the dots”. Canva alsooffers various templates that help students turn numbers into visuals that are easier to understand.
  • Reflections: Markus and I both provide students with opportunities to reflect in our courses.  Use Canva to perform a quick reflection, similar to a one-minute paper, or to create a more in-depth reflective course examination.
  • Pre-Class Activities: Encourage students to be prepared by visually summarizing a chapter or topic in Canva before class.  Remind (November 2015) or LMS Announcements help reinforce when the Pre-Class Activity is due so it gets completed.
  • Data Analytics: Charts and graphs help to demystify numbers.  You can add data analytics visualization to any course using Canva’s easy-to-use, fill-in-the-blank, visualization templates.  Canva is also a great way to have students explore visualization in a user-friendly environment before moving to more sophisticated visualization tools.
  • Flashcards: Create flashcards using Canva that can be used on a device or printed for additional practice.
  • Resumes: Resume creation is made easy with Canva. Students pick a layout and enter their data. Canva formats the document, selects the font, and suggests a suitable design.
  • Signatures: Many documents previously submitted in person prior to remote learning now require electronic signatures.  Teach students how to create their electronic signature using Canva.

For instructors, consider using Canva to create engaging and interactive presentations and assignments. Canva provides a wide range of assignment templates, including writing prompts, journal entries, book review designs, and word problems. In addition, create eye-appealing calendars, schedules, and anchor charts to help students stay on track during the course. Canva also lets you link created graphics to a webpage, in order to make the graphic interactive.  Simply, download your file as a PDF or webpage rather than as an image. QR codes can be added to any design to make it easier for students to access web content.

Canva is entirely COPPA and FERPA compliant, ensuring your student’s privacy and safety. Canva is also easy to use, and to get started.  Just send your students an invitation link through your LMS or email. Feeling a bit tech challenged?  There are numerous resources available to help you explore Canva as you look for new and exciting ways you can utilize this tool in your course(s).

Whether you want to utilize Design Thinking, incorporate Data Analytics, enhance project-based collaboration in your course, or create more engaging lectures and activities, Canva provides you the tools you need.  To explore what Canva for Education offers or set up your account, go to https://www.canva.com/education/.   You can also check out a brief summary about Canva for Education in the following video: https://youtu.be/3Axs47FT1-s

©2021 Teaching and Learning Toolbox

Soundtrap –A Cloud-Based Application and Podcasting Tool to Create 21st Century Student Creativity and Collaboration Skills

Soundtrap

As we have learned over the last year, providing students alternative ways to creatively collaborate in a remote environment is essential.  The cloud-based application Soundtrap is a digital audio workstation (DAW) that provides students and instructors with an alternative remote collaboration option. Soundtrap also supports the development of student critical thinking and creativity skills.  These skills are important for 21st-century learners to practice as they prepare for the future workforce. 

Soundtrap started in the Spotify community as a cloud-based recording studio to create and collaborate on music. However, Soundtrap also provides a platform for students to collaborate on course audio projects, such as podcasts or virtual presentations.

There are numerous ways to incorporate Soundtrap into any course.

  • Interviews:  Students can interview professionals about their careers, classmates about various topics, such as internship experiences, or explore with alumni – life after graduation.
  • Job Seeking Support: Students can record a mock interview and receive instructor feedback.
  • Presentations:  Students can record, practice, and critique presentations, add audio to a presentation or use the platform to debate differing viewpoints.
  • Project-Based Learning (PBL):  Users can add audio to PBL activities and provide classmates the opportunity to give peer-review feedback.
  • Portfolios: Students can capture their work and share it with future employers
  • Assessment: An excellent tool for incorporating alternative assessments, especially for students who prefer to be heard but not seen.
  • Study Tool: A study tool students can use to read, record, and reflect on what they have learned.
  • Knowledge Sharing:  Students can create an instructional resource that can be shared with classmates to enhance understanding or discussions.
  • Soundtrap also works well with Waklet (January 2021).  Students can create a Walklet account to organize their Soundtrap project(s).

Instructors may also find Soundtrap useful. Teachers who flip their classrooms can record tutorials that students can listen to asynchronously.  The recordings not only provide students flexibility but also allows them to rewind and repeat as needed.  Instructors can also use Soundtrap to facilitate learning conversations in an asynchronous environment by recording and broadcasting group discussions.

Soundtrap can be integrated with most major LMS systems or shared through Microsoft Teams or Google Classroom applications. Instructors can also share Soundtrap with a URL link.

Soundtrap is easy to use and start using.  All that is required is access to a computer and headset.  Students can enroll themselves in Soundtrap with either an instructor-provided class code or URL link. If students elect to set up a Soundtrap group, they can; then invite the teacher to their group.

Instructors can also import students into Soundtrap from a CSV file. A temporary password can then be emailed to students to modify after their first log-in attempt. Soundtrap also lets instructors invite other teachers or industry professionals to groups.  This is an excellent way for these individuals to be involved in interview or mentoring activities. For instructors who want to control who can collaborate, Soundtrap permissions provide this option.

To get started in Soundtrap, simply enter the studio, and start recording. You do not have to worry about being perfect. Soundtrap has a simple editing feature, which converts the audio to text. This lets you edit your recording like you were editing a Word document.

Best of all, Soundtrap has a free version that works well for short-term projects, especially if students set up their groups and invite the instructor to join the group. Low-cost paid versions are also available under Soundtrap for Education.

Regarding accessibility and compliance, Soundtrap is accessible on any browser and from various devices.  Soundtrap is also guaranteed COPPA, GDPR, and FERPA compliant, which provides students with a safe and secure environment for creative collaboration.

Finally, Soundtrap can be downloaded as an MP3.  The MP3 files allow users to store on their computer, import into an LMS or share on YouTube.

To learn more about Soundtrap for Education or to set up an account, go to https://www.soundtrap.com/edu/#.

©2021 Teaching and Learning Toolbox

Ziplet:  Instant Student Feedback to Enhance Remote Learning

One of the most frequent comments Markus and I have heard since COVID-19 forced a shift toward remote learning involves the disconnect many faculty feel from their students.  Ziplet (previously know as Loop) is an easy-to-use technology tool that can help fill this void. 

Ziplet allows instructors to instantaneously solicit student feedback in a safe and secure environment. Instructors can either use the existing Ziplet library of questions or create their own.  Whether using Ziplet for exit tickets, course material review, student reflections, or student wellbeing check-ins, Ziplet gives all students a voice and helps build the instructor-student connection that can be missing in a distance learning environment.

Ziplet Free allows instructors to create up to three groups (courses) with up to 50 students and two instructors per group.  Instructors can add students to a Ziplet course using the student’s email or students can self-register with a course group code.  Ziplet Free also provides data storage for future access and analysis. 

For a nominal annual fee, Ziplet Plus provides several enhancements, such as allowing instructors to schedule questions in advance, send out announcements, review announcement read receipts, and export data for additional analysis.  Ziplet Plus also lets instructors reply to students individually or as a group to gain a better understanding of their responses.

Furthermore, all versions of Ziplet provide instructors with ongoing data that can be utilized to adjust teaching plans, detect learning trends and focus on continuous course improvements.   

If you are looking for a better way to connect with your distance learning students and receive instantaneous feedback to enhance courses learning outcomes, Ziplet may be the technology tool you need in your teaching and learning toolbox.  To get started, you can sign up for your free Ziplet account at https://ziplet.com/.  Once you register for a Ziplet account, be sure to check out Ziplet’s free resources, including their Help Center, Guides, and Blog.

©2021 Teaching and Learning Toolbox

Bring Your Course Content to Life with Wakelet!

If you are looking for a technology tool that will engage students and bring your course content to life, Wakelet is the tool!  Unlike some apps, there is only one version of Wakelet. The free version! Additionally, there are no limitations or required upgrades; instructors can create unlimited collections and spaces, invite an unlimited number of participants or contributors, and users can create multiple accounts if desired. 

Wakelet is easy to use and works seamlessly with most learning management systems. It also works with multiple other educational technology tools, such as Flipgrid (February 2018), Kahoot (November 2017), and Microsoft Teams (March 2018). It is accessible and inclusive. Partnered with Microsoft, Wakelet utilizes Microsoft’s Immersive Reader, which enhances accessibility and inclusivity in your courses. The text-to-speech reader is as simple as clicking an icon.  The Immersive Reader also provides language translation.

There are multiple ways to utilize Wakelet in a course. For instance, do you currently use student resource packets? You can easily convert these manual resource packets using Wakelet into engaging, online content.  Do you utilize Microsoft Teams with your students or colleagues? If so, you can share Wakelet Collections with team members. You can also bookmark or save links to your Wakelet Collections directly from Microsoft Teams.

Do you encourage students to become self-directed learners? If so, you can embed videos into Wakelet to explain a topic, allowing students to rewind and repeat the concepts as often as needed. You can even embed a self-assessment Kahoot quiz after a Wakelet learning activity. Allowing students to repeat assessments until they have mastered the concepts or have reached the assessment deadline. 

Flipgrid can also be used with Wakelet to create an engaging activity that facilitates class discussion. Create a discussion Q&A session or enhance your discussion board activities. This type of interactive engagement helps students improve their critical thinking and communication/collaboration skills. It also helps students learn to be concise with their responses.

Wakelet Spaces helps instructors get organized. For instance, you can organize your Flipgrid discussion responses by activity. This arrangement allows instructors to build a collection of discussion responses that students can use for future reflection activities. Additionally, today many students learn better when they can communicate verbally rather than in writing.  Wakelet, combined with Flipgrid, provides a simple way to give students oral formative assessments to showcase their knowledge.

Since many students use various mobile devices, Wakelet’s mobile app is convenient for students in remote learning environments. Mobile access allows students to collaborate across devices and from any location. Students can join a Wakelet Collection by scanning a QR Code, entering a Collection’s code, or pasting a Collection’s URL. Students can also utilize the app without creating a Wakelet account.  

From enhanced resource sharing, assessment, project collaboration to eFolios, Wakelet is a versatile tool that will enhance your teaching toolbox and improve your students’ learning experience. 

Are you ready to use this engaging technology tool? To get started, you can sign up for your free account at https://wakelet.com/. Be sure to check out Wakelet’s free templates and learning resources (blogs, guides, videos).

©2021 Teaching and Learning Toolbox

Krisp: For Noise Free Meetings and Video Recordings

Are you working remotely?  Are you trying to record lecture videos from home?  Are you frustrated by unexpected background noises, such as dogs barking, household noises, the neighbor’s lawnmower, etc.?  Then Krisp.ai is the must-have noise-canceling app that puts you back in control of providing a professional, noise-free background. 

The Krisp app utilizes AI (Artificial Intelligence) technology to distinguish between the human voice and unwanted background noise.  Not only can Krisp eliminate background noise on your side of a meeting or call, but it can also filter out unwanted noises coming from the other participants.   While meeting applications like Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, WebEx, etc., give you the ability to mute meeting participants, there are times when participants need to engage in the conversation. 

Krisp goes one step further than most meeting applications by eliminating background noises while at the same time allowing open conversation.  From our experience, Krisp is also superior to some of the background noise cancellation applications available within some meeting applications.  If you participate in multiple meeting platforms, Krisp is a seamless way to use one application for everything.

Krisp is easy to install and use.  It is referred to as a “one-button” app because it is either on or off.  The desktop application works with Windows and Mac OS.  Krisp also has a Chrome extension, which expands its ability to be used with numerous other communication apps.  Additionally, Krisp supports hundreds of meeting platforms such as Zoom, Google Meets, WebEx, Microsoft Teams, Skype, Slack, etc., and it does not have any special hardware requirements.

For those who only need limited weekly meeting or recording time, Krisp’s free version gives you 120 minutes a week of noise-canceling usage.  For those who need more time, there is a “Pro” version that starts with a 14-day free trial and converts to a paid version of $5 per month afterward (billed annually).  The Krisp Pro provides unlimited noise-canceling usage and works on up to three devices. 

Another advantage of trying and using Krisp is their current referral program.  This programallows you to share a referral link with friends and colleagues.  It gives each referral one free month of Krisp Pro.  It also provides the referrer two free months of Krisp Pro.  The more friends and colleagues you refer, who use the service, the more free months of Krisp Pro you receive.  For more details about the Krisp Referral Program, go to https://help.krisp.ai/hc/en-us/articles/360017349520-Free-Pro-months-with-Krisp-Referral-program.

Are you ready to eliminate the stress of unwanted background noise from your meetings and recordings?  If so, go to https://youtu.be/JgUomX5uZpA to view the video on how Krisp.ai could work for you. If you like what you see and want to get started with Krisp, you can go to https://krisp.ai/ to sign up or use the following referral link https://ref.krisp.ai/u/u95524a350 to receive one free month of Krisp Pro.   Note:  The referral link to Krisp Pro is provided under the referral program mentioned in this article and is available at no extra cost to you. 

© 2020 Teaching and Learning Toolbox.com

Would You Like to Have A Second Monitor Without the Cost?

Would you like to have dual monitors without a significant investment?  Duet Display may be just the answer! 

Duet Display is an app that allows you to connect your computer to your smart device (tablet or phone) as a second monitor. Originally created by ex-Apple developers for professional use, Duet Display also works great for a home office, remote work, or the classroom. Basically, any place you want a portable second monitor. Markus and I both use multiple monitors.  We have found that dual monitors are a great way to manage multiple processes as well as increase productivity and efficiency.

For just $9.99, the Duet Display download connects Windows, iOS and/or Android devices.  I use Duet Display to make my iPad Pro 12” tablet a second monitor for my Surface Pro.

Duet Display is as simple as 1-2-3 to set up (wired or wireless) and easy to use.  To create a wired connection between my Surface and my iPad, I use a lightening to USB cable.  A wired connection is useful when Wi-Fi may not be available or when your Wi-Fi signal is low.  For a wireless connection, just follow the app instructions to pair devices.

To learn more about Duet Display or to get started using it, go to https://www.duetdisplay.com/.  You will also need to download the Duet Display app from your smart device app store.

© 2020 Teaching and Learning Toolbox

Accessibility – Free Technology Tools and Tips for Compliance

During Spring 2020, COVID-19 forced many face-to-face courses to shift to remote learning abruptly. This shift posed numerous challenges for instructors, including how to provide accessible course content. While the pandemic forced institutions and instructors to be flexible or even allowed short-term exceptions for specific requirements; accessibility standards were not waived.  Instructors were still responsible for making sure that their courses were accessible and in compliance.  Markus and I recognize that complying with accessibility requirements can feel a bit overwhelming. Therefore, we want to share a few tips to demystify the concept of accessibility as well as provide some free tools to simplify making your asynchronous and synchronous courses compliant.

Let’s start by discussing accessibility best practices.  First, a common thought is that accessibility requirements only need to be met if students request accommodations.  In reality, remote courses need to be accessible even if no student accommodations are in place.  Regardless of the delivery format (asynchronous vs. synchronous), there are several accessibility best practices to consider:

  • Course design – We recommend that you use a simple and consistent format. Take a few minutes to look at your course through multiple lenses.  Ask yourself, if you could not hear, see, or had other disabilities, could you successfully navigate this course?  If not, make the appropriate changes.
  • Communication – It is important to make sure your instructions are clear for all course activities. Remember, in a remote environment, you will not be as readily available to your students as you might have been in the classroom. Ask yourself, if you did not know anything about the presented materials, would you know what to do?  If not, add the appropriate clarification.
  • Learning Management System (LMS) Tools – Most LMS systems (i.e., Blackboard, Canvas, Moodle, etc.) have built-in accessibility support tools. Be sure to use these when they are available. These tools and resources will simplify the task of making your course compliant.
  • Third-Party Applications – Do you use third-party tools? Homework managers, or other applications?  If so, are these third-party applications accessible?  If not, you may consider using different resources.  Third-party applications that are accessible will have an accessibility statement.
  • Hyperlinks – It is important to describe any hyperlinks used in your course. Avoid using generic terms for links, such as “Assignment,” “Quiz,” etc.  The link should describe the activity and its content, such as “Chapter 2 Assignment”.
  • Images – It is also essential to use descriptions that clearly describe all images shown in your course. If possible, avoid using images just for decoration.  All images should have a purpose and add value to the learning experience.
  • Font – The bigger the font, the better. San serif fonts are the best for accessibility. Additionally, Word documents should typically use a font that is 14-point or larger, and PowerPoint slides should use a font 24-point or greater.
  • Color – When using color in your course, always consider color-blind students or those who are visually impaired. It is best to use contrasting colors, whenever possible.  Avoid red and green, but if you must use these colors, try to use darker versions for clarity.  Colors like blue and orange tend to be better.
  • Captions – Captioning your course content is one of the biggest challenges or concerns for many instructors. It is perceived to be very time-consuming. Additionally, there is often the misconception that captioning is just for students who are hearing impaired. However, captioning can be helpful for a variety of other students as well. For example, ELS/ELL students (English Language Learners).

Markus and I are often asked the question, “Where do we start?”  There are several free tools available for you to use.  Some of these tools you already use on a regular basis.

Microsoft Office

Microsoft Office provides a free accessibility checker tool that can be used with Excel, OneNote, Outlook, PowerPoint, and Word.  This accessibility tool is available for Office Online, as well as Windows and Mac users.

Word and PowerPoint are probably the best-known applications that allow you to create and share accessible documents.  Accessibility features in Word and PowerPoint can be turned on for accessibility checking while you work, or you can verify accessibility before saving the document.  The Microsoft accessibility checker not only verifies accessibility; it also provides recommendations for compliance, such as inserting alternative text (Alt Text) for images and properly formatting headings.  When creating accessible Word documents, avoid using features such as SmartArt, text boxes, headers, and footers.  When creating accessible PowerPoints, consider selecting a template that offers contrasting colors and avoid using the Design Ideas feature.  While some Design Ideas templates are compliant, many others are not.

PDF

PDFs are another way to share accessible documents.  If you have the professional version of Adobe Acrobat, you can use the accessibility check feature for any documents (created by you or others).  To create an accessible PDF, Markus and I recommend that you start with an accessible Word document. It is important to use the “Save As” feature to convert your Word document to a PDF, rather than printing the document to a PDF.  The “Save As” option helps retain the original accessibility features in your new document.  Most accessible Word documents easily convert to an accessible PDF; however, it is always a good idea to double-check the accessibility of your new document for accessibility and make modifications as needed.

Videos and Virtual Meetings

Course videos and virtual course meetings also need to meet accessibility guidelines.  Videos should be captioned, visual content needs to be described using Alt Text, and video players need to be user-accessible by mouse and keyboard.  Video controls should be appropriately labeled so that screen reader users can access all the video features. A few of the video players that support accessible content include YouTube, Vimeo, and Panopto. You may find Panopto as a free feature in your school’s LMS.

Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR)

Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) technology is continuously improving, but the technology is still not 100% accurate.  Accuracy of converting speech to text can be affected in various ways, including excessive background noise, the speaker’s accent, voice tone, or volume.  If you use a script to record your videos, then you already have your captioning transcript created.  If you do not use a script, there are several free captioning options available.  Regardless of the captioning method you use, it is essential to review your captions and make corrections as needed.

Closed-Captioning vs. Live-Captioning

Asynchronous courses typically use closed captioning.  Alternatively, live-captioning is generally used with synchronous courses since it happens in real-time.  Closed-captions allow course participants to opt-in or opt-out of displaying the caption. In contrast, live-captioning is always displayed, for all participants. Closed captioning is easy to translate into multiple languages, and captions can be modified.  In comparison, live-captioning is typically available only in one language and cannot be modified or saved.  Not all platforms support closed captioning, but accessible video players like YouTube, Vimeo, and Panopto do.

The accuracy standard for closed-captioning is higher than for live-. For closed captioning, the goal is 99% to 100% accuracy rate.  Markus and I have found that verifying video captioning accuracy is quick and easy when you record shorter videos (less than 15 minutes). Shorter videos also are more engaging for students, so it is a win-win!

Live-captioning standards strive for the highest level of accuracy considered reasonable under the circumstances.  Using technology tools that have a high speech to text accuracy level dramatically improves the quality of the live-captioning experience for students.  Technology tools like PowerPoint, Google Doc/Slides, G Suite – Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, and Zoom all have live-captioning options.  As previously mentioned, usually, live-captioning cannot be saved for future use, but Zoom’s “closed-captioning” feature does have the ability to archive live session captions.

The topic of accessibility may still feel a bit overwhelming, but once you find your tools and perfect your processes, accessibility compliance can be very manageable.  Do not forget to use your Disability Services and Distance Learning offices for support and assistance.   They can be great resources.  An accessibility resource for web content that may also be useful is the WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) Quick Reference.

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