Teaching with Technology

Computing & Information Services

Accessibility

Students who are registered with Disability & Accessibility Resources (DAR) and using accommodations and participating in classes using hybrid or other teaching technologies may wish to consider what accommodations they may need for these formats. Different modes of instruction will exacerbate some challenges, reduce others, and reveal yet others. 

Below you will find general accessibility tips to make your courses more accessible to all students, as well as suggestions for specific accommodations your students may be using. 

General Accessibility and Universal Design Tips

Communication

  • Establish clear expectations for participation in online discussions and live class sessions. Identify specific tasks students need to complete.

    • During a video conference session, do students need to monitor the text chat, or can they focus exclusively on the video/audio? 

    • For online discussions, how many posts are required each week, and of what approximate length?

  • Communicate using multiple modes. Share instructions and due dates for assignments in writing, in addition to making an announcement in a video or during a live session.

  • Ask your students if they need any additional support or accommodations for your particular class format. As faculty, please contact DAR if you have questions about a student’s needs or would like help coordinating an accommodation.

    • Example statement: “Now that we have had a week of classes, how is this format working for you? If you have encountered any barriers or challenges, please do let me know. My goal is for all students to be able to participate fully in this format.”

Course Design

  • Focus student energy by creating smaller assignments with more frequent deadlines. This additional structure and accountability will be helpful for many students. 

  • Incorporate asynchronous content, especially if you are holding courses via Zoom. ITS provides suggestions for tools for collaboration that can be used outside of class. Students who struggle with focus, attention, processing speed, hearing, etc. may find video conferences challenging, as audio quality is variable and there are lots of visual distractions. Asynchronous content offers students a chance to review at their own pace and provides time to process. Some students will engage more deeply with the material in an asynchronous format.

  • When teaching remotely, keep in mind that some students may need to limit or moderate their screen use due to migraines, post-concussion disorders, and other conditions. Asynchronous materials may help provide options for these students, as they can regulate their screen time as needed.

Accessible Remote Conferencing and Meetings

In general...

  • Use a microphone (or a headset with a built-in microphone) to improve the audio quality. Improved audio quality is especially impactful for those whose hearing and/or auditory processing is impaired.

  • Slow your pace to allow everyone more time to track and process, and to account for connectivity delays. It can be challenging to follow online conversations, especially when they involve both speaking and text chatting.

  • To minimize audio and video lags, close unused browser windows or internet-based apps.

  • Check out this excellent resource from Yale: Accessibility Best Practices for Zoom Meetings

One-on-one Meetings

  • Consider individual communication preferences. Video conferencing may be better for some who benefit from visual cues. Audio-only (phone) may be better for others who are trying to limit distractions.

  • Clearly communicate your availability. Consider how you will communicate available options when scheduling appointments.

  • After a one-on-one meeting, send a brief follow-up email with key points or next steps. This can help both parties with follow-through, and can help avoid miscommunication.

  • Zoom has a fairly accurate automated captioning option that anyone can turn on or off as desired. 
    • Test this feature in advance so you can help students enable this feature during a meeting if needed. 
    • Consider that captioned content may benefit many students, including students for whom English is not their first language and students living and working in noisy environments.

Group meetings or conferences

  • When possible, provide lecture materials to students in advance. This will help mitigate tracking and processing difficulties, and will also benefit participants who experience internet connectivity issues. 
  • Ask participants to mute their microphones when not speaking to limit extraneous noise and prevent audio feedback issues. As the meeting host, you can do this by enabling the “mute mics upon entry” feature in Zoom.
  • Have participants say their name when they begin to speak. For example, “This is Sasha speaking. My take on it was…” 
  • Establish protocols for participation in video conferences. The specific arrangements will depend on the needs of your group; the important piece is to communicate participation guidelines to everyone at the start of the meeting.
    • For example, will you be using the “raise your hand” feature in Zoom? What are the guidelines for text chat use?
  • Be mindful of text chat use.
    • To minimize tracking challenges, consider asking students to limit the chat feature to tech troubleshooting or posing questions; recommend that students avoid engaging in “side conversations” in chat.
    • You may want to consider assigning one student to monitor the chat and to bring any questions or comments to the larger group.
    • If any essential information is shared via chat, be sure this information is communicated orally as well
    • Note: You also have the option to turn off chat altogether within Zoom.
  • Consider recording your lectures to your computer and sharing the videos with students. Students who miss portions of a class will appreciate being able to review what they missed. Having access to a recording also helps students who find it challenging to take notes and participate in a video conference simultaneously.

Disability Accommodations

Some accommodations may function similarly in a remote teaching format, while others may need to be adapted. If you have questions about an individual student’s accommodations, please email dar@reed.edu or schedule a phone appointment with Disability & Accessibility Resources.

Alternative Format Texts

As students will be accessing more materials digitally, it is important to ensure digital texts are accessible to students who use text-to-speech software for reading. Here are two tips to make sure your documents are accessible:

  • When creating a new document, create and save as a Word doc. Do not save as PDF, as these are often inaccessible to students who use text-to-speech software for reading.
  • If you need to scan a book or text and save it as a PDF, start with a high quality scan. Then, use SensusAccess to perform optical character recognition (OCR) and create an accessible version of the documentation before distributing the PDF to students.

Note Taking

For students who have note taking as an accommodation: Note taking services are provided and coordinated through DAR. Note takers typically take notes for synchronous lectures and conferences, as well as for asynchronous (pre-recorded) lectures.

Audio Recording of Classes

Students with this accommodation will use a personal device, such as a phone or Livescribe pen, to record class sessions. If the audio quality is insufficient, DAR may contact faculty to assist in obtaining audio recordings of class sessions for student use.

Testing Accommodation

For timed exams, accommodations for extended time are applicable. Time limits can be set for the exam in Moodle, with overrides/extensions for individual students. If you need help with this, please contact ITS at moodle@reed.edu.

Permission to Take Breaks or Leave Class Unexpectedly

In a video conference setting, the student may need to “take a break” or “leave unexpectedly” by turning off their video feed at times.