TRANSCRIPT: Tales of Teaching Online ep. 53: Developing an inclusive and Accessible Reading Guide (feat Jo Elliott and Karla Wells-Duerr)
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Intro: Digital, student-centred, creative, innovation, imagination, initiative, stories that matter.
Jo: I’m Jo Elliott, and this is Tales of Teaching Online brought to you by Deakin Learning Futures. Hello everybody, and thank you for joining us for another episode of Tales of Teaching Online. Today, I am joined by Karla Wells-Duerr from the Faculty of Science, Engineering and Built Environment at Deakin, where Karla works in the Faculty, Digital Learning, Faculty Learning Innovation Team. I’m making everything about digital learning today. Karla is in the Faculty Learning Innovation Team and Karla is going to talk to us today about a guide that she worked on with colleagues and staff from the library. An active reading guide, Karla you, an Accessibility in Action Award for this, I’m going to talk to you more about the active reading guide in a moment. But can you start by telling us a little bit about yourself and how you came to be at Deakin?
Karla: Yeah, sure. Hello. I’ve worked in the tertiary sector over 15 years and in roles such as supporting students and in learning design. And I’m currently an academic in the faculty, and I’m also doing a PhD on belonging for students who are studying online, at the same time. I guess from my experience as working and study I’ve gained an appreciation of the student experience. And my main aim in everything I do is to improve the student experience.
Jo: Very worthy aim. So as I said, you and some of your colleagues from SEBEs Learning Innovation team and some colleagues from the library as well, recently received this Accessibility in Action Award for the active reading guide you’ve developed. So first, congratulations on the award. But can you tell us a little bit about the guide? What what is it?
Karla: Yeah, sure. So thank you very much. We’re really proud of this award. And it was amazing to be included with all the inspiring work other people have done that got awards. But the aim of our active reading guide was to eliminate barriers to students by supporting core reading skills. So we noticed that a lot of students aren’t engaging with their readings and we wanted to help them to bridge the gap so that all we could assume no knowledge and any student could pick up the guide and be able to work well and engage with their readings. We wanted to create positive student experience doing that as well with working with their readings. And another thing we really cared about students being able to find an approach that worked for them. So really making broad suggestions and letting students find their own way through it in the guide. We’ve had unit chairs using it a lot in first year for just-in-time support in their unit sites. And it was originally developed for SEBE, our faculty. But it’s been taken up by a lot of people in the broader university community. So we’re really, really proud of it, how well it’s done.
Jo: That’s great. And it does sounds like an excellent resource. And obviously, getting the Accessibility in Action Award suggests that your guide is beautifully accessible. So why was it so important to you that this guide be accessible and inclusive?
Karla: Well, the first part was because we found students weren’t utilising their readings. And we wanted to reach all students to be no barriers to any student being able to use the guide. And no barriers for students to be able to use their assigned readings. So to address this, we wanted it to be inclusive and accessible and to make it available to all students really easily. So we ended up using the student guide that they have in the library, which is a publicly accessible link. So it’s out there for anyone who wants to look at it. And we just wanted it to be really easy to get into. The library naturally incorporates a lot of accessibility as part of their practice. They are champions of accessibility in the library. So we shared a passion for accessibility, but they were able to make sure that the guide itself was really accessible. And then on top of that, we wanted to create a level playing field by making sure anything we used in there, like the activities, that there was alternates to them if a screen reader couldn’t go through them. So we just tried to make it really accessible that way. And I feel like I’ve started answering a different question.
Jo: No, I love this because I was actually as you talked through it and the way you’ve approached it, but also linking back to what you were talking about before about your PhD in the area of belonging for students in online education, I imagine there’s a really lovely link here of making all students feel more at home at the university and in their studies through this support and helping them be able to access all of their their learning activities and their readings, because I don’t know about you, but I remember being pretty overwhelmed by some of the readings when I started at university.
Karla: Yeah, absolutely. And I think a big part of belonging is giving students agency to be able to act and succeed so that they can co-create a space to belong and feel like a part of something. Feel like that they can do what they need to do fairly fearlessly. So removing barriers so that students can be a part of things is really important part of the way I think about student experience.
Jo: Yeah, I love that the guide is available not only promoted to for all students at at Deakin but also publicly available as well. I think that that’s really important and just a really beautiful inclusion there I think. When students go to the act of reading guides, what kind of things do you go through with them? What are they likely to find in there?
Karla: So the idea is to give them a range of approaches to things so that they can find their own way. We have different types of readings, so different types of journal articles, different types of resources. When a student comes across something, they can look it up and think about what’s the best way to approach this particular type of resource. We have tips on reading like skimming, scanning and deep reading. And so students don’t have to feel like they have to start at the start of a reading and work their way through every time for every kind of reading, sometimes there’s different ways to go through them to get an idea about what somethings about. We talk about different note-take approaches so they can find something that works for them. There’s a range of things in there, from text to audio software different ways to note take such as digital and visual approaches. So we really want to give students a range of options so they can find what works for them and give them all the tools they need that they can jump into their readings.
Jo: It sounds wonderful and a really great way to build what’s, what is an incredibly important skill. So if other teaching staff wanted to create a similar support guide, obviously not active reading, but something that could help their students build those and those study skills, learning skills, and the skills that they are going to need, what advice would you have for them?
Karla: Yeah, there’s a lot of scope for things we can do to help students. And I think the main thing is putting yourself in the shoes of students and thinking and being aware of what might be a barrier for them. I think it’s really important not just in terms of the content, but in terms of how they interact with the materials that we give them. So just in the day-to-day accessibility. And there’s a lot of information out there about accessibility, like on H5P interactives that we quite often used as learning designers. There’s a whole pile of information on the web. I think it’s just a matter of being mindful about it, having conversations with people. So if something comes up in conversation that you hear about, there’s a barrier, thinking about ways that you can address it. Or talking to other people who might know, opening up a conversation with someone else and build up your knowledge slowly over time. Work out your opportunities over time, and take advantage of some. Jo: Karla, Thank you very much for joining us today and for sharing how you developed this active reading guide with colleagues in the library. It sounds like a wonderful resource and I do encourage people to check it out on their Deakin University Library website. And Karla, I’m hoping that we’ll be able to get you back a little bit later on to tell us more about the research you’re doing as part of your PhD. It sounds absolutely fascinating and I think would be very interesting to the Tales of Teaching Online audience.
Karla: Thanks a lot Jo, be happy to come back.
Jo: Thanks, Karla.