The Disability Resource Center (DRC) staff at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock want to welcome faculty and staff back from spring break 2009 which we hope was restful and fruitful. This edition of the Lowdown focuses on technology in three different areas: text books, videos and online classes.
In a world in which access, learning and efficiency all coincide with technology, the DRC wants to take this opportunity to discuss course textbooks and the alternate formats in which they may be available. For various reasons many students registered with the DRC access books in alternate formats including, but not limited to audiobooks and digital files. Regardless of alternate format preference, the acquisition of such texts is a very lengthy process for both the DRC staff and requesting student. Therefore, if you are transitioning to a new edition of a textbook or new author entirely and would like to consult with the DRC regarding access concerns before making your final textbook selection, please feel free to contact us at 501-569-3143 (v/tty). The DRC has established successful collaborative working alliances with many publishers. Additionally, prior to finalizing your course textbook selection you may inquire with the publisher about the availability of a text in electronic formats. You may also go to http://www.accesstext.org/, a collaborative website amongst some of the nation’s largest textbook publishers to search and determine if potential texts are available electronically.
Showing Videos, Films or Film Clips in Class?
If so, think about the need for CAPTIONING or TRANSCRIPTION. The DRC encourages you to purchase video materials that are already captioned or subtitled. If you are using older materials that are not captioned, keep in mind that obtaining copyright permissions and preparing transcripts are lengthy processes. Therefore, in an effort to provide you and your class with timely service, the DRC asks to the extent possible faculty provide us with the DVD or video three to four weeks prior to the class viewing. Purchasing and utilizing materials that are already captioned increases usability and accessibility. Access to captioned materials also avails students the opportunity to read and watch the material simultaneously which could increase retention of content and increase test scores.
Creating More Usable Online Courses
Online learning avails our students many things including universal connectivity and flexibility. However, at times Internet connectivity does not always guarantee access to course materials. For example, many students utilize screen readers to navigate online learning platforms and course materials. Usability can be greatly enhanced by following a few simple procedures. One of those simple procedures is using a naming system that makes it clear which file is being downloaded. It would be helpful when uploading documents and files if faculty could use descriptive names, such as: APA_Format_Exercise.rtf.
Additionally, some of the testing tools have compatibility problems with some screen reader technologies. This occasionally results in the screen reader program crashing during an exam. A good practice would be to have a mock exam available for students to try so that they will know ahead of time if their assistive technology will work with your exam. If it does not, an alternate version of the exam will need to be provided. For more details on naming links as well as other tips for creating more usable course content, please visit the following website: http://ualr.edu/pace/tenstepsud/ or call our office at 501-569-3143 (v/tty).
Providing Extended Time for Exams
Many students registered with the DRC have access to extended time on in-class and web-based exams as an accommodation. Therefore, as UALR completes its transition from WebCT to Blackboard, the DRC wants to take this opportunity to ensure that faculty have access to an easy to follow, step-by-step tool outlining how one would go about setting parameters for extended time in Blackboard. Exams in Blackboard’s Assessment tool are designed to provide a universal testing environment. However, some extra steps are necessary to provide students access to extended time on exams.
Since it is not possible to alter test settings for an individual while other students are taking an exam, a separate test will need to be created for each student who needs access to extended time on exams and quizzes. This can be easily done by using Assessment Templates.
- Click “Create Assessment” to set up a separate exam for the student.
- Select the “Base on Existing Assessment” radio button on the Template section of the Create Assessment page. This will create a copy of the exam selected from the drop-down menu next to the radio button.
- Once the new exam has been created, you will need to edit its settings. From the action menu located next to the exam title:
- Select “Edit Properties” to make the required adjustments to the test settings.
- Select “Set Release Criteria” to limit access to the test. On the Set Release Criteria page, click the “Add Member Criteria” button and select the student(s) who need access to the revised test. Once you hit “Save” you will see the criterion listed on the “Set Release Criteria” page. Do not forget to click “Save” on this page as well!
- Select “Show Item” so that the exam is available to the student when it opens.
Here are some things to keep in mind when using Assessment Templates:
- Though the revised test will be hidden from the rest of the class, the student requiring extended time will still see the original exam. Be sure to label the exam so that the student knows which one they are to take.
- You can hide the original exam from the students via the Release Criteria option. Repeat the steps used for the revised exam, except select the “Does Not Equal” radio button on the Add Member Criteria page.
- Your revised exam will have its own column in the grade book and the students score will show up there. Do not forget to include these columns if you use calculated columns to total your grades.
- You can easily add any students’ grade to the original test column by clicking on their blank cell in the grade book and entering the score by hand.
Again, the DRC is here for YOU! We would love to work with you so that your classes can become more usable and sustainable, equitable and inclusive of all students.