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Offer Ways of Customizing Display of Information in Higher Education Classrooms: When One Size Does Not Fit All

Author: Samantha Goldman

The Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework is not something we just teach about in the higher education classroom. Faculty in teacher preparation programs have the responsibility of not only conveying content, but also modeling best practices for their students. With nine guidelines and 31 checkpoints, implementing UDL seems a little overwhelming. Why don’t we take a small step and look at how to model practices based on one UDL guideline? Amongst those practices is Guideline One “Provide Options for Perception” from the UDL framework under the principle of Providing Multiple Means of Representation. In this blog post, we will cover 5 easy ways to implement this guideline using technology readily available to you:

Increasing the font size of any website

It can be hard to read websites when you project within the classroom or share your screen over Zoom or another video conferencing site. But, this is an easily solved problem that can be fixed with a few simple clicks or keyboard shortcuts. To zoom in on any webpage, you can do one of two things:

  1. On the menu bar, click View, and find where it says “Zoom In”. Continue clicking until your web page is enlarged enough for your whole class to read. When you are finished, click back on View and click “Actual Size.”
  2. Use the keyboard shortcut by holding down “control” and “+” simultaneously if you have a PC or “command” and “+” if you have a mac. To set it back to normal, hold either “control” and “-” or “command” and “-”.

By following these steps, you will be able to project your websites at a size that all of your students will be able to read!

Add captions to videos on Youtube™ and other content

Youtube™ has so many features built-in to videos that allow it to fit this guideline perfectly. When you play a video in class, you will see a “cc” button near the bottom of the window. By clicking this, it will start the closed-captioning. Using closed captioning is a great feature for students who struggle with hearing, but also for those that prefer to learn through reading rather than listening.

Want to get fancy with it? Click on the “gear”, which is the settings menu, next to the “cc”, and click where it says “subtitles and cc”. Then, click options. Here you can customize everything from the font style and color to the background of the text. Remember to keep readability in mind as you customize your captions to meet the needs of all your learners. In addition, Google offers support with captioning while presenting slides, which is another great way to be sure your content is accessible to all learners.

It is important to note that live and automatic captioning services, like those available through Zoom™ or YouTube™, are not 100% accurate. One way to improve the accuracy is to save the transcript after the live captioning and edit it for errors. Once you have done that, you can upload the transcript to Youtube™. Here’s a video that will help you with editing the automatic transcripts in YouTube™ and another one on how to upload and alter transcripts in Youtube™.

Though built-in automatic transcription services may need tweaking and editing, it is important to provide all students with access to the captioning during the live presentation from a UDL perspective. You may want to acknowledge this fact with your students and ensure them that transcripts will be edited for accuracy.

Do a sound check before you start a video.

Sometimes the simplest strategy to promote engagement in the classroom gets overlooked. Before you play the video clip that illustrates your point or purpose perfectly to your students, ensure that the sound is working and loud enough for everyone in the room or attending virtually to hear.

When screensharing on Zoom™, make sure you have shared your sound so that students are able to hear the audio, just like you. For more information on how to screenshare with sound, Zoom™ has provided a useful resource with step-by-step directions.

Ensure PDFs are readable with a screen reader

So often we provide PDFs to students as readings for class to guide lectures and discussions. When you scan a document or save it as a PDF, ensure that you are making the PDF accessible. Sites like Kami and tools like Adobe Acrobat Pro provide you with the ability to optimize PDFs for Optical Character Recognition (OCR), which will allow screen readers to read the text on the page. Without ensuring your document has been OCR-ed, students with vision difficulties, reading challenges, or who learn best from listening will not be able to access the PDF. Here is more information on how to use the OCR tool within Kami.

Also, some scanners have the built-in capabilities to optimize documents for screen readers. Your campus’ Student Access Center or Accommodations Center should be able to assist with creating these PDFs as well.

Check your slideshow backgrounds and colors for readability

Finally, it is so easy to get caught up in exciting backgrounds and fun colors when creating slideshows. There are so many engaging templates to use to display your content, like SlidesCarnival and SlidesMania. The most important thing to do is practice displaying your presentation over Zoom™ or projected on the screen to ensure that you can read the font and that the colors are contrasting. Several sites exist to help you assess and check the colors you are using, like the Contrast Checker from WebAim. A fancy slideshow is not worth anything if your students can’t read it.

By implementing these 5 elements into your high education classroom, you will be setting yourself up for a more engaging and universally designed classroom. For more information about how to bring UDL into your higher education classroom, be sure to check out Dr. Jose Blackorby’s CIDDL Cizzle, where he discusses using UDL and technology in teacher preparation programs while participating in a salmon cook off with Dr. Liz Hartmann. For other resources integrating technology and the UDL framework, be sure to stay up-to-date with the CIDDL website and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter!