July Newsletter

Interested in teaching online and wondering how to do that? Read how

It’s July, are you starting to think about fall courses? Perhaps we can help. Do you know what Distance Education can do for you? Online, Hybrid or Web – Enhanced we can help you. Read on.



Top 10 facts about May – The month of May settled in and is now gone, but let’s catch up with some facts.

  1. May is generally thought to have been named after Maia, the Greek goddess of fertility.
  2. The Roman poet Ovid had another idea: May, he said, was named for the maiores (the elders) and June for the iuniores (youth).
  3. No United States president has ever died in May. It is the only month with that distinction.
  4. Nine UK prime ministers were born in May, which is more than any other month
  5. May 5 was Labor Day but in 1966, the World Tramps Congress in Argentina decreed that May 2 shall be the International Day of Idleness.
  6. In 2014 May was the 576th most popular name given to a girl baby in England and Wales.
  7. It was less popular than Maya (45), Amaya (220), Lilly-May (318), Ellie-May (383), Lily-May

(393) and Mae (494).

  1. In the nursery rhyme “Here we go gathering nuts in May,” the word “nuts” was probably a corruption of “knots” meaning bunches of flowers
  2. No month of the year either begins or ends on the same day as May.
  3. According to old superstitions, you should not buy a broom, wash blankets or get married in May: “Marry in May and you’ll rue the day”.

Source: The Daily Express

Top 10 facts about June – June too is gone no matter let us see what we can find out about June

  1. The Romans called June “Iunius” or Junius, but it is unclear whether this was after Juno, goddess of marriage, or whether May and June were named for the old and young: ‘maiores’ and ‘juniores’.
  2. The Anglo-Saxons called June “sera monath” (dry month).
  3. June is celebrated as National Smile Month in the UK and National Oceans Month in the USA.
  4. In any year, no month begins on the same day of the week as June.
  5. George H. Bush is the only US President to have been born in June. Donald Drumpf (Real name changed to Trump) has a June birthday
  6. Antony and Cleopatra and Henry IV Part 1 are the only Shakespeare plays that mention June.
  7. “There are two seasons in Scotland: June and winter.” (Billy Connolly).
  8. The Earl of Liverpool (1770-1828) and Anthony Eden (1897-1977) are the only UK prime ministers to have been born in June.
  9. No UK prime minister has ever died in June.
  10. June was the 39th most popular name for a baby girl in 1925 in English-speaking countries but it dropped out of the top thousand in 1986. As a boy’s name, it peaked in 697th place in 1922.

SourceThe Daily Express

15 Online Degrees for the Future –

“The degrees were determined based on analysis of secondary research, previous online experience and direct contact with industry professionals. The degrees fall into two categories. One, which we call “mainstream,” is where we feel there will be mass appeal; the other, which we identify as “niche,” is where we feel there are possibilities for success but at a lower volume.” Source: The Learning House

Mainstream Degrees

Bachelor of Health Care Administration or Health Care Operations Bachelor of Health Information Management
Master of Public Health Bachelor of Professional Sales Master of Project Management
Bachelor and Master of Accounting Accelerated Master of Business Administration
Master of Business Administration in Information Technology Management Bachelor of Computer Science
Master of Social Work

Niche Degrees

Master of Data Science Bachelor of Market Research
Bachelor of Interpretation and Translation Master of Speech Pathology
Reverse Transfer – when academic credits at a university are transferred back to the community or career college for the awarding of an associate’s degree.

Why is an associate’s degree so important? Research continues to show those with a degree are more employable and have lifetime earnings much higher than those without a degree. Research conducted by the American Institutes for Research in 2013 concluded that “Even after factoring in the costs that graduates incur when earning the degree, the associate’s degree is a good investment: with a median net gain during a 40-year work-life of more than $259,000 compared with that of a high school graduate in the state where the community college is located.” (De Alva, J. K., & Schneider, M. (2013). What’s the value of an associate’s degree? The return on investment for graduates and taxpayers. Retrieved from http://www.air.org/sites/default/files/Value_of_an_Associate_Degree_10.13.pdf)

Degrees to Watch –

While the degrees explored above are ones Learning House feels can have a significant impact for schools, there are other degrees that we will be watching over the next six to 12 months, to determine if they, too, are worth pursuing. Degrees with strong potential include:

  • Certificate of Social Media
  • Associate of Paralegal Studies
  • Bachelor of Digital Marketing
  • Bachelor of Health Education
  • Bachelor of Digital Media and Design
  • Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies
  • Master of Science of Applied Behavior Analysis
  • Doctor of Occupational Therapy


So you want to teach online…

If you would like to teach using online technology, there are different options open before being cleared to teach at PCC. Before you can teach an online or hybrid course for the first time, it must be formally reviewed and approved by your Division Dean to ensure the course meets all College requirements. Deans will have right to assignment

  1. Get Dean’s Approval
  2. Canvas training – verification of completion and assessment of knowledge – chose A or B
    1. PCC Beginning, Intermediate and Advanced Canvas training
      1. Face to face
      2. Online


    2. ONE Canvas Training
      1. Introduction to Teaching with Canvas
      2. Introduction to Teaching with Canvas – Self-Paced
  3. Designing Courses in Canvas chose A or B
    1. PCC Courses
      1. COURSE DESIGN 101
      2. COURSE BUILDING 101Or
    2. @ONE Training – all four must be completed – 4 weeks each
      1. Introduction to Online Teaching and Learning
      2. Designing Effective Online Assessments
      3. Creating Accessible Online Courses
      4. Building Online Community with Social Media
  4. Course Accessibility Review
  5. Use of outside material
    1. NROC (EdReady)
    2. Publisher Content
    3. Videos
    4. Presentation
    5. Assessments – test banks



  1. The four 4-week courses required fully online classes offered through the @One Project:
    Introduction to Online Teaching and Learning
    Building Online Community with Social Media
    Creating Accessible Online Courses
    Designing Effective Assessments


You will have to register directly with @One to take these courses, upon completion of the 4 @One Courses, please contact us to receive reimbursement for your full training.

In addition, you will also need to take one CANVAS Training, which meets on campus and online. This training introduces you to CANVAS, PCC’s LMS (Learning Management System). It is highly recommended that you take this after you have completed the @ONE course Introduction to Online Teaching and Learning course PCC’sCourse Design 101. For information about upcoming PCC training, check out the Distance Education Current Training Opportunities. Also listed after @ONE courses.

Canvas training is also available through @ONE


Find it hard to make set training times? @ONE’s online self-paced courses and streaming videos enable you to pick up just the information you need or to explore a whole topic on your own schedule – *NEW* Introduction to Teaching with Canvas – Self-Paced

The Distance Education department has some upcoming training sessions we would love for you to be a part of! The Course Design 1.0 Online Training course is perfect for instructors looking to learn the basics and best practices of designing an online course. Before you take that course you can get a jumpstart on using PCC’s Canvas Learning Management System by attending a Canvas 101 training session.

More information and links to register for each session are below:

Course Design 1.0

Interested in learning the basics of designing an online course? Want to know more about best practices & assessments for online instruction? Check out the Distance Education’s 4-week fully online Course Design 1.0 course where you will learn about the following topics:

    1. Active Learning
    2. Assessment
    3. Creating a course outline
    4. Creating a course plan (this will help if filing a Form D with C&I)

Please note:

  1. This is not a self-paced course — you will be required to actively participate in weekly assignments with other trainees each week.
  2. This is not a Canvas training. If you are new to Canvas, please check out our Canvas technical training options.

WHEN: Monday, September 12, 2016 at 1:00 PM – Sunday, October 9, 2016 at 4:00 PM (PDT) – Add to Calendar
WHERE: Online (in Canvas)

Course Design 2.0

Interested in applying what you learned in Course Design 1.0? Let’s get started on building your course in Course Design 2.0. We’ll cover the following topics:

  1. Accessibility
  2. Online course & unit objectives (Rubrics)
  3. Course syllabus & communication policies
  4. Course modules/structure, tools & content

Please note:

  1. You must have successfully completed Course Design 101 in order to register for this course.
  2. This is not a self-paced course — you will be required to actively participate in weekly assignments with other trainees each week.

WHEN: Monday, September 12, 2016 at 1:00 PM – Sunday, October 9, 2016 at 4:00 PM (PDT) – Add to Calendar
WHERE: Online (in Canvas)


COURSE DESIGN 1.0 in person! Keep your eyes out for more information about the intensive hybrid version of this course in August. This training will have three half- day sessions on campus (12 hours) with additional online modules to get you started on your online teaching journey.

Canvas 101: Beginning Canvas Workshop

2 Hours

Hands-on course demonstrating Canvas while participants will complete tasks in a Canvas Sandbox. The Sandbox will have students enrolled so they can complete tasks like sending a Conversation message. This sandbox will also carry over and be used for the next training courses in the sequence.

This course is intended for users who are brand new to Canvas and have very limited or no experience using the system.

Participants will be asked to bring a Flash drive with a personal photo, and a Syllabus document or other related materials. Alternately they can bring their own laptop.

  1. Download Chrome or Firefox
  2. Log in to Canvas
  3. Interface Overview
  4. Using the Dashboard
    • Activities: 2-3 Minutes
      • Choosing Favorite Courses for Dashboard
      • Change Course Card Nicknames and/or Colors
  5. Personal Profile Settings
    • Activities: 2-3 Minutes
      • Upload a personal avatar photo
      • Change Display Name (Optional)
  6. Course Navigation & Overview of Tools
  7. Uploading Files
    • Activities: 2-3 Minutes
      • Create a Folder
      • Upload Syllabus or Other Document
  8. Syllabus Tool
    • Activities: 5 Minutes
      • Add personal information to Syllabus Description
      • Link to Syllabus file
      • Make Syllabus the Course Home Page.
  9. Announcements & Rich Content Editor
    • Activity: 5 Minutes
      • Create announcement and include an image or a YouTube video
  10. Assignments & Discussions Overview
  11. Publishing Content and the Course
  12. Conversations Tool
    • Activity: 2-3 Minutes
      • Send a Message to all Students in Course
  13. Calendar
    • Activity: 2-3 Minutes
      • Add an Event or Assignment via the Calendar
  14. Settings: Navigation
    • Activity: 2-3 Minutes
      • Hide any unused menu items
  15. Settings: Student View
    • Activity: 1-2 Minutes
      • View course in student view



Canvas 201: Intermediate Canvas Workshop

Prerequisite: Canvas 101: Getting Started with Canvas -or- equivalent experience

2 Hours

This is a hands-on workshop course intended for users with some basic experience using the Canvas system.

  1. Pages & Advanced Rich Content Editor
    • Activity: 3-5 Minutes
      • Create and publish a very simple Canvas page.
        • Include a YouTube video or image
  2. Discussions
    • Activities: 5-10 Minutes
      • Create and publish discussion question
      • Move to “Pinned Discussions”
      • Respond to Discussion prompt in Student View
  3. Assignments
    • Activities: 5-10 Minutes
      • Create and publish an Assignment
        • Include online submissions options, enable Turnitin, and set availability and due dates
      • Use Student View and submit the assignment
  4. Quizzes
    • Activites: 10-15 Minutes
      • Create and publish a Quiz with 1-3 questions
      • Complete the quiz in Student View
  5. Gradebook & Speedgrader
    • Activity: 3-5 Minutes
      • Make a comment on the Test Student’s submission and give them a grade
  6. Modules
    • Activity: 10-15 Minutes
      • Create a Module and add a Page, Discussion, Assignment, Quiz and File
      • Add a Text Header
      • Add an External URL Link
      • Make sure all items are published
      • Optional: Set Modules the Course Home Page



Canvas 301: Advanced Canvas Workshop

Prerequisite: Canvas 101 & 201 -or- equivalent experience

2 Hours

This is a hands-on workshop course intended for users who are familiar using the Canvas system.

  1. Groups & Group Assignments
    • Activity: 3-5 Minutes
      • Create a Group set and add students automatically or manually
  2. Peer Reviews
    • Activity: 5-10 Minutes
      • Create a new Group assignment and enable peer reviews
  3. Collaborations
    • Activity: 5-8 Minutes
      • Enable Gmail connection with Canvas
      • Create a new collaboration between two or more students
  4. Assignment Groups & Grade Weighting
    • Activity: 5-8 Minutes
      • Create 3-5 Assignment groups, enable grade weighting, and weight accordingly
  5. Rubrics
    • Activity: 10-15 Minutes
      • Use a non-group assignment, create a new rubric with at least 2 Criteria and 3 Ratings
        • Set up rubric to be used for grading
        • In Student View, submit the assignment
        • Access Speedgrader and use the Rubric to grade the submissions
  6. Advanced Gradebook Features
    • Activity: 3-5 Minutes
      • Mute an assignment
      • Send a message to all students who have not submitted an assignment
  7. Chat and Conferences
    • Activity 5-10 Minutes
      • Start a new conference
  8. Advanced Modules Settings
    • Activity: 5-10 Minutes
      • Create 1 or 2 additional modules
      • Set prerequisites for each module
      • Set requirements for preceding modules

Tools for Student Success and Retention – Available for use in Online, Hybrid and Canvas Enhanced f2f course


  1. TECH TIP TUESDAYS – Short, 1 minute videos released every 2 weeks.
    1. Potential topics could include:
      1. Canvas Syllabus Tool
      2. Embedding videos
      3. Hyperlinking (adding titles/alt text – CONTRL + K)
      4. Collaborations
      5. Conferencing tools
      6. Pages (using as a wiki)
      7. What are Small Groups?
      8. What’s a rubric?
      9. Portfolium
      10. Turnitin
      11. Respondus
      12. Proctorio
    1. Topics to include:
      1. So you want to teach online…
      2. Using Canvas for f2f classes
      3. What’s accessibility?
      4. Screencasting tools & uses
      5. The CCC Online Education Initiative (what it is & what resources are available to you)
      6. Captioning (Resources & Basics)
      7. Online/Hybrid or Web-enhanced? Classes @ PCC
      8. Welcome videos, how to create and use them
      9. Rubrics
  3. Solutions to Increase academic success and retentionStudent Orientation for online students – available for Fall 2016 will include access to SmarterMeasures – An assessment that quantifies and identifies a student’s levels of readiness to take an online or technology rich course. SmarterMeasure can be used in many ways, here are strong relationships between SmarterMeasure™ scores and academic success, retention, engagement and satisfaction.

    DropOut Detective – What if you could increase your retention rate by 5%? Dropout Detective identifies students that are at risk of dropping out of or failing courses – before it’s too late to save them. We tell you which students need immediate outreach and we tell you why they are struggling.

    Portfolium – All students have a Portfolium account – Portfolium provides a proven, turn-key platform for colleges and universities to enhance and streamline key objectives with a focus on outcomes, including: career readiness, skills planning, assessment and reflection, co-curricular transcripts, and employer engagement. Portfolium provides your students with the power to create, manage and personalize their own beautifully organized, interactive collection of projects, work samples, skills, activities and accomplishments.

    What can DE do for Faculty designing courses? Watch for Cookies and Canvas Info sessions about software in August. Can’t wait until August request information at pcconline@ pasadena.edu

    You provide content we will create in following or provide access:

    1. YouSeeU – (Available to All courses) platform includes all the asynchronous activities you’re looking for to get your students talking- whatever the subject matter. It also includes recordable, synchronous meeting capability so that you and your students can meet up in real-time for everything from small planning discussions to group presentations.
    2. Storyline 2 – Build a more immersive, engaging learner experience with video and simulations. Storyline makes it fast and easy to give learners a visual tour.
    3. eLearning Bros Library -eLearning Templates and Assets. Be an eLearning Rockstar and kick-start your course development. DE has subscription to libraries; start downloading games, cutout people images, interactions, scenarios, graphics and more
    4. Camtasia – (Licenses available if wanted) Make Powerful Video Lessons, Add Interactivity for Customized Learning and Assess Learning on the Spot
    5. Softchalk – (Licenses available if wanted) Create-your-own digital lessons by combining your own materials with interactive learning content and rich media. The mixture of personalized content, embedded assessment, and interactivity will increase student engagement and improve learning outcomes.
    6. Zaption – DON’T JUST WATCH. LEARN. Turn online videos into interactive learning experiences that engage students and deepen understanding.
    7. Raptivity – No programming or artwork required. Create powerful learning interactions in minutes without additional coding. Readymade artwork included. Publish as standalone learning interactions or link them together to create powerful learning experiences
    8. Turnitin – In Canvas More Than Just Checking for Plagiarism
    9. Respondus – a powerful tool for creating and managing exams that can be printed to paper or published directly to Canvas. Exams can be created offline using a familiar Windows environment. Whether you are a veteran of online testing or relatively new to it, Respondus will save you hours on each project.
    10. Virtual Training Company – (Available to everyone) Online Access to 1000+ Courses!Free
    11. Proctorio – an automated remote proctor that provides a scalable, cost-effective solution to validating student identities and activity during online exams



Universal Design for Access and Equity


Institutions of higher education are experiencing major shifts in pedagogy with teaching approaches that focus on student centered learning and increased access for learners who face challenges due to social, economic and cultural pressures. The traditional lecture based, face-to-face classroom is not as viable in light of information technology and learning tools offered by online instruction. More learners are participating in expanded learning communities unrestricted by geographical location and time restraints with more flexible access to content anytime and anywhere.

The demographic composition of the college student population is shifting in response to economic, social, educational, health and political changes in the United States. In addition to students with disabilities, English language learners, and ethnic and racial minorities, other forms of diversity need to be considered in the classroom including gender, class, age, employment status, race and culture and family and work related responsibilities. Meeting the needs of these students is critical to insuring they have equitable access and opportunities to participate in higher education.

Online Distance Education

With the advent of the worldwide web and information technology and multimedia tools, online learning offers great potential for reaching increasing numbers of learners. It is estimated that by 2014, 22 million students will be enrolled in online courses, compared to 12 million students in 2009 (Adkins, 2011). The U.S. Department of Education (2011a) reports that over 22% of undergraduate and graduate students in 2007-08 enrolled in distance education courses, while 9% completed an entire graduate degree through distance education. College students find online learning more popular and actively seek online programs. As a result, the growth of online enrollment in higher education is actually 10 times higher than traditional face to face course enrollment (Allen and Seaman, 2010).

Distance education courses that employ live or interactive audio or video conferencing, webcasts, discussion forums, videos, or internet, computer based management systems offer student opportunities for synchronous and asynchronous learning tailored to their needs. In addition online learning models allow users to participate at their convenience. Instructional experiences for students in distance education courses offers more control over the nature of content knowledge and level of interaction with peers, teachers and digital resources. Instructional technologies used in online instruction support traditional models of expository instruction as well as active and interactive learning (U.S. Department of Education, 2010b)

An overwhelming number of individuals access the internet daily to build communities without geographic or place-based restrictions, however students with disabilities or those with limited financial resources have less access to Internet resources (KirkHart and Lau, 2007). Even with access internet based applications have created barriers as a result of web-based design embedded media. Adaptable technology can increase access and flexibility in the digital campus community (Slatin, 2002). Online instruction offers students a unique opportunity to secure physical and intellectual access to a rich digital learning environment in higher education. Rowland, Mariger, Siegel and Whiting (2010) expand the notion of universal design for digital environments which includes electronic services – web pages, electronic materials, media, publications, simulations, games, social networking and online environments. Engagement in higher education and academic life is shaped by sharing and receiving information, learning, teaching, collaborating with others.

Designing and delivering instruction to diverse learners requires faculty to understand learning needs of their students before they design an accessible, flexible learning environment. Universal design offers higher education faculty and curriculum designers with a model that promotes access, and participation to 21stcentury digital learning environments. Before we examine universal design and various models of effective practice, it is important to understand the legislative basis for providing access and examine selected populations of diverse learners in higher education.

Legislative Background

Universal design for education was first defined in the Assistive Technology Act of 1998 as “a concept or philosophy for designing and delivering products or services that are usable by people with the widest possible range of functional capabilities, which includes products and services that are directly accessible (without requiring assistive technologies) and products and services that are interoperable with assistive technologies” (29 U.S.C 3002, 20 U.S. C 1401[35]). The 1998 Assistive Technology Act (ATA) gave impetus to the creation of universally designed curriculum and the development of assistive technologies and services which were mandated in the 2004 Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEIA). THE IDEIA adopted the same definition as ATA but promoted inclusion of students with disabilities in general education. The IDEIA not only focused on creating accessible curriculum in general education but provided funding to “use technology, including technology with universal design principles and assistive technology devices to maximize accessibility to the general education curriculum for children with disabilities (20 U.S.C. 1412[a][16][E]).

The Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA) of 2004 provided a definition of UDL extending the notion of meeting the needs of the widest range of students to include English language learners as well as students with disabilities. This definition provides guidance to faculty and instructional designers in institutions of higher education as they implement UDL in all courses. “Universal Design for Learning (UDL) means a scientifically valid framework for guiding educational practice that — (A) provides flexibility in the ways information is presented, in the ways students respond or demonstrate knowledge and skills, and in the ways students are engaged; and (B) reduces barriers in instruction, provides appropriate accommodations, supports, and challenges, and maintains high achievement expectations for all students, including students with disabilities and students who are limited English proficient.” [HEOA, P.L. 110-315, §103(a) (24)].

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), a civil rights law for persons with disabilities, promotes equal access and opportunity to participate, live and work independently in their communities. The mandates under ADA prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability in employment, public services, public accommodations and telecommunications. Individuals must receive reasonable accommodations based on their abilities and employers must meet design and accessibility guidelines in public spaces, buildings, transportation and facilities, employment practices. Accessibility to an education is guaranteed as individuals are provided with accommodations to fully participate and benefit from instruction (P.L. 101-336,104 Stat.328,42 U.S.C §12101 et seq.). In the 1998 amendments to Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of added requirements that provided electronic and information technology be accessible to individuals with disabilities in federal government which as extended to state entities in 1999 and assured by the ATA of 1998. Section 508 web access standards (World Wide Web Consortium – W3C) are available to help users evaluate their websites (Edmonds, 2006). The Telecommunication Act of 1996, Section 255 mandates telecommunications equipment and services including cell phones and plans offer accessibility features.

These pieces of legislation designed to provide electronic and information technology accessible to persons with disabilities have laid the groundwork for creating an inclusive learning and living community for all learners. Many of the effective practices designed for teaching individuals with disabilities can be expanded to provide access to students who represent diverse life circumstances. For the purposes of this chapter, we will examine diversity by focusing on understanding challenges faced by students with disabilities, students from racial and ethnic minorities and international students. While this discussion is limited to these populations, the reader will recognize applications across other diverse student groups.

Diverse Students

Students with disabilities

Over the past 10 years, enrollments of students with disabilities entering colleges and universities have nearly doubled. The enrollment of college students with disabilities was 11.3% undergraduate and 7.6% for graduate. The largest percentage of students reported learning disabilities (31%), attention deficit disorders (18%), mobility impairments (11%) and psychiatric conditions (15%) (U.S. Department of Education, 2011 a & b). For faculty, it is important to understand that these capable students are of average or above average in intelligence, have met the criteria for entry into college, and are seeking a post-baccalaureate degree. These students provide documentation of their disability to university disability services office to verify that accommodations are needed. Faculty work with the disability services and other student services programs to provide these accommodations. The most common accommodations provided include additional exam time, classroom note takers, written course notes or assignment, study skills instruction or use of assistive technology.

Ethnic and Racial Minorities

Nearly 38% of all undergraduate enrollments and 36% of graduate enrollments were composed of racial and ethnic minority students, more specifically, 12% Black, 6.4% Hispanic, 6.8 Asian/Pacific Islander, .6 American Indian and 10.7 % Non-resident alien (U.S. Department of Education, 2011a). The Council of Graduate Schools (2011b) provided a more detailed breakdown of 2010 Education enrollments which were comprised of 10.5% Black, 9.6% Hispanic, 3.6% Asian/Pacific Islander, .5% American Indian, and 10% two or more races or unknown. While these students enter colleges with differing educational backgrounds, cultural and life experiences, this diversity is highly valued. Higher education is focusing efforts to recruit and retain these underrepresented students, to enhance opportunities for success, and insure their student populations reflect demographics of society. We understand that broadening participation, challenging stereotypes have a positive impact on student cognitive and personal development. A college degree is still viewed as an avenue to economic and social mobility. Students who enter college regardless of race or ethnicity and language barriers face serious challenges due to limited financial aid, the need to work while in college, and inadequate career counseling to insure the student will have employment upon completion of their degrees.

International Students

International students account for 12% of the overall enrollment and only 3.3% in the field of Education. The Council of Graduate Schools (2011a) reported increasing numbers of students from China, India, the Middle East and Turkey. When these students enroll in US colleges and universities they encounter similar barriers experienced by ethnic and racial minority students. In addition to language and cultural barriers these students are challenged by understanding expectations for success, the college climate, student support services, family support from a distance, and teaching styles of college faculty. It is critical that we address barriers to learning for these students by offering a flexible curriculum.

Universal Design

One of the promising practices in higher education is the use of the Universal Design Framework in planning and delivery of instruction. The report, Transforming American Education: Learning Powered by Technology (U.S. Department of Education, 2010) recommends that educators use design principles and technology tools that reflect research in neuroscience, cognitive science, education and social science regarding types of learning – factual and procedural knowledge and motivation and engagement. This framework for instructional design considers the environment and the learner including ALL students regardless of challenges due to disability, ethnicity, culture, age, class, gender or other life circumstances. The concept of universal design is rooted in the field of architecture as products and environments intended to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, and without adaptation or specialized design (Center on Universal Design, 1997; Universal Design Alliance, 2010). The principles of universal design for the built environment laid the foundation for universal design approaches in education. Researchers developed universal design models focusing on instructional practices for learners. There are actually two lines of research that focus on either learning or instruction. The Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST) extended this concept to the learning environment in K-12 education and promoted it as Universal Design for Learning (UDL) (Rose and Meyer, 2002) , while McGuire, Scott and Shaw (2004) developed Universal Design for Instruction (UDI) for postsecondary education. The UDL principles in K-12 education focus on the design of instructional materials and methods that offer flexibility to meet individual needs of a wide range of learners. UDI expands upon the architectural principles and offers applications in higher education related to design of the learning environment. Both concepts will be discussed and applications for online courses described.

Universal Design for Instruction (UDI)

Universal design provides faculty with methods and strategies for planning and delivering instruction that addresses the needs of increasingly diverse learners. While some students with disabilities might require accommodations to make instruction more accessible the universal design principles are “built- in” thus reducing the need for adapting instruction or retro-fitting the learning environment. Given the nature and range diverse learning needs of students with disabilities we can never totally eliminate the need for accommodations; however, application of universal design principles can reduce the number of accommodations provided. Using these methods and strategies to create inclusive learning environments, access for other diverse learners is enhanced.

Universal design principles, based upon the architectural and built environment model are expanded in UDI approach with the addition of two principles, specific to the learning environment in higher education. Universal design for instruction principles include a) equitable use, b) flexibility, c) simple & intuitive, d) perceptible information, d) tolerance for error, e) low physical effort, and f) size and space for approach. Researchers expanded these principles to include, g) community of learners, and h) instructional climate (McGuire, Scott, & Shaw, 2004; Palmer, 2003). Scott, McGuire and Foley (2003) further described the principles of universal design for instruction and delineated specific strategies which are presented in the next section.

Equitable Use. Universal design for instruction involves anticipating varying needs and circumstances, respectful of diversity with high expectations for all learners. Intrinsic to this idea is that students can access the course and find it a fair and safe learning environment. This principle is so central to addressing student needs that it is sometimes even equated with the concept of universal design. At its heart is a commitment to remove barriers to accessing (i.e. “obtaining”) course materials and taking part in essential activities. Selected strategies include:

  • Provide class notes or power point presentation or graphic organizer
  • Provide course materials on CD
  • Use course website to post syllabus, assignments, readings and notes
  • Offer all readings as documents on website rather than linking to original sites
  • Assign exercise requiring students to use all features of the course website
  • Discuss netiquette for discussions and online interaction
  • Explore computer operating system’s accessibility features

Flexibility. Universal design for instruction involves overcoming confusion, coordinating all parts of the curriculum, and clarifying communications. This principle itself, perhaps deceptively simple to understand can be difficult to implement. However, what we know about learning from study skills professionals is in general a tremendous help. Selected strategies include:

  • Offer choice among assignments, formats and deadlines
  • Supplement video lectures with notes, or closed captioning
  • Use varied methodologies to convey information
  • Provide lecture as a concept map or graphic organizer
  • Select textbooks with electronic format and web links to supplemental reading

Simple and Intuitive. Universal design for instruction involves offering options in order to enable physical use, allow fuller participation, and permit suitable demonstration of mastery of course requirements. This principle, perhaps more than any other, requires imagination. The result, however, can create richer learning for all involved, including students exercising their options, to the benefit of themselves, their classmates and the instructor. Selected strategies include:

  • Clarify expectation for level and frequency of participation
  • Design a comprehensive course syllabus and assignment guide
  • Use a vocabulary list of terminology related to the course
  • Provide a well organized course website
  • Reduce unnecessary clutter and minimize non-critical tasks
  • Use textbook as framework for organization of course
  • Use textbook support materials including study guides, vocabulary and additional assignments
  • Provide calendar in course outline for assignments and due dates
  • Develop grading rubrics for assignments

Perceptible Information. Universal design for instruction involves maximizing all communication media, without presumption that students are physically or cognitively enabled for all media. This principle calls for a two-pronged review of course materials, resources and delivery. At first glance, “explicitly presented” seems to imply “readily perceived”, but there is a difference. For example, imagine a clearly spoken lecture in a poorly lighted room with a hearing-impaired student in the back row. Selected strategies include:

  • Use digital formats for texts and supplemental materials
  • Insure access to print materials for use with technology (assistive technology such as screen readers)
  • Offer visual and auditory approaches to retrieve course content
  • Highlight key concepts and terms
  • Provide examples for each concept
  • Use ALT (alternative text) tags for images on web pages

Tolerance for Error. Universal design for instruction is perhaps above all else an inclusive approach that embraces, welcomes and encourages diverse student needs. This principle calls for attitudes and actions that demonstrate respect for students as adults, contributing to the learning of all. Questions and comments are encouraged and individual needs are respected. In all likelihood, all instructors believe this is a worthy goal. Taking specific steps within a course can however call for subtle adjustments. Selected strategies include:

  • Offer online practice exercises
  • Involve students in self and peer assessment
  • Monitor student progress
  • Comment and provide detailed feedback on assignments
  • Offer opportunities to provide drafts and resubmission of assignments
  • Develop study guides
  • Provide grading rubrics for all assignments
  • Offer examples of exemplary assignments
  • Suspend grammar, spelling and punctuation requirements for online discussions to promote participation
  • Use point based grading to allow self monitoring and as an incentive

Low physical effort. Universal design for instruction recognizes that students will be of a wide range of ages, backgrounds, physical characteristics and personal circumstances. This principle calls for considering the physical effort required to complete the course and systematically eliminating — or at least adjusting — anything that is unnecessary. The learning should be about the material not the physical place called “class”. Selected strategies include:

  • Use computer based media for testing and written assignments
  • Provide reading material in digital form
  • Encourage students to use assistive technology for disability accommodations
  • Check for understanding and monitor progress

Size and Space of Approach. Learning space accommodates student and methods considering approach, reach, manipulations and use based on student physical, mobility and communication needs. Selected strategies include:

  • Consider physical and attention requirements of assignments
  • Plan for access to materials, equipment, and media
  • Support the use of assistive technologies for access to learning materials
  • Use computer technology including camera and microphones as needed
  • Insure student has access to accommodations for physical access
  • Monitor pace and transition to new units

Community of Learners. Interaction among students and faculty promotes a positive learning environment which can be a challenge when learners are working in isolated settings. There are a variety of strategies to promote contact in distance environments. Selected strategies include:

  • Ask students to introduce themselves, share relevant experience and respond to one another
  • Form small groups for study or collaborative group work selected by students themselves
  • Establish ground rules for interactions
  • Value peer interaction and communication
  • Rotate group member roles (facilitator, note taking) during group sessions
  • Create rubric for responding to classmates’ discussion forums
  • Offer access to office hours and individual meetings
  • Offer learners opportunities to participate in social networking groups or online discussions
  • Set up email, chats, blogs and wikis
  • Structure activities so students progress through the course at the same rate
  • Invite previous students to participate as guest lecturers

Instructional Climate. The learning environment is designed to be welcoming and students feel a sense of belonging and inclusiveness. Selected strategies include:

  • Include university non-discrimination and ADA accommodation statements
  • Introduce yourself with personal statement and contact information. Describe your teaching philosophy and expectations
  • Present yourself as approachable and accessible
  • Communicate course purpose, goals and expectations
  • Affirm and state the need to value and respect diversity in course interactions
  • Value and encourage accommodations as needed
  • Solicit student feedback throughout course
  • Ask students to articulate personal goals for course, current skill levels and concerns
  • Create unstructured course conferencing session for unexpected issues or questions
  • Offer online office hours for chats
  • Collect student information about education, work and learning background
  • Learn student names
  • Offer student support or assistance if needed

As faculty design courses the principles of Universal Design for Instruction (UDI) offer a framework for learning and teaching that address diverse needs of students. Instructional strategies are clearly student centered, and by anticipating student diversity, distance courses will not need to be retrofitted or adapted for individual students. While some students with disabilities may require assistive technologies for learning, using UDI principles may reduce the number of accommodations requested.

Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

All learners possess functional strengths and limitations that determine how they acquire information and demonstrate content mastery (Meyer and Rose, 2005). This model focuses on the strengths and needs of the individual engaged in learning and how they process content through recognition, strategic and affective networks. Neuroscience is providing opportunities to examine brain activity during the learning process. Researchers report that these learning networks are interconnected and each individual possesses different characteristics and skills that can be used to design learning experiences. The cognitive processing model is complex and involves multiple modalities, working in parallel structures along a continuum of abilities. UDL is a functional approach to learning based on Vygotsky’s learning theory (1962/96). Recognition networks help learners to process information by assigning meaning to patterns, and to understanding and identifying ideas and concepts. Strategic networks enable executive functioning skills of planning, implementing, monitoring and adjusting actions in the learning environment. Finally, affective networks assign emotional significance and importance of actions or objects in connection to the world (Rose and Meyer, 2002). This network is most significant for diverse learners who bring emotional experiences related to challenges due to culture, self- perception, family support, financial considerations and responsibilities, language, and perceived abilities and disabilities. Each student brings a series of skills, preferences and needs across these three networks which can assist educators in considering appropriate curriculum materials and instructional methods.

The basic premise of universal design for learning is the creation of a flexible curriculum through varied methods and materials that enhance learning for ALL students. The Universal Design for Learning (UDL) model contains three curriculum based principles. The first principle, multiple methods of presentation, supports learners who have preferred modes of acquiring factual knowledge. It is critical that student build usable knowledge from a variety information sources. For example, students may comprehend by reading, listening, participating in hands-on demonstrations or simulations or using manipulatives. The second principle, flexible methods of expression, recognizes that students use a variety of procedural strategies to acquire knowledge. As student encounter the learning process they enact content related and learning related strategies. As students process information they use a variety of learning skills or techniques to interact with content. The third principle, flexible methods of engagement, relates to individual levels of motivation and involvement in learning. Students are more willing to learn if they are interested in the topic. These vary according to student background experiences, skills levels and interest in the content. Students may demonstrate what content they have learned through visual, written, oral, or modeling modes (Rose and Meyer, 2002; Rose, Harbour, Johnston, Daley and Abarbanell, 2006).

Universal design for learning offers educators with a curriculum model that aligns learner networks – recognition, strategic and affective, and principles – flexible presentation, representation and engagement to increase the potential for increased access to learning in a digital environment. Scheer, Terry, Doolittle and Hicks (2004) in a synthesis of strategies for effective distance education reported instructional design principles which includes a) assess learner goals and instructional contexts, b) align clearly defined instructional objectives with learning outcomes, c) select media and materials appropriate to learner outcomes, d) provide opportunities for practice, feedback and interaction, e) design evaluation and assessment to address outcomes. Consideration of online course design involves decisions regarding goals and objectives, learning materials and methods and evaluation. Specific examples of UDL course design that align principles with student networks are provided in the next section.


This principle offers opportunities to present information in multiple ways to insure equal access of knowledge and skills to the widest range of learners. Examples of strategies include:

    • Ensure all class information posted on course website meets accessibility guidelines
    • Offer choices among assignments
    • Institute a cooperative learning community
    • Use alternate forms of materials – e-textbooks, graphics, audio, accessible web-based materials, Braille, or digital source files
    • Ask students to post notes and display for classmates
    • Offer captioned lectures and provide printed guided notes or sign language interpreters
    • Use graphs and images over text on lecture slides
    • Use visual representations as interactive concept maps, data displays and timelines
    • Use natural supports such as peer note takers, study groups for all assignments
    • Include captioned audio-video, you tube or film clips
    • Assign small group exercises, simulations, games or case studies
    • Use graphic organizers to highlight critical features, and relationships among concepts
    • Use digital simulations or modeling tools
    • Provide multiple assessment choices – research papers, texts, objective tests, take home assignments, media
    • Develop a visual framework for course goals, objectives, assignments and evaluation
    • Offer examples of products, assignments, or projects that demonstrate learning
    • Explore availability of digital versions of textbooks



Students are provided with multiple and flexible means of demonstrating what they know and have learned. Examples of strategies include:

  • Use rubrics and establish roles in small group assignments
  • Provide scaffolding as new concepts are acquired
  • Use digital tools and multi-media presentations
  • Offer power point presentations as visual or graphic organizer
  • Assign mentors and peer supports to respond to questions and clarify assignments
  • Offer options and choices to demonstrate outcomes – oral presentation, written report, video
  • Provide guidelines and rubrics for all assignments and activities
  • Offer students the option of using assistive technologies to express knowledge


Students are provided with multiple and flexible opportunities to participate that are both interesting and motivating. Students will utilize prior learning to showcase skills and maintain a sense of control by personalizing their own learning. Examples of strategies include:

  • Use cooperative dialogue and reflection
  • Tailor assignments to student culture and life experiences
  • Break tasks into small steps leading to long term goals
  • Monitor student progress and reward achievement
  • Offer students a choice for optional assignments and to be involved with classmates
  • Challenge and support individual learners
  • Develop assignments for in and out of class environments
  • Provide clear, specific and timely feedback
  • Encourage students to resubmit work as appropriate
  • Provide support system through university student services

Universal design focuses clearly on the learning process and supports necessary to achieve learning outcomes that are accessible and inclusive to a wide range of people. Using what neuroscientists know about the learning brain, the role of educators is to consider curriculum goals and objectives, teaching methods, learning materials, and evaluation strategies to insure the most flexible, barrier free instruction is designed. Potential barriers to learning are addressed initially and eliminated thus reducing the need to make individual adaptations.


Additional Universal Design Resources

Other web resources are available that offer faculty with additional strategies and ideas related to implementing universal design principles. The follow websites are offered as a beginning point to explore universal design in more depth.



Online learning affords students who face challenges in the traditional classroom with an opportunity to control and personalize learning activities. By directing their own learning students are provided with continuous and lifelong access to furthering their education. Furthermore, it allows students to bridge the informal, community based settings and formal educational settings and bring their unique learning preferences and strengths as they acquire, process and demonstrate content knowledge if universal design principles are integrated into curriculum methods, learning materials and assessments.

Access to technology is critical to insure full participation in our global society as well as access to employment, communication, social networks and community living. Universal design acknowledges diversity of learners and how they learn, and use flexible, innovative curricular approaches. Universal design challenges higher education faculty and instructional designers to re-examine their own practices and focus on a more inclusive curriculum (Jehangir, 2003).



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Last Updated on: August 4, 2016 @ 11:01 am

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