Becoming a More Proactive Faculty Whisperer (Issue 15)

Author(s): Karen Tinsley-Kim, Dr. Shelly Wyatt

Editor: Dr. Shelly Wyatt


As an instructional designer, how could I improve buy-in or motivate my faculty to be more proactive in their approach to accessibility and Universal Design for Learning (UDL) in their online course design?


Faculty Whisperer

Dear Whisperer,

Improving buy-in from your faculty to be more proactive in their approach to accessibility and Universal Design for Learning (UDL) in their online course design is no easy task as you have stated. However, some faculty are making strides in this area, so don’t give up too quickly. Faculty may feel inadequate or overwhelmed in instructional tasks, technology or course load to give it much consideration.

As an instructional designer, you may find it helpful to start a conversation with your faculty to see what they are thinking at this point. Is there a campus initiative to promote quality assurance? Have students expressed specific concerns or noted barriers? How might your faculty design their courses so students feel more “at home”?

You may want to recommend planning and designing for a warm, welcoming tone throughout the course, or what could be called, “Invitational Design.” In this sense, the activities and assessments planned need to aim at Instructors can create spaces of connection and interactivity in which their presence is made evident through supportive feedback. These can be spaces that offer peer to peer and instructor to students dialogues. Instructors can get to know their students in terms of their learning strategies, foresee some potential pitfalls, and create opportunities for scaffolding.  A virtual “class cafe,” set up as a discussion board, can offer faculty the chance to learn about their students’ preferences. Students can have opportunities to meet, share, and pose questions that the instructor, or their peers can quickly answer or clarify. Thus, students can connect and interact at different levels beyond the course content. Another important perspective for faculty is to regularly take tours of the course in the Student Role, on mobile when possible.

Another aspect of “Invitational Design” your instructor may want to focus on reviewing is the degree of accessibility/UDL of the course content. There may be tools, services, and staff that can help make this content more welcoming for all students. Invite your instructor to become familiar with your accessibility team and the UDL opportunities already available at your institution.

This proactive process works best with at least a semester’s lead time. For example, videos in a course that are not properly transcribed (automatic captions are not good enough) may require time to either locate accessible versions or create solutions and determining who will cover expenses. Online students who use text-to-speech or screen reader software may be challenged by photocopied PDFs. Librarians and support staff may assist with remediation or finding alternative digital documentation.

The time investment for improved and proactive accessibility/UDL as well as Invitational Design is worthwhile since most, if not all students, should feel more welcomed, engaged, and believe they are the most important part of the course experience.

How do you help faculty welcome and make their students feel more “at home” in their online courses? Please share your thoughts with our TOPkit community on LinkedIn!