2021 Year End Review

With COVID-19 still hanging around, many of us are ready for 2021 to end and we look forward to a healthy 2022.  At this time of year, we feel that it is a great opportunity to reflect upon the fantastic technology tools and topics that we explored throughout 2021.  A great resolution for 2022 is to integrate at least one new tool into your classroom environment.

Wakelet (Collaboration)https://teachingandlearningtoolbox.wordpress.com/2021/01/

Microsoft Clipping Tool https://teachingandlearningtoolbox.wordpress.com/2021/02/

Ziplet (Student Feedback)https://teachingandlearningtoolbox.wordpress.com/2021/03/

Zoom Classroom Lecture Recordingshttps://teachingandlearningtoolbox.wordpress.com/2021/04/

Soundtrap (Podcasting & Collaboration)https://teachingandlearningtoolbox.wordpress.com/2021/05/

Teaching in Hyflex and Blended Learning Environments  – https://teachingandlearningtoolbox.wordpress.com/2021/06/

Canva (Collaboration) https://teachingandlearningtoolbox.wordpress.com/2021/07/

Let’s Get Ready for the New Academic Year – https://teachingandlearningtoolbox.wordpress.com/2021/08/

CountThings (Image Recognition & Machine Learning)https://teachingandlearningtoolbox.wordpress.com/2021/09/

Chrome Extensions (Momentum, Kami, InsertLearning, Google Keep, Just Read)https://teachingandlearningtoolbox.wordpress.com/2021/10/31/

Google Lens https://teachingandlearningtoolbox.wordpress.com/2021/11/30/

We look forward to exploring more teaching and learning technology tools throughout 2022.

© 2021 Teaching and Learning Toolbox

Let’s Get Ready for the New Academic Year!

At this time of year, we as educators begin to organize ourselves and make plans for the upcoming semester.  The COVID-19 pandemic forced many educators to utilize technology to deliver quality education.    This a great time to reflect on what worked well in a virtual environment and utilize technology that can help organize yourself and your classroom for the upcoming year.   Where should you start?  Cathy and I think that this is the perfect time to share how we stay organized and to recap some of our favorite and most useful technology tools.

To maintain easy access to our documents from anywhere or any device, Cathy and I utilize Dropbox for document cloud storage.  In addition, Dropbox allows us to easily share documents with anyone.  Other cloud storage services that we recommend are Google Drive, Microsoft One Drive, and Apple iCloud.

In addition, a great note taking app is a must have for increasing productivity.  Both Notability and Evernote are tools that we utilize on a weekly basis.  Additional note taking tools that we recommend are GoodNotes, Google Keep, Notion, Microsoft OneNote, and Apple Notes.

Furthermore, Cathy and I utilize technology to convert our typical classroom into an interactive whiteboard environment.  Doceri allows our hand held devices to project images through the classroom overhead projector and to record our lectures.  Zoom has also become a great presentation tool for Cathy and myself.  Additional whiteboard and/or lecture capture technology that we recommend are Explain Everything, Educreations, ShowMe, Notability, Splashtop, Jamboard, Stormboard, Camtasia, Tegrity, Snagit, Microsoft Teams and Microsoft Whiteboard.

To increase student engagement in the classroom environment, Cathy and I utilize several polling and gamification technologies.  Poll Everywhere, Kahoot, Piazza, Sli.do, Socrative, Ziplet, Peergrade, and Mertimeter are a few of our favorite polling options.  These  student engagement technologies work great for on campus or online learning environments.

Cathy and I integrate many group team activities into our course curriculums.  Some of the technologies that we use to support the group workflow and grading are:  Canva, Soundtrap, Mural, GoSoapBox, Google Keep, Slack, and Microsoft Teams.  Another technology option to consider for team communication is Group Me.

If you are looking for technologies to introduce data analytics into your curriculum, Tableau and PowerBI are very user friendly tools.  In addition, Cathy and I describe how we introduce data analytics into our curriculum and our approach was published in an August 2020 article.

Finally, Cathy and I try to utilize technology to engage our students outside of our classroom lectures.  Some effective technology tools that we use to accomplish student engagement are: Wakelet, Kahoot Challenge, Flipgrid, Google Slides, and Recap.

We hope that you take this opportunity to discover at least one technology that can help you become more organized throughout the upcoming year.  We recommend checking with your institution to see if they currently provide any of these technologies at little or no cost to faculty.  Many technologies provide similar benefits; therefore, we identified several tools within each organizational category listed above.  We suggest utilizing tools that compliment your teaching style and that can be acquired for the least amount of resources.  Good luck and have a great academic year.

© 2021 Teaching and Learning Toolbox

Teaching in HyFlex and Blended Learning Environments

The COVID-19 pandemic forced many educators, including Cathy and myself, into teaching in virtual learning environments.  Since the goal was to keep students and faculty safe from COVID-19, some us were introduced to new teaching models.

First, we need to define our teaching and learning models (NOTE: Some schools use different terms for these models).

LVL: Live Virtual Lecture

Hybrid: Students watch/prepare outside of class and then have a live component

Blended: (Live-Combined) On-campus in class students and LVL

HyFlex: Blended + Asynchronous option

NOTE: In a prior Teaching and Learning Toolbox Tip of the Monthpost we discussed several organization tips to aid in delivering a quality virtual lecture. https://teachingandlearningtoolbox.wordpress.com/2020/06/

In this post, we want to address the complexities and challenges of teaching in a HyFlex learning environment.  In any learning model, but especially the HyFlex model, we need to address the following items:

Image created by Amanda White – University of Technology Sydney – Australia

Similar to the Blended learning model, one of the biggest challenges in HyFlex is managing the people (students) in the live classroom and in the LVL.  How are LVL students allowed to ask questions?  Instructors need to decide if LVL students will use the chat feature, raise their hand and be called upon, or just unmute themselves and ask their question.  There is often a delay in questions from the LVL students while they type in chat or by the time that it takes for an instructor to see a virtual hand raised.  The interactions with the LVL students, many times will disrupt the flow of the class.  Some instructors have found that subdividing their classroom into separate in-person student question and LVL student question periods help with their classroom organization.  Furthermore, it is vital that the faculty teaching in Blended and HyFlex learning models receive appropriate training to teach in these models.  Training is required for both pedagogy and for the technology used in the course delivery.

Many times, having the appropriate technology and understanding of how to effectively use it can be the biggest challenge for instructors.  The pandemic forced institutions to quickly change course delivery models mid-semester.  Many students, faculty, and schools did not have the appropriate technology to support the new learning models.  At some institutions, students and faculty were loaned equipment and resources to accommodate the new classroom environment.  In several situations, the loaned equipment was too old or too scarce to provide a successful transition for the students and faculty.  Many individuals were forced to purchase new equipment themselves to adjust and assist with this new style of learning.

In the HyFlex learning environment, classrooms need to be equipped with multiple cameras, multiple microphones, innovative computer stations, and maybe even a document camera.  The biggest challenge in the HyFlex delivery is managing the equipment and technology.  Many times, the instructor feels more like a movie producer instead of a teacher.  Managing the LVL and in-class students, while producing an asynchronous recording can be difficult to achieve.  Furthermore, the school may have significant firewalls that prevent access to certain material to the LVL students.  I encountered issues with trying to show a short video in class.  The LVL and asynchronous recording could only receive the audio feed, since the video feed was blocked by a firewall.  Most of the time, I brought my own laptop to the classroom to avoid similar issues.  The best option is if the instructor has a separate person (teaching or graduate assistant) to run the equipment and technology while the instructor concentrates on teaching.  Cathy and I do not have this option, therefore, we have asked in-person students to monitor the chat for questions.  Furthermore, pausing and restarting your asynchronous recordings can be an additional challenge.  Cathy and I try not to have extensive recorded idle time when students are working on in-class exercises.  In addition, many times we will pause the recording when students ask questions.  In our experience, students ask questions more freely when they know that they are not being recorded.  After we answer the live student questions, we will restart the video recording and summarize the question and answer portion of the course.  We have received positive feedback from our in-class students because the recorded summaries help them with their notetaking.

Unfortunately, we have found that Institutional Workload Policy regarding HyFlex is not consistent.  Many schools will count a HyFlex course as one course load and other schools recognize the complexity of teaching this model, and will consider it as two or three course loads.  The HyFlex model is a tremendous amount of work and when institutions treat it the same as a normal in-class lecture course load, it can be unfair to the instructor.  The size of the class section and the level of support from the school can further complicate teaching in this learning model.  We encourage everyone to fully understand the challenges in teaching in the HyFlex classroom model, including how you will be compensated, before starting this endeavor.      

Cathy and I cannot stress enough that being organized and consistent is essential to successfully teaching in the HyFlex learning model.  Students require consistent structure and they do not react well when the rules get changed throughout the semester.  Also, keeping the students engaged can be an issue.  To increase engagement, we use polling questions and breakout rooms in our virtual learning environments.  Students appear to enjoy the flexibility of the HyFlex learning model.  But, be prepared for students switching modes of delivery during the semester within the HyFlex environment.  Some institutions require students to stay in the same mode of delivery throughout the entire semester, but many schools allow students to choose their mode of delivery on a weekly basis.  With COVID-19, I had students that were forced to switch delivery modes due to quarantine requirements.  Luckily, the HyFlex model allowed the students to fully participate and successfully complete the course during their quarantine period. 

© 2021 Teaching and Learning Toolbox

Using Zoom for Classroom Lecture Recordings

During 2020, many educators, including Cathy and myself, were displaced from our campus classrooms due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Most of us were required to quickly adopt technologies and create virtual learning environments.  As we begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel and the possibility of returning to pre-pandemic classroom environments, we would like to reflect on some improved lecture recording practices utilizing Zoom.  

For several years, Cathy and I have used Doceri  https://teachingandlearningtoolbox.wordpress.com/2019/10/ as an affordable classroom lecture recording technology tool.  We both have been avid users of the Doceri software while utilizing our Apple I-Pads and Microsoft Surface Pros when we lecture in our classrooms.  Throughout the pandemic, Cathy and I began experimenting with Zoom to record our lectures for students to view on their own time. 

Before someone begins recording classroom lectures, we encourage them to view the following two prior Teaching and Learning Toolbox “Tip of the Month” posts.  In the first post, we discuss many organizational tips to aid in delivering a quality video lecture.  The second post addresses the basic Zoom safety and security functions.

1- Improve Your Virtual Meetings & Classroom Presentations – https://teachingandlearningtoolbox.wordpress.com/2020/06/

2 – Zoom – https://teachingandlearningtoolbox.wordpress.com/2020/04/

In addition, we always recommend using the most current version of Zoom. This will insure that you are using the most secure version and that you have access to all updated features.

Now, let’s examine the steps to using Zoom to record a lecture.

  • After you start your Zoom meeting, you will need to test and make sure that your microphone and video are working properly.  The microphone Mute and Start Video buttons are available in the bottom information bar on the far left side.
  • If you want to record a PowerPoint presentation or other documents, you will need to click the Share button located in the bottom information bar.  You need to have the document that you want to share open on your desktop.  You will have the opportunity to choose the document to display during the lecture after you select the Share button.
  • To begin recording your lecture, click the More button at the top of the Zoom window.
  • Choose the Record on this Computer option from the drop-down menu. NOTE: If you did not share your screen, the Record/Pause/Stop Recording buttons will be located in the bottom Zoom information bar.
  • You have the option to Pause Recording or Stop Recording throughout the lecture.  Cathy and I utilize the Pause Recording function to avoid extensive idle time when students are working on group exercises or if there are sensitive subject matters being discussed.  Many times we will un-pause the recording and then summarize the discussion that just took place in the live classroom environment. NOTE: Pausing the recording and then resuming the recording will result in one video recording.  Stopping a recording and then starting a recording will result in multiple videos.  Every time that a recording is stopped, it completely ends that video recording.
  • When you are finished recording, click on the More button and then choose End from the drop down menu. NOTE: If you did not share your screen, the End button will be located in the bottom Zoom information bar.
  • After you select End, you will need to select End Meeting for All.
  • Your recordings will automatically begin converting to .mp4 formatted videos.
  • Zoom automatically saves your recorded lecture files in a folder named Zoom within your computer’s Documents area.  This location should automatically open when the recordings are finished processing.  In addition, the files will be sorted by recording date.  We suggest renaming the video files before you post them into your Learning Management System.

Additional Note: Cathy and I Share documents in Zoom and mark on them utilizing our I-Pads and Surface Pro’s pencils.  These marked up documents are captured within our classroom session recordings.  Furthermore, Cathy and I upload our .mp4 Zoom recordings into our YouTube channels as unlisted videos and then we share the YouTube link in our Learning Management Systems.  This allows our students to view the videos outside of our Learning Management System, resulting in less buffering issues and increased compatibility with our student’s mobile devices.

Do you need more help using Zoom?  We suggest checking out these great Zoom created video tutorials:  https://support.zoom.us/hc/en-us/articles/206618765-Zoom-Video-Tutorials?_ga=2.47859235.520390637.1586184035-254639170.1585840704

To learn more about Zoom and to set up your free account, click https://zoom.us/.

© 2021 Teaching and Learning Toolbox

Microsoft Snipping Tool

With the adjustments to our classroom environment caused by COVID-19, most of us have been forced to be much more creative and resourceful.  Throughout the past year, Cathy and I have had to create many teaching tools for our virtual and online learning environments.  From creating practice exercise templates and visual aids to help increase student engagement, we have utilized Microsoft’s snipping tool.  This free tool has added efficiency to creating our learning resources. This is a tool that we have used for years, but recently we were asked about recommending good “clip and paste” tools. 

Some of the reasons that we like to use the Microsoft snipping tool are:

  • This is a tool that is free and easy to use and is part of the Windows Operating System
  • A user can edit the clipped snapshots
  • Snipping Tool allows a user to write on the screen capture and save it
  • Captured images can be stored in many formats
  • After capturing the screen, it automatically gets copied and it can be immediately pasted into a document

The free Windows Snipping Tool allows users to do the following:

Free-form snipDraw a free-form shape around an object.
Rectangular snipDrag the cursor around an object to form a rectangle.
Window snipSelect a window, such as a dialog box, that you want to capture.
Full-screen snipCapture the entire screen.

There are several ways to begin using the Microsoft snipping tool, but the easiest way is to select the Shift, Windows button and the “S” keys.

For more information about the Microsoft clipping tool, visit:   https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/use-snipping-tool-to-capture-screenshots-00246869-1843-655f-f220-97299b865f6b

In addition to the free Windows snipping tool, we suggest using

  •  Or the print screen function and then pasting it into paint.

Begin using one of these snipping tools today and immediately improve your efficiency in creating documents for your classroom.

  © 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

2020 Year End Review

Many of us are ready for 2020 to end and to turn the page to 2021.  As our semester and 2020 come to a close, we feel that it is a great opportunity to reflect upon the fantastic technology tools and topics that we explored throughout the year.  A great resolution for 2021 is to integrate one new tool into your classroom environment.

Mentimeterhttps://teachingandlearningtoolbox.wordpress.com/2020/01/

Grammarly https://teachingandlearningtoolbox.wordpress.com/2020/02/

Remote Learning Tools for Successhttps://teachingandlearningtoolbox.wordpress.com/2020/03/

Zoomhttps://teachingandlearningtoolbox.wordpress.com/2020/04/

Go Soap Boxhttps://teachingandlearningtoolbox.wordpress.com/2020/05/

Improve Your Virtual Meetings & Classroom Presentationshttps://teachingandlearningtoolbox.wordpress.com/2020/06/

Accessibility Compliance Tools https://teachingandlearningtoolbox.wordpress.com/2020/07/31/

Futureproof Employees and Students with Data Analytics Training – https://teachingandlearningtoolbox.wordpress.com/2020/08/31/

Duet (Second Monitor Without a Cost)https://teachingandlearningtoolbox.wordpress.com/2020/09/30/

MURALhttps://teachingandlearningtoolbox.wordpress.com/2020/10/

Krisp for Noise Free Meetings & Recordings https://teachingandlearningtoolbox.wordpress.com/2020/11/

We look forward to exploring more teaching and learning technology tools throughout 2021.

© 2020 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

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.

©2020 TeachingAndLearningToolbox.com

 

 

Improve Your Virtual Meeting and Classroom Presentations

Toolbox

With the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us have been communicating fully or at least partially within a virtual environment.  Virtual delivery has allowed us to continue to connect and collaborate with students and co-workers while maintaining social distancing practices.  Throughout the past several months, we all have encountered good and poor virtual experiences, including meeting and screen fatigue.  Cathy and I have reflected on our personal experiences and we decided to identify some virtual delivery best practices.

First, make sure that you have the correct equipment to effectively deliver your course or meeting content.  This includes having a reliable web camera, and luckily, most laptops and tablets have adequate built in web cameras.  If you prefer a higher quality camera or if you have a desktop, many external web cameras are available at very reasonable price points.  In addition, sufficient internet speed to support streaming content and video is required.  Many households have implemented a family internet usage calendar to avoid too many devices streaming content during the same time of an important virtual meeting.  To improve privacy during virtual delivery, Cathy and I suggest using a headset or a pair of earphones.  Many listening options are available depending on how much someone wants to spend on this option.  Cathy and I prefer wireless options like Apple AirPods or the Anker Liberty Air.  The final piece of equipment that we have invested in is a quality microphone for recorded presentations.  Cathy and I prefer the Blue Yeti microphone, which is available with a desk stand or a boom arm.  To further reduce microphone noise and acoustic transparency, an optional pop filter can be placed in front of the Blue Yeti microphone.

After you are assured that your equipment can support the delivery of your meeting or course, there are other great practices that should be observed.

  • Prepare Yourself Ahead of Time and Incorporate Some Transition Time – Make sure to mindfully transition from all other tasks before you deliver or participate in a virtual meeting. Make sure to close other apps and browsers to increase internet speed and to help reduce distractions.  In addition, it is important to get into the correct mindset before the virtual meeting begins.  Cathy and I suggest reviewing the course topics or meeting agenda for a few minutes before the start of the virtual meeting.  Decide if you are going to stand or sit during the virtual presentation.  If you normally stand when you teach, we suggest that you stand during the virtual presentation.  Also, make sure that your lighting is adequate for others to see you during the presentation.  Test your video camera and the lighting before your meeting begins.  Furthermore, make sure that all screens that you plan to share during the meeting are ready to view on your device.
  • Don’t Do Too Much at Once – Typically, it will take longer to cover material in a virtual environment compared to when we meet in person. Consider covering less material and allowing more time for questions and conversation.  Online delivery models require more repetition and additional time for discussion.  PowerPoint can work well with presentation organization and delivery, but we should avoid putting too much material on individual slides.  PowerPoint can help facilitate keeping meetings and classes on track, but the slides should include only the main discussion items.  In addition, try to avoid having long virtual meetings or classes.  We as humans can only stay engaged virtually for a certain period of time.
  • Set Some Ground Rules – Participants should develop a habit of muting themselves when they are not talking. To avoid everyone talking at once, a process to ask questions or contribute to the discussion should be in place.  Utilizing the chat or raising your hand features are great practices to insure a fair an equitable process for everyone to have a voice during the meeting.  Decide ahead of time if all participants will be required to have their camera on during the entire meeting or only when they speak.  Cathy and I like the human element in our virtual classroom environments and it is more engaging when students have their cameras are on.  At a minimum, everyone should introduce themselves at the beginning of the semester (or meeting) and then state their name when they ask questions.
  • Increase Engagement – Cathy and I cannot stress enough that engagement during virtual delivery is essential. We utilize polling software to insure that our students are participating and understanding the material being presented.  Poll Everywhere, Kahoot, Mentimeter, Socrative, GoSoapBox, and Nearpod can be used for virtual meeting polling activities.  In addition, we use online breakout rooms to promote smaller group discussions.
  • Finish Strong– We should always end our virtual meetings with either an overview of what was covered or what still needs to be completed. Many times, we can ask everyone for closing thoughts, what they learned, or what they still are confused about before they exit the meeting.  The online chat feature or polling options can help facilitate the end of the meeting discussion.

Cathy and I are always trying to improve our classroom delivery and student engagement.  Our goal is to provide others the techniques and technology tools that have been successful in enhancing the student learning experience within our on-campus and virtual classroom environments.  Hopefully, our best practices will help with your virtual meeting and course delivery planning process.

 

© 2020 Teaching and Learning Toolbox