Reflecting the Penn State ID2ID 2018-2019 Program

 

Penn State Logo in conjunction with the text A Professional Development program for Instructional Designers

By Erin McCully and Susannah Simmons

As we noted in our initial reflection about the Penn State ID2ID Program, we were fortunate to have been randomly paired together in a wildly successful, worldwide program. We would likely never have met given our geographic locations (North Carolina and Colorado), but have learned a great deal through our collaboration. This collaboration grew to include LaDawna Minnis and Sam Coulson, other ID2ID participants, who we connected with via the pedago.me instructional design community.

Accomplishments

The outcome of our multi-leveled collaboration was an accessibility webinar that took place after months of weekly meetings and work with Mike Hess and Ethan Twisdale of the Blind Institute of Technology. These connections have already resulted in an invitation from them for us to present at an accessibility conference in Denver in the spring. Not all of us may be able to attend in person, but there may be the possibility of a virtual component.

Addressing Obstacles

Group meeting times proved difficult given family and other work obligations. There was also the challenge of keeping taskloads manageable for each person. However, the group was able to work through some panic moments. This required clear communication with the team so that others could pick up some of the load. A prime example was when Susannah expressed the feeling of overwhelm about figuring out the webinar platform or lack thereof. The group stepped in to form a work-around plan. We ironed out the wrinkles in how the technology would/should work and created a timeline detailing. By doing a dry run, we were able to find possible pitfalls to avoid.

Future Plans

The accessibility webinar was attended by 14 people and the responses to our follow-up survey generated ideas for topics of future webinars in this series leading up to the Accessibility Symposium.

Erin intends to remain a member of the pedago.me group and become more active in slack to network professionally with other instructional designers. (This group is a gold mine of experiences, ideas, and tips!)

Susannah will continue to pursue opportunities learning about accessibility in higher education. It seems that accessibility will only grown in importance and could expand into a speciality instructional design role.  

Erin’s Personal Reflection

I am so very grateful for the ID2ID program – while the original plan to get an instructional design mentor through this program didn’t work out, being paired with an instructional design “buddy” was wonderfully helpful. The ID2ID program has provided me with connections and free professional development that has already helped me grow as an instructional designer. I look forward to assisting with more accessibility webinars as well as other projects ahead!

Susannah’s Personal Reflection

I no longer fear the word accessibility. Hearing about schools getting sued for accessibility issues has had a haunting effect on my work. Faculty often looks to me as an expert, but I’m learning alongside everyone else. However, this experience has removed my fear. The more I talk about accessibility with other designers and pursue new skills in this arena, the less intimidated I feel. Like with anything else, it’s a matter of deciding to learn and following through. The accessibility webinar was a fantastic opportunity to learn directly from an expert as well as expand my network to include those I would like to emulate.

Mini Capstone Project: Accessibility Webinar

 

The Penn State ID2ID Program Deliverable

By Erin McCully and Susannah Simmons

The Pedago.me monkey logo dreaming up a collaboration between ID2ID & The Blind Institute of Tech

Overview

Our project for the ID2ID program was an Accessibility Webinar hosted by pedago.me and the Blind Institute of Technology. This webinar was the product of much multi-level planning effort between ourselves, which expanded to include two other ID2ID participants, LaDawna Minnis and Sam Coulson. Then Susannah took a chance and reached out to the Founder of the Blind Institute of Technology, Mike Hess, on LinkedIn and asked if he would be interested in creating an accessibility training for Instructional Designers and Educators in Higher Education. Mike generously agreed to help in our efforts and offered up his Chief Accessibility Officer, Ethan Twisdale as our expert and guide in the training.  

Intended Audience

The webinar was promoted on Twitter, LinkedIn, within the ID2ID discussion boards and pedago.me slack group to reach our intended audience of instructional designers, which quickly morphed to include faculty in higher education that wanted to hone their accessibility skills.

Erin’s Institution

Disability Services staff said that this webinar could be shown to faculty as a means of helping them understand how students using a screen reader would experience a word document that was not designed with accessibility in mind.

Susannah’s Institution

The event was not promoted to faculty as a strategic move. The hunt for the institution’s next Disability Services coordinator was still underway and Susannah did not want to be considered an accessibility expert on campus. At least, not yet.

Missed Opportunity

The intended outcome was to fill in the gap that screen readers are for accessibility/disability service departments only. We aimed to demystify and provide the experience of navigating a document without sight. Our hope was that the webinar would allow instructional designers and faculty to walk away with the knowledge of how screen readers generally work and the ability to create an accessible document.

Webinar Details

The webinar focused on using a screen reader and creating an accessible Word Document. This required participants to download NVDA on a PC or familiarize themselves with the VoiceOver program on a Mac. Once registered for the webinar, participants received a confirmation email that provided instructions for both types of screen readers.

Note: We were not able to access an official webinar platform, so we used Susannah’s basic Zoom capabilities and enabled settings that provided barriers to trolls from the internet.  All participants were set to mute, no personal videos could be shown and the chat room was facilitated by LaDawna and Sam. If someone was inappropriate, they were going to be kicked out immediately.

During the webinar, Ethan demonstrated how the screen reader worked on an unaccessible document (bad example) followed by the experience on an accessibility document (good example). He explained what made the accessible document, such as descriptive links, alt text for images, and proper use of headers and text. Then he gave participants the chance to try using their respective screen readers with those same demonstration documents. Participants asked great questions in the chat room and there was even enough time for Ethan to demonstrate how cumbersome websites can be to a screen reader.

Takeaways

We understand that faculty can be very concerned about the time and effort it takes to create accessible documents and learning materials for students. We wanted to help demonstrate that not only is it very important to take the time to do this, but also it doesn’t take much effort to create an accessible document. As instructional designers, our confidence to create such documents has increased and we are better able to help the cause by teaching faculty how to create such documents.

ID2ID’s Influence

Our experiences in ID2ID allowed us to meet other instructional designers and to discuss among ourselves some of the gaps in our own knowledge. With accessibility being such an important conversation, we decided to help ourselves and others feel less intimidated by the topic. The timeline of the ID2ID course allowed us to design backwards to set mini milestones in order to host the webinar. We had weekly meetings to ensure a flawless webinar and feel very accomplished in making it happen.

Next Steps

The Blind Institute of Technology asked all the IDs in this collaboration to present at their Accessibility Symposium in May 2019. To ramp up to the event, there will be two more webinars in February and March. These will walk participants through the user experience for multiple LMSs and the click-by-click experience of working through a module. Since we worked so diligently on the first webinar, the following two should be much easier to execute because we follow the process, roles and responsibilities from our previous webinar. Bring it on!