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Advancing Online Teaching with Kevin Kelly and Todd Zakrajsek

Welcome to Episode 55 of the Think UDL podcast: Advancing Online Teaching with Kevin Kelly and Todd Zakrajsek. Kevin and Todd are returning to the podcast today to talk about their recent book Advancing Online Teaching: Creating Equity-based Digital Learning Environments. I had the chance to read an advance copy of the book and found it to be incredibly helpful because of its focus on UDL, equity, and facilitation strategies. Today’s conversation will focus on how to help you infuse Universal Design for Learning into your online course, support your learners with facilitations techniques, and assess both your own teaching and your students’ learning in the iterative process of online teaching. Thank you for listening to our conversation and we hope it proves helpful and encouraging in your teaching!


On Twitter find Kevin Kelly @KevinKelly0 and Todd Zakrajsek @ToddZakrajsek

Advancing Online Teaching – Get your copy of Todd and Kevin’s book here!

TILT Higher Education This is a great resource to help with assignment design.

OSCQR The State University of New York (SUNY) has an online rubric that Kevin mentions. 

Quality Matters (QM) – Is another organization that helps instructors create online courses and certifies courses according to essential standards.

California Community Colleges Course Design Rubric – Here is another rubric to help design online courses that Kevin mentions.

Todd and Kevin mention Travis Thurston (@Travesty328) and his digital power-ups. To learn more, check out Ep: 295 of Teaching in Higher Education

Todd and Kevin also mention Tom Tobin and Kirsten Behling’s book Reach Everyone, Teach Everyone with the “plus 1” strategy.


This transcript was auto-generated and may have some inaccuracies. A corrected transcript will be posted as soon as possible.

Lillian Nave  00:00

Welcome to think UDL, the universal design for learning podcast where we hear from the people who are designing and implementing strategies with learner variability in mind. I’m your host, Lillian Nave. And I’m interested in not just what you’re teaching, learning, guiding and facilitating, but how you design and implement it and why it even matters. Welcome to Episode 55 of the think UDL podcast, advancing online teaching with Kevin Kelly and Todd Socratic. Kevin and Todd are returning to the podcast today to talk about their recent book advancing online teaching, creating equity based digital learning environments. I had the chance to read an advanced copy of the book and found it to be incredibly helpful because of its focus on UDL, equity and facilitation strategies. today’s conversation will focus on how to help you infuse Universal Design for Learning into your online course. Support your learners with facilitation techniques, and assess both your own teaching and your students learning in the iterative process of online teaching. Thank you for listening to our conversation. And we hope it proves helpful and encouraging in your teaching. Thank you so much for joining me again, both Kevin Kelly and Todd’s project for joining me on the think UDL podcast.

Kevin Kelly  01:45

Great to be here.

Todd Zakrajsek  01:47

So excited. Let’s get going.

Lillian Nave  01:49

All right, I am so excited. I have already had both of you for different reasons on this podcast, we will definitely have a link to each of those of our episodes with you individually. But today, I’ve asked both of you to talk to me about a new book that is coming out soon. And that we get to talk about today. And it is called advancing online teaching. And so instead of asking you what makes you a different kind of learner, I want to ask you about this book, because amidst all the recent books on online learning, and there are many, what makes advancing online teaching a different kind of book and I’ll start with you, Kevin, and I’ll let you hand it off whenever you need to.

Kevin Kelly  02:38

Sounds good. Well, I think you’re right, there are a number of good books about online teaching and learning. And some focus heavily on the technical aspects, while others emphasize students success. And Advancing Online Teaching – We really wanted to use Universal Design for Learning, learning equity, and human connection as a foundation for online course design and facilitation. Sometimes those books end with “Hey, you’ve got your course built, – and then it’s the cliffhangers coming up – what do you do once the students show up?” So we wanted to make it more transparent. And we wanted to provide lots of examples. And when Todd first invited me to join his excellent teachers series, he described his philosophy for all of his books. And maybe I’ll that’s where I’ll hand it over to you, Todd to tell a little bit more about that.

Todd Zakrajsek  03:22

Great. Thanks, Kevin. Yeah, so I was really excited about this project. Um, first of all, because Kevin’s just this mastermind of online teaching such cool stuff. But the whole series, what we’re really shooting for, is to kind of create a set of books that have really accessible language, it doesn’t really matter what your discipline is. So anybody in any field can read them. We wanted evidence base. So we want to make sure that people aren’t just saying, Hey, I tried this once, and it works. And the last part of it is we wanted to just give people a sufficient background so they could try some new things. So those are the overarching things that we’re trying to do in the whole series, which I think worked really well with the book. And I’ll actually say that the human connection part was kind of interesting, because Kevin and I were about two thirds away through the book, with it really kind of the foundation being on UDL and design for equity. And we kept adding these components about and don’t forget there, students out there, and don’t forget, there’s a human there. And so we kind of it, I think the human connection part almost found us. And so that’s where that came in, just citing part.

Lillian Nave  04:26

Oh, great. And I must say that you that you really emphasize both the design and the facilitation. So the lot of, as Kevin mentioned, a lot of books, it’s just about the design. So I’m giving helpful hints, and I’ve had a chance to preview this. I’m super excited about that, that you give lots of really wonderful helpful hints about how we can facilitate and I know my course is radically different now that I’ve actually had the chance to help facilitate it once, it’s going to be really different now that I have to kind of move into, you know what it’s going to look like in the 2.0 version because I hadn’t facilitated it before. So okay, so it is a different kind of book, I really enjoyed reading it. It’s been helpful for me as I’m planning, you know, my second version of my course. So my next question is why our course and module level learning outcomes so important for student engagement and persistence, and success, because you really start out with with structure and design. So I wanted to get to that first design point.

Kevin Kelly  05:38

I typically look at outcomes like the nucleus of an atom. And if you think of the backward design process, that nucleus of outcomes is then surrounded by a ring of assessment strategies, then a ring of interactivity strategies, and then out in the outer skirts, where you combine the Oort cloud and Pluto, are is the content of the course, it’s all important. But if you start lining up those different aspects of a course, with each outcome, students know what they’re supposed to do. And we actually include a definition in the book from one of the great, where it provides students with an opportunity to determine what they’re expected to do, and also provides instructors with a strategy for how they’re going to build the course to support that, and also how they’re going to assess whether or not students have reached it. And I’m, I’m also a huge fan of the transparent assignment template out of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, or now known as the transparency and learning and teaching project. I think it’s tilt higher ed, is the website. But that’s letting students know the why. Why are we doing this in the first place. And so I went through the process of redesigning my entire course to make sure that students knew why they were consuming each piece of content, performing each activity, taking each assessment strategy, and aligning it with the outcomes and real world skills that they’re going to need in the workforce and in future studies. And so when we get to the module level learning outcomes, I think of it like a progress bar, when you have a 17 week semester, like I do at San Francisco State University, it’s really hard for students to track their progress for that long, especially when they’re, let’s say my class has seven learning outcomes, they may be taking five classes they could have anywhere between 20 to 40 learning outcomes that they need to track, are they completing them over a 17 week period. I know us as humans, the progress bar psychology says that we need it to be 75 to 80% complete before we feel motivated and satisfied. And so having module level learning outcomes, where we are helping students see every week what they’re accomplishing at a smaller scale, allows them to finish those goals quickly, and then jump back in with motivation to tackle the next steps. And so I’ll hand it over to Todd to weigh in on any other aspects of why those courses and module level learning outcomes are so important. But that’s just the framework that I brought into the book.

Todd Zakrajsek  08:07

And I all I would say is kind of reiterating what you just said there, Kevin. But the primary focus for human behaviors, if you kind of, if you have a sense of where you’re going, it gives you a better idea of what you need to do to get there. And so it’s so easy to get lost and, and race down rabbit holes and going off in so many different directions. But when you have clearly stated outcomes both for the students at their level, but for the course, it just keeps everybody on track. So think it does that. And if you don’t know, again, where you’re headed, it doesn’t matter how much energy you put into it and how fast you go, you’re not going to get there unless you know what you’re doing.

Lillian Nave  08:41

Right What a simple analogy we have now with the GPS, you know, we get in our cars, we need to go to a restaurant, maybe if we go out somewhere or you know, a school or work and you put in your address, you got to put in where you’re going you don’t put in your first turn, or where I need to go in the first mile you put in where the end point is. So that idea is having the goal in mind is I know this is a book that is shaped by Universal Design for Learning principles. First and foremost, we need to have those goals, whether they’re skills or knowledge and separate those so that students know where they’re going and know how they’re going to be able to get there. And the other thing that it makes me think about is, and I believe this is something Kevin and I talked about last year, is when you go and let’s say you’ve got that carwash card, right you get after you get 10 free after you go 10 times you get a free wash, and then they’ll give it to you but they’ve like punch the first two or three and you’re like yeah, totally on my way on this one. But giving the sense of you’re on your way you’ve accomplished something. And I’ve thought about that for my course with we’ll start out with a few things we do together and they can check those off. off their list, right? And then that, that psychology of learning that that stuff that that Todd is an expert in about motivating students helps to get us I think moving forward in the right direction.

Kevin Kelly  10:12

Well, one thing I’d add with your GPS analogy, UDL is providing multiple pathways to get to the goal. So you can choose which freeway or street go around an obstacle to get to the goal in the shortest time possible, most efficient way possible. So

Todd Zakrajsek  10:28

all and of course, what you just said Kevin was just perfect is that UDL does this. So that if you’re up or if your GPS loses the signal, know that that dreaded concept you’ve put in your destination, then there’s no signal. Well, if you have a map with you, or you have instructions written out, or you’ve got a self way you can do your cell phone, but the other to give you multiple ways of doing it, because oftentimes people will get lost, their battery goes dead, or for some reason a GPS isn’t working, they don’t even know how to get there anymore.

Lillian Nave  10:58

Yeah, and I must say, having knowing that endpoint is, is absolutely essential. I’d like to go hiking here in the mountains of North Carolina. And there’s a lot of times that that actually happens, I lose the signal. And at least knowing I’ve got to go downhill. Go back up to the trail or exactly, you know, where that is. It’s just when we forget that in, in designing a course and learning, we those students need to know where they’re headed and not just starting out in the beginning of the semester, and there’s 25 different things and how are we going to accomplish it? I really appreciated that about the book is how focused it is on motivating students and getting them to that helping the students to succeed and persevere, is of course, one of my major loves of UDL is that it’s helping students succeed each time.

Todd Zakrajsek  11:52

And learning is hard enough without making a student guess at what you want.

Lillian Nave  11:55

Yeah, exactly. And especially last semester, I’ve seen this several times, ideas about what if you were you know, a, if you were a student, this past semester, you’ve got six different classes, six different ways of teaching, maybe, you know, six different layouts of your Moodle or learning management system, it may look different, some people may have it laid out in a different way. You know, it’s, it’s confusing, and I would appreciate people helping me, I love it when I get a reminder for my doctor’s appointment, right? I know, it’s there, it’s on my calendar. But getting a reminder to know I Oh, I need to make sure I make it or or move some things around my schedule. Those are all really helpful. And you’ve kind of done that for the course for your online course. Okay, so hey, these outcomes are really important, having them in module level and also the course level is really important. But what makes a good online learning outcome?

Kevin Kelly  12:56

We started with a number of ideas about what makes a good learning outcome. Again, some of it based on the research and literature and then also based on online course, design rubrics, Quality Matters, the California Community Colleges Online Education Initiative and the SUNY Oskar OSQ. You are lpm. It’s an alphabet soup. But yeah,

Lillian Nave  13:19

we’ll put it in the resources though. So people will know.

Kevin Kelly  13:22

I think it’s OSC QRS. And but regardless, there are a number of criteria for outcomes across all those rubrics. And we wanted to, again, make it more transparent to instructors, especially if it’s their first time teaching online, or if they were thrown into it as they were in spring 2020 with this pandemic, and hey, I was teaching a face to face class, what are you telling me I have to start teaching online in two weeks? And so the things around outcomes that help? Are they clear, as Todd brought up earlier? Do students know what they mean? Are they aligned with the different aspects of the course? Are they placed not only in your syllabus, but in the instructions for an activity or in the information about how to consume a particular piece of content, so students see them in context. But then, because Todd’s the smart, one of the two of us, he brought in the idea of smart outcomes, as well as the history of outcomes and objectives. So Todd, why don’t you talk about that a

Todd Zakrajsek  14:20

little bit? Certainly, Kevin, thanks. For the smart outcomes, basically, just a way of looking at it. And it’s a concept that’s been out for a bit is, are they specific and measurable, and achievable and realistic and timely, there’s your SM AR Ts. The other thing was we played around with in this book was there’s a big discussion out there about whether you use objective versus outcome. And I never liked to start fights in academia. But if you know, sometimes it’s fun just to kind of make people a little nervous about stuff. So we took an approach on this to look at this in terms of saying that, by and large, we don’t really care at this level. I mean, unless you’re really an educational specialist. You want to call it an outcome versus an objective? It’s not that important. You probably should know what overarching goals are versus outcomes. But the one thing that a lot of people didn’t know, and we kind of found it as we were digging is that objectives have been around since Oh, my gosh, probably the late 1800s. They’ve been around for a long time, Herbert Spencer, classified objectives of human behavior that was a psychologist. But there was a book by maker in 1962. And when this book came out in 62, they were talking about objectives, how can we objectively identify if somebody had reached a goal, and the whole concept was for this I objective, is that you need to determine to something a person is able to do or perform the conditions under which the performance takes place. And then the criteria that demonstrates success, and those were the three steps of an objective. Well, the funny part was that came out really early, the outcomes based education came along and really took off in the 1980s 1990s. Because they were looking at outcome based education, we should see, what are the outcomes? Well, they had to define what is an outcome while an outcome is, what is the person able to do? What is the condition you’re able to do it under? And how do we know that you were actually successful? And when we were reading to this, we said, that sounds a lot like an objective. And it turns out that many times when people write outcomes, they cited the work of objectives. So individuals who get kind of feisty about this and say, No, no, no, they’re definitely different. Now, it’s been fun for Kevin and I to say, you know, so what’s the foundation? Where did you come up with that originally and say, well, it’s always been that way. They know, actually tricks back to 1962. And so it was a fun thing to kind of put in there as outcomes and objectives. Actually, our outcomes came from objectives and definition. But so we we kind of kept the verbiage consistent throughout the book, but that’s where it came from,

Lillian Nave  16:52

you know, and I remember, you’ve got some great tables that go through in your book, that condition like things like, you need to the you need to be able to take these graphs, and within three weeks come up with a, a new understanding of this or something like that. So it had like, discernible parts that helped me to understand why I shouldn’t be using those terms interchangeably, like I always have been until today’s podcasts interview. But I remember reading that thinking, Oh, well, that’s the first clear understanding of the difference between objectives and outcomes. So that was also very helpful. And just knowing that they are, how to create those, that they are smart, as you mentioned, and that they have clarity that they are aligned, and where they are, like, that’s not just look at the syllabus, you’ll find them. But with each assessment that you do with, you know, why are we doing this in this particular time in the class, being reminded of of the why often is really important. And I must say, when I was getting my class ready, that whole idea about outcomes, and restating them was like, definitely told to me a million times by our instructional designers, they’re the folks that have been teaching our faculty about how important those things are. So that was like the big change. For me going face to face to online, is the importance of those objectives. Sorry, those outcomes for each part of your class and what the whole course objectives were, was a major, major, like new learning for me in moving online. So I really appreciated in the book, how clearly you laid that out how much you explained about them, and how important they are. So, okay, so let’s talk about that. Can you give me an example or two of how to then match up your learning outcomes, with the things that you have used that make this book so different? That’s UDL designed for learning equity and that human connection,

Kevin Kelly  19:06

I think it’s a way for instructors to look at their outcomes and see what’s missing. And so when you think about working backwards, human connection, em, we are human learners, we learn in social settings. And so rather than thinking about online courses, or even hybrid or hybrid flexible courses, as we’re learning alone, but together, we’re all in this same Learning Management System course shell, but we’re all on these individual journeys where we’ll never interact with each other, instead thinking about how can I weave in some forms of interaction or some forms of human connection into the outcome. So, you know, recognizing there might be a peer review element for an assignment or recognizing that students will be working in small groups with as some of those conditions, as you mentioned, for the outcomes themselves, for the equity aspects is recognizing some of the barriers, assumptions and biases that get in the way of student success. And so how do we make sure that we’re going to provide multiple pathways for students to submit their work, maybe it’s, um, you know, students will submit, work in written or audio form. So that way, they could use a Google Voice, voicemail message and read something that they wrote on pen and paper. But they don’t have a device right now, because they’re in a home where they’re sharing a computer with two working adults and other students. And therefore, they have a mobile device and typing a 10 page paper on your smartphone is just not practical. So allow them to write it with pen and paper, and then you create a voicemail message where it’s like book on tape for the teacher, you can use the same rubric, and then UDL if we flip it a little bit. And rather than say, how does UDL weave inside the outcome, it can also provide a network around the outcome. And so if we want to share those outcomes with students in different ways, the same way we provide audio content versus text based content versus visual content, there are these ideas of graphic outcomes maps. And so making it clear to students in visual representation of how the outcomes work in your course, I’ve seen some really exciting ideas for engineering courses where they show the structure of the outcomes within the context of the different machinery they’re going to learn how to build or fix or what have you. And so, obviously, there’s way more to say about it. And that’s why we have Todd here to fill in the gaps that I left in my answer.

Todd Zakrajsek  21:36

Well, I was gonna just say, Kevin, I thought that was a fabulous answer. I do want to point out that once you’ve done that, well, I was listening to you say that Kevin, and we’ve talked about this multiple times and never really caught me before is how easy it would be to make a jump from what you just said to learning styles and say, Oh, yeah, there’s visual versus auditory versus kinesthetic. You can do this. We’re not talking about teaching to give and learning styles. When pastor McDaniel Rothenberg wrote that article in 2007, I believe it was about theirs. demonstrating that it’s really meshing doesn’t work teaching to a given learning style. The argument that we have in education is trying to bust that myth out there. As you know, it’s we’re not talking about visual learners, kinesthetic learners and auditory learners. We’re talking about giving learners an opportunity to present their work visually auditorily or kinesthetically. So that’s a very big difference in that. And I just as you were talking, Kevin, I didn’t really think about before how that would be easy to slide in there. We need three pages on that in the book, darn it.

Lillian Nave  22:37

To print,

Todd Zakrajsek  22:38

yes, yes. So just to be real clear on that one. So we’re not advocating learning styles were advocating for different styles in which you can display your work.

Lillian Nave  22:48

Right? So students have options, right? Yes, because you’re recognizing and valuing that learner variability, that we have students who either life circumstances or something else is requiring that maybe a just the option of creating a podcast or a written work is going to be acceptable. If if that is acceptable, like if you are in a writing class, and you have to write and you need to be able to write in a particular way, we want you to do that. But if it’s, let’s say, trying to create a message and send that message, and it could be written, or it could be oral, or you could make a video right, or you could do a presentation, just depending on what the knowledge is, or the skill is that you have options that are appropriate for whatever that outcome is, we’re not saying change the outcome. Certainly UDL does not say dumbed down the course or lower your standards or rigor, but it also doesn’t mean rigor for rigor sake, just to make things harder, put up barriers, that’s not helping anybody. But having those outcomes are really molded to what you want from the student or what they need to demonstrate, and then providing options to do that. And I must say what I’ve learned so much this past semester, teaching what we thought would, the pandemic would have been over it did not. And so teaching through the whole pandemic online, that human connection part that the third part that you guys bring in, in the book, did not realize how important that is for learning. And I just have received, you know, our end of year final reflections that I have my students write, I’m really big on reflection. And I asked them to talk about the goals that I asked them to create because I want them to be motivated and see some of themselves in the class. So I asked them to write two or three goals that they might have in the course itself, like what do you want to do in that course, and some of them were really close to the subject about Intercultural Studies and a surprising amount of my students said one of their goals was to make a friend in the class, how I never would have thought of that. But that there was so intense that need for connection, there were so many of my students who said that was their goal was to make a friend. And so when Kevin started to talk about the human connection part to an outcome, to have maybe a peer review, or maybe I’ve been really thinking about how to put my students in smaller groups, so it’s not just a free for all on the discussion board, that they in the first module, maybe they’re in a group of five, the second three week module, they’re in a different group of five, but they’re, they’re learning, you know, for different other people or things like that. It’s made me start to think really intentionally about how I set up that other part of your book that makes it different, which is the facilitation, you can design at one way, I’m setting up a course that’s going to be you know, Q and reviewed, and all of that to see if it gets the design certification. But they’re not really they don’t really look at the facilitation part. And that whole idea about small groups, large groups switch to get to know other students having options for them to be in a small group discussion or a group project, you know, that is like now that’s the first thing on my mind, when I’m thinking about teaching it for the second time.

Todd Zakrajsek  26:25

You know, it’s really amazing. If you think about the history or your past in education, and I’ve asked this workshops a lot of times is Has anybody ever said to you kind of a comment in passing that changed your path. And everybody I’ve talked to in education has said yes, to that sometimes positive, sometimes negative, it’s often just a throwaway statement. But that’s the human connection part is with back and forth in terms of humans, I might be learning something and really struggling, when a faculty member says, Hey, I read your last paper, that was that ending really kind of caught me off guard, there was some good thinking right there. Now I feel like I can go back and do this, as opposed to a statement of, hey, if you’ve ever been to the Writing Center, and I say no. And I said you should make that your next visit, then I’m thinking Oh, no. And then now I’m second guessing everything I turn in. So those those throwaway statements has that that human component that keeps coming in?

Kevin Kelly  27:18

Well, I think the kind of take building on both what you both just said, the the support for students in that sense of connection. And the surveys, they’ve done over two dozen surveys of students in the COVID area from spring and summer are now in default. And I did a meta analysis of them all. And the highest percentage of student needs is their craving connection with their fellow students, they don’t have a campus, many of them anymore, where they can see someone in the quad and just stop and turn to the neighbor in the classroom during a break and say, Hey, how you doing? Whatever. So that goal to make a friend is something that we not only have to support, but we also have to facilitate those interactions, both with technological means, as you said, Hey, I’m going to use a learning management system and break students into groups of five. But also pedagogical means where I often challenge instructors who have these wonderful prompts for a discussion. It’s maybe a paragraph or two telling students exactly what they want. And then one sentence, please reply to two students in your class. And that you give them any idea of how to interact with one another to ask clarifying questions of one another to become more critical and provide feedback and and and Todd’s point earlier about outcomes. It gives no clarity about what we’re expecting them to do. So then we get frustrated when they say, Good job smiley face. Well, that’s that meets the criteria. You said reply the two people you didn’t say the right words, you didn’t say what you wanted these replies to be. And so I always tell people to to make those reply prompts as detailed as your original post prompts. Because when we’re facilitating a class, we need to give students guidance. They’re often coming from environments like the K 12 classes, where there’s sitting and listening and then taking tests and so they may be new, especially first generation students aren’t quite sure what the expectations are in the college classroom, especially an online classroom. And they may not even have chosen online courses. They may be forced into them like they have been this past year.

Lillian Nave  29:25

Yeah, and I know I am. I’ve seen Travis Patterson’s work and I think he he’s done this at one of the Lilley conferences before about power ups and using like the hashtags or words to kind of take out words of the discussion or highlight you know, certain themes of a discussion. So giving students that ability and and guidelines on how to interact is really important. Even things like instead of just comment, it could be the three CQ which is compliment, comment, connect, make a connection or Have a question is just saying, you know, it’s not just the great I agree smiley face to help students make those connections and I it is a learned behavior, we can’t expect that they’re going to have a paragraph response. Unless we either demonstrated like we show a criteria of what we expect in a, like a sample discussion forum, or might give some some good guidelines as to what what it might be, because it’s not like we’re parents on there. But we’ve all been taught like, how, how do you greet somebody? How do you, you know, respectfully engage in a conversation? And somebody has to teach us how to do that if it’s shaking your hand or looking someone in the eye? Or, you know, in the south here, Yes, ma’am. Yes, sir. Or you know, those sorts of things. That’s the kind of thing we have to be also teaching as to how to have an academic discussion and how to make those connections.

Todd Zakrajsek  30:59

I love this conversation I just went through and just wrote a note to myself is, I think, to get used to when you give feedback to always say, because, you know, that was that was a really good statement, Lillian, because it helped me think about it in a new way. I get a workshop one time on smart, smart outcomes and how to give good feedback. And at the end of it, one of the faculty members walked by me and said, that was a great workshop and walked down the hallway. There’s no more whoa, wait. Yeah, do that. Like it was a great workshop? Because what,

Lillian Nave  31:31

what was it? What was it that made that and

Todd Zakrajsek  31:34

so I love the fact you said it’s a learned behavior. And Kevin, and I spent a long time with that, because the learned behavior is just to say, Great job, or that was pretty good, or thanks for doing that. And kind of getting that framework in there. That was great job, because,

Lillian Nave  31:48

right, so all of these, so far, we’ve been talking so much about these outcomes, and how you are thinking of outcomes in a very holistic manner. And relating continuously to the human connection and UDL and Design for Learning equity. And just the resources you have in the book are phenomenal. Just so much time and thinking is behind this, you’ve done the heavy lifting for so many of us so that we can be thinking about Okay, well, how does that apply to my class? So it makes me think about a, the like larger structure. So besides the outcomes, how can we best set up a course structure, and align that with human connection UDL and Design for Learning equity, and I’ll start again with you, Kevin.

Kevin Kelly  32:42

I’m it. I would say, you know, working in no particular order, there are ways again, technological and pedagogical ways to weave those three things into the way you’ve organized a course. And so obviously, and we know from the literature, again, students have higher success rates when the course is well organized, when it’s consistent. These are things that UDL points to. But then you can also apply the UDL checkpoints with things like giving students the capacity to monitor their own progress. And so many learning management systems have the ability to have what’s called activity completion. And so they’ll see a little checkmark when they’re finished with an activity. And that’s something that a lot of instructors may say, Well, that’s just a lot of extra work. What’s the benefit, the benefit is allowing students, especially students who work especially students who are taking care of kids, when they’re doing this, it’s not multitasking, it’s continuous partial attention. in psychology, there is no such thing as multitasking, we have a one processor brain, as opposed to a multi processor computer. And so when we’re switching back and forth between these tasks, we need to be able to pick up where we left off quickly. And so being able to have those check marks to see where you left off is a great use of UDL and the learning management system settings. And so when we get to that human connection, it’s maybe making sure that you have a discussion in every module, it’s making sure that you have those interaction opportunities at multiple regular chances. And so and so students get used to it. And I think a lot of instructors wonder why their activities are falling flat, they may not have provided an equity strategy of creating community norms first. And so when you have those small groups, especially if you’re going to have a small group that spans an entire academic term, then having the first activity Hey, get to know each other. Let’s we’ll get to and maybe if you don’t want to make it total fluff, talk about your favorite movie or whatever. You can make it What’s your goal for taking this class and how are you going to help the other people in your small group reach their goals? And so having that be a framework but then having an activity where they may be identified team roles I went through the process of I looking through team based learning literature Have the students identify who they’re going to be in their group? Are they going to be a facilitator? Are they going to be a devil’s advocate? Are they going to be the reporter? Are they going to be quote unquote timekeeper, which is important in asynchronous online courses, because things are going to come up due, and everybody’s turning their portions in at different times. And so you need somebody to rally the troops and say, we’re going to get this done. Come on, we can do it. And so having them and I use hashtags, like you were mentioning, so that students say, I’m going to be harmonizer. Because using Todd’s language, this is this is a strength I bring to the group. And so then they all see how that they’re going to work cohesively. The literature from Charles duhigg, about from Google about how diversity leads to more successful teams, they try to find the ways that they are diverse, that they’re not going to have groupthink for an assignment. But that coming back to how do we create a course structure that maximizes that human connection, it’s then making sure that we’re building and regular opportunities, not just because we want students to complete a discussion activity and check a box, but because we want them to interact with one another to further their thinking about the topics, of course, time? Well, it’s

Todd Zakrajsek  36:10

gonna say I think you did a great job of talking about the connection between the students, but also keeping in mind that that connection goes to just the instructor. And so when I’m teaching a course, I certainly want to do everything Kevin just said, and how am I going to have my students peer instruction or peer collaboration, feedback and things, but also, as an instructor, just to be mindful that not everybody thinks about things, the way I do, they don’t see it the same way, they don’t have the same lived experiences. So when I ask people to do some kind of a writing assignment or anything else, or just setting up the course, to just reminding myself that there’s humans at the other end of the course, some of them, I mean, it’s sad, some of them are living in cars, some of them don’t know where their next meal is gonna come from. Some of them are living in mansions, and some of them have so much food, they don’t know what to do with it. But it’s so easy on a day to day basis for us all to be captured in our own lives and forget that everybody you meet is got a struggle, everybody you meet has got something wonderful going on, but they’re different. And so there’s a human connection to

Lillian Nave  37:12

You make me think about the hidden curriculum that we often have in higher ed, and some of the assumptions that we as instructors make, like an assumption that school is going to be first, and you’re going to put aside everything. So that school is always first. And that may have been what I was able to do when I was going away to school and things like that. But that’s not the reality, or the lived experience of many of our students, when I hear that they are now not living, where they were living and their internet is spotty, or, and that’s why I haven’t gotten the last four assignments. And you know that the that’s not what I thought, you know, or I didn’t, I tried not to think why haven’t I gotten these four assignments? This was a really, really good student. And now I don’t have anything but you know, what happened? So knowing that, besides that school is a part of one’s life, and yes, we want them to succeed, and we want them to do well, and then we want it to be important to them. But we also have to think about those other things like, I find when students are trying to reach out for help, sometimes they don’t do it in the best way, and people will get offended by Hey, instead of Dr. Professor Smith. Right. And, and understanding our own bias as a teacher to like, what do we expect of our students and, and just just valuing the student and the learner variability, and understanding that the way we have done things, as you just said, isn’t necessarily the way they’re going to do things. And then thinking having a little moment to myself saying, is that okay? Is that okay? If the way they do things is not the way I do things, and sometimes it isn’t because they have to learn how to do this thing in this particular way. But most of the time, it’s, it’s pretty okay, that they come to the the, the outcome in a way that may be a little different than I did. So it’s that relinquishing of control. Anyway, when you’re talking about that human connection, you’re valuing your students. And you are really, okay, bringing that variability into your design structure. That’s what I love. That’s what I really appreciated about your kind of three different ways you looked at an online course that I didn’t see, in a lot of other ways people were preparing me to teach my online course. So you’ve got a whole lot about outcomes and aligning those outcomes with, you know, your course structure. So the big thing that got kind of beaten into my head as I moved online was align your assessments with those module outcomes with the course outcomes, and kind of having to see that having to really say to your students, here’s this little Lego piece that we build on top of this Lego piece that makes this final course structure. So I’m going to ask about how do you align your activities and assessment strategies with your course outcome? And I bet it has something to do with backwards something rather. So I’ll start with you, Kevin.

Kevin Kelly  40:34

Well, if I could go back in time, in this interview, I did reference something called backward design. So and I, I sometimes even walk backwards. But the point being that you start with your outcomes, and again, think about the very next step is how am I going to ask students to demonstrate that they reached it. And so that empathy that we want to have for our students, for the reasons you all just brought up, and making sure that we’re thinking about that human connection and universal design and different barriers that we can remove for equity reasons, then we might be providing multiple pathways for students to show what they know. And it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to give three different types of tests. But it might mean that you have a low level effort where they watch a mini lecture and take a quiz so they can assess their understanding of the basic concepts, then you’re going to assess whether or not they’re able to discuss them with their peers and call on the different materials that they’ve reviewed, and pull them into the conversation. And then maybe there’s an assessment where there might be a paper, or a lab, or a performance or something that they need to do in order to show that they’ve reached at the highest level, but you’re giving them multiple opportunities to demonstrate that what I would say we have probably a number of researchers who are your listeners, and it’s just like triangulation, right? We are asking students to show multiple ways so that they themselves understand where their shortcomings are. And we can identify if we’ve given them enough opportunities to learn the materials and improve before doing something high stakes. So I’ll stop there, see if Todd has anything to chime in?


No, that was good.

Lillian Nave  42:24

I know, I kind of divided this into a two part question. But it’s really hard to separate. You know, the next part of that question is how do you align those activities and assessments to your course outcome with continuously putting in that UDL equity lens and human connection lens, and, uh, you already were, we’re talking about how important those those things are. But I didn’t know if there was more about how you’re taking that each one of those lenses as you are connecting assessments and strategies to your course outcomes,

Todd Zakrajsek  42:58

I think was, was we started doing this so much in the book, too, is you just have to have that as your framework. I mean, you just have to get to a point where you’re constantly asking yourself is, am I am I treating this individual who’s the learner as a unique human being with a totally different lived experience than I have, with wonderful, wonderful abilities, and they may do something different for me, not less than but different. Keeping that in mind, at the same time, I’m trying to keep in mind this equity perspective of making sure that because it is different, it doesn’t mean it’s less than or for somehow inferior. And also for universal design, of creating a situation that we don’t make it so that someone who has a challenge can suddenly do better we make it so that there is that the challenge, whatever it is, is insignificant. I mean that concept of if I take away time test, a person needing extra time, it doesn’t. It’s not like I’m giving them a leg up are giving them anything. I’m telling everybody, I don’t care how long it takes you. And if so the concept is shifting it over. So that’s what you’re thinking all the time. There’s a unique human being, I want to be equitable in what I’m doing. And I want to make sure people have a variability in the ways in which they can both learn and experience

Kevin Kelly  44:14

just to tack on a couple things. So the example I gave earlier about providing multiple points of entry for students to demonstrate they’ve met different learning outcomes. That’s also following the UDL concept of providing choice of difficulty level. So those low level quizzes, those mid level discussion forums, those high level projects where they may be interacting with other students are, they can jump in at the entry point where they say, Oh, I already know about this topic. I’m going to go straight to the discussion, then they find out Oh, I don’t so then they go back down. And so giving them that flexibility of moving back and forth. But then on the equity side, how do we manage cultural bias that might be in pre k pre written exam questions that come from a publisher or how do We make sure that the images that are in our PowerPoint presentations that may pull into our exams, because some exams have images as part of the maybe a case that they’re studying or something like that. How do we make sure that those images are representing our students adequately and accurately and not doing things like, we know many of the anatomy textbooks, or at least some of those that have been studied by researchers show that the majority of the chapters show males in the anatomy and only in the reproductive section of the book? Will they start including females, and then they’re typically light skinned people, as opposed to people of all different walks of life. And so, starting to think about those things, as Todd said, as we construct our assessment pathways and the activities we provide for students to practice, are we making sure that we’re looking at them through these lenses? And I always think about going to the eye doctor, and these three lenses or is it clearer now? Is it clearer now. And they sometimes have two or three lenses in front of your eye, and then you’re like, oh, wow, now I can see. And so we’re doing the same thing with UDL designed for learning equity and human connectedness. And it doesn’t mean you’re going to use all three at any given time. In some cases, one strategy for UDL might address a number of equity challenges, ranging from bias to access to anything else. And so we just want to make sure that we’re making this kind of a way of looking at the world so that we are addressing the students needs.

Lillian Nave  46:34

Yeah, you bring up so many really fantastic points about equity in our first conversation, and I’ll have a link to our design for learning equity conversation we had with you, Kevin, about so many of the lenses, when you think about that optometrist going to the eye doctor, and you know, only some of us, those of us who’ve had to wear glasses, you know, have had that experience. And I must say when they finally get down to the part they say better or worse, and then you cannot tell like, I can’t tell what is the difference between that blurry a and the other blurry, a, you know, hopefully, it gets down to a very clear picture, that I feel like these three lenses are converging into finally being able to see your course, as a, as an equitable course that’s going to work for all of your students. And I know, every time I run a course, every I learned something, you know, on all them face to face courses, I realized that assignment was a dud, and that, you know, that one worked well, or I didn’t realize it, but that kind of excluded. You know, my, my female students, when we talked about this, you know, particular thing, and I need to bring in a different example, or do it some different way? Well, all of that is starting over again, now that I’m teaching online and finding out that how students access the course, like on their mobile phone, or if they have internet at home, or if they’re on campus, or not on campus, or as what happened to many students this year, or sometimes on campus and sometimes went home or got to cold school and then had to leave school and we didn’t know how it was going to play out. So providing all of those options, those choices, and really thinking hard about what, what I want the outcomes to be, you know what that skill is or what that knowledge is, and then thinking of the possible ways to get there has been pretty life changing for me and how to design and in thinking about, oh, a student might move in this direction, and that’s okay, a student might go in this direction. And that’s okay, as long as we can get to this result, I need to make sure they have the skill before they leave my class. But learning as I’m going that, wow, there are a lot of different ways for them to demonstrate that ability has been really eye opening to me this semester. So okay, so now I’m here. At the last question I have is your my advice question or am asking actually for your advice. What is your best advice to leave with instructors as they go to revamp courses for next semester? Or for revamping maybe even in the middle? What’s your best advice for teaching online?



Kevin Kelly  49:29

So I’ll borrow from another Universal Design for Learning book that didn’t cover online as much as we did. Tom Tobin and Kirsten baling unveiled this concept called plus one thinking where instructors can just add one thing to their course at a time. So if you’re in the winter break, you don’t have a lot of time or energy because all of us are burnt out right now. What’s one thing that you can do that would increase the equity for your students increase the universal design of your course. increase that sense of human connection, and then just run with that. Try it at a low level at the beginning and let students know why you’re doing it. Because as Tom would say, I’m doing this because and then, and then get their feedback in the first couple of weeks. Is it working? Is it not maybe shift to something else. But this book is a buffet. And typically, when I go to a buffet, I need four or five plates. And I’m juggling because I want to try everything. But it doesn’t work out. Some stuff falls on the floor, I don’t get to eat it all because I don’t have room. So try one thing from the book, and then goodness gracious that books gonna be around at the end of the term. So you can try another thing in the summer and keep working your way through it and adding new things as as you go.

Todd Zakrajsek  50:45

Tom, what do you say? Yeah, I agree completely. I think the biggest mistake people make is they get all excited about reading something or finding something new and then just want to change everything. And, you know, ground yourself kind of an appreciative inquiry almost as you know, build from your strengths. Start with what you have that works really well. I love Kevin’s point and based on Tom Tobin’s book to have the plus one thinking, I think is great. The one I will add, though, is everything you do everything you do, just think to yourself, what would someone who’s different from me? How would they approach this? How might they see it? And don’t think of every possibility is still kind of the only one. But as I’m writing out an exam question, alright, if a student was raised in another country, how might they perceive this question? When I’m getting ready to ask a prompt in class, or to do a discussion thread to say, if it was a female? I’m a male, if it was a female? How might a female respond to this? or How might a person who doesn’t give a rat’s patoot? about this topic? Think about my topic, which is everything to me. So that constant kind of what’s one other way of thinking about it, but not changing bunches of things, just thinking about?

Lillian Nave  51:52

Yeah, we have a wide variety of students now, our student population is just so different than it was 50 years ago, and 20 years ago, and even 10 years ago, we’ve just got a wide variety. And thank goodness, we have a wide variety of students. So our teaching needs to encourage those students, and it needs to reflect those students and I, and as our teaching is now a lot of it moving online, and I know many schools are starting their spring semester online, that we now have, thankfully, with advancing online teaching a really great buffet. I like that, Kevin, it is a huge buffet from from which we can pick and choose our plus one, or a new way of thinking to help our to help our course planning and even like even dive in in the middle of your semester and say, Oh, I bet I could, I could tweak something. It doesn’t have to be just at the beginning of the semester. That’s going back to the buffet. Get a clean slate. All right. Well, thank you so much, Kevin. And Todd, I really appreciate the chance to talk to you both. I’m excited about this book. I was happy to to get to read it ahead of time, give a blurb about it, because it was very helpful to me as well. So thanks again for spending some time with me and my listeners on the think UDL podcast.

Kevin Kelly  53:18

Well thank you for the opportunity.

Todd Zakrajsek  53:20

Thank you appreciate it.

Lillian Nave  53:33

You can follow the think UDL podcast on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to find out when new episodes will be released, and also see transcripts and additional materials at the think website. The think UDL podcast is made possible by college star the star stands for supporting transition, access and retention in post secondary settings, and the website provides free resources and instructional aides based on UDL principles. If you’d like to know more, go to the college website. Additional support for the podcast is made possible by Appalachian State University where if you call it Appalachian, I’ll throw an apple-atcha. The music on the podcast was performed by the Oddyssey quartet comprised of Rex Shepherd, David Pate, Bill Folwell and Jose Cochez our sound engineer is Tanner Jones and I am your host, Lillian Nave. Thank you for joining us on the think UDL podcast.

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