The main campus of Olivet Nazarene University is in Bourbonnais, IL, approximately 55 miles South of Chicago. The school of graduate and continuing studies consists of faculty, who live in the Bourbonnais area, and adjunct instructors who can live anywhere in the United States. All of the faculty subscribe to a statement of faith which binds them together as they strive to provide education with a Christian purpose. There are many faculty development initiatives for instructors.
Webinars, faculty development days, and frequent communication across departments help to provide a cohesive, strong sense of culture among both local faculty and adjunct faculty though they are spread across the country. There is a strong sense of loyalty to the institution and most are happy with their employment at Olivet Instructors must complete training in the learning management system (LMS) prior to teaching at Olivet. As such, most instructors are very comfortable with the LMS. However, there has been little to no training regarding the principles of universal design in online courses.
As such, there is little knowledge of how to make content in the LMS fully accessible to students with special needs. There is not currently data gathered regarding the level of compliance in online courses. Most of the courses in the school of graduate and continuing studies are created by one subject matter expert with the help of an instructional design team, as such many may not see an urgency for instruction, believing all accessibility issues are addressed in the original course design Instructional Problem
Compliance with section 508 mandates necessitates that all content on the internet must be accessible to students with special needs. Universal design for learning (UDL) provides the principles for providing accessible online content. Many instructors of both online and face-to-face courses in the Olivet Nazarene School of Graduate and Continuing Studies do not know how to create content that is fully accessible in a learning management system (LMS). This provides an inconvenience to incoming students with special needs, and it may even result in dire consequences in the financial and accreditation realm should our courses be audited.
As such, it is imperative to ensure our instructors are aware of the principles of UDL and are equipped with the knowledge and tools they need to create fully accessible content in the LMS. Instructional Goal Statement I believe there is a clear need for further instruction. Given a document, text, video, or image, administrators and instructors of both online and face-to-face courses in the Olivet Nazarene University School of Graduate and Continuing Studies will be able to demonstrate understanding of the principles of universal design by creating accessible content using appropriate tools in a learning management system.
Requisite Entry-Level Knowledge and Skills In order to participate successfully in this course, instructors must have the ability to start a computer or laptop, open a web browser, and navigate to the LMS homepage. Instructors must also know their specific Olivet log in credentials in order to gain access to the LMS. Though instructors don’t need to be learning management system experts, they do need to possess a basic knowledge of its functionality. Because instructors are required to go through training in the LMS before they teach at the university, they should enter the course at the appropriate level.
Prior Knowledge and Skills Instructors at the School of Graduate and Continuing Studies are not required to take formal training in the area of making online courses accessible to students with special needs. Because many of the instructors have taught several online or face-to-face courses with us using the LMS, some may have some prior knowledge of the of how to create accessible content due to past needs of a specific student. Currently, instructors forward any request for special student accommodations through the faculty help desk in order to serve students with special needs.
Instructors can find the help they need by calling LMS support, but because these are usually isolated incidents covering a specific need, there is little knowledge transfer involved. Learner Group Unique Characteristics Most of the full time faculty reside in Bourbonnais, IL, but the majority of instructors are adjunct faculty and live all over the United States. They range in age from 20 to 70. Because the Olivet Nazarene School of Graduate and Continuing Studies serves non-traditional students, most courses are taught online. As such, instructors have more technical savvy than traditional instructors.
The instructors are all well-educated. All possess at least a master’s degree with xx% possessing a doctoral degree. They are very driven to succeed academically and place great value in learning. Some learners may be hesitant to see the value in instruction specific to making content in the LMS accessible because the majority of their course content is provided for them from a master course template. Olivet Nazarene University subscribes to the values of the Church of the Nazarene. Accordingly, most are socially conservative. As instructors, they have a faith based devotional at the beginning of every weekly module.
Though they are not geographically close, their faith provides a common bond and is the mainstay of the university culture. Strong morals and ethics are strong themes throughout the curriculum they teach. Accommodating Unique Characteristics The delivery of instruction will be online so it will be important to ensure that students have the ability to consume the content from a visual and auditory perspective. They will be learning about creating accessible content in the LMS, and it will be important to provide a stellar example during the instruction.
Though most learners do have some technical savvy, it will be important to provide aids for learners to troubleshoot possible technical issues within the course content. Clear instruction for both the academic content and technical submission will be essential. Since the learners are all well-educated it will be important to provide instruction with a high level of academic rigor. The School of Graduate and Continuing Studies overall seeks to provide competency based learning with authentic assessments.
Following that model, learners will be best served by allowing them the opportunity to demonstrate their learning through actually creating accessible content in various forms. It is important to respect the morals and ethics of the learners when delivering the instruction. Whereas in many school or university settings discussion of faith in any context may be discouraged, there should be sensitivity to the subject if it relates in any way to the topic being discussed. This is highly engrained in the culture of the university.