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Build Engaging Courses Right from the Start with Tim Van Norman

Welcome to Episode 101 of the Think UDL podcast: Build Engaging Courses Right from the Start with Tim Van Norman. Tim Van Norman is an Instructional Technologist at Irvine Valley College in Irvine, California, which is part of the California Community Colleges system. He also hosts his very own podcast called The Higher Ed Tech podcast. Today, he will be discussing his personal views on instructional design and educational technology which are not associated with or speak for Irvine Valley College. In today’s episode, we talk about not just how students learn but where they learn, how we should think about deadlines, especially in relationship to one’s Learning Management system, where the work should be put in to improve a course (will it be early or later and how much), and what are his suggestions for engaging educational technology for online and in-person learning.


Tim Van Norman’s very own podcast is The Higher Ed Tech Podcast

The tools we discussed on the episode:
















students, deadline, class, engaged, learning management system, question, design, synchronous, thinking, udl, people, learners, podcast, higher ed, learning, faculty, tools, grade, record, read


Lillian Nave, Tim Van Norman

Lillian Nave  00:02

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 101 of the Think UDL podcast: Build Engaging Courses Right from the Start with Tim Van Norman. Or I could have said: Build Engaging Courses RIGHT from the Start with Tim Van Norman. We’ll get into where that building happens today. Tim Van Norman is an instructional technologist at Irvine Valley College in Irvine, California, which is part of the California Community Colleges system. He also hosts his very own podcast called the Higher Ed Tech Podcast. So today, he will be discussing his personal views on instructional design and educational technology, which are not associated with or speak for Irvine Valley College. But in today’s episode, we do talk about not just how students learn, but where they learn how we should think about deadlines, especially in relationship to one’s learning management system, or LMS. And where the work should be put in to improve a course if we’re faculty. Will it be early or later? And how much? And what are his suggestions for engaging educational technology for online and in person learning, we’ll have a whole slew of resources available on our think webpage. So if you want to learn anything more about the tools that we discuss, please go and take a look at episode 101. On think, thank you so much for listening. Thank you to our sponsor, Texthelp, a global technology company helping people all over the world to understand and to be understood, it has led the way in creating innovative technology for the workplace, and education sectors, including K 12, right through to higher education for the last three decades. So welcome, Tim, I’m really glad to have you on the podcast today and really happy to be to be connected with you. So thank you for being here. Thanks. I’m excited to talk about your expertise. As I know you have many skills. And you also have a podcast where you’re talking about a lot of things in higher ed like educational technology. And so I really want to pick your brain today. But before I do that, I have a question about you. And that is what makes you unique, what makes you a different kind of learner.

Tim Van Norman  03:15

So I did a test a couple of months ago to find out what kind of learner Am I okay, and this the strange part was, and I disagree. But the strange part was that I can learn almost anyway. And that’s actually true. Yeah. But I’m like most people, I’m stronger in certain things than others. And for me, the method of learning isn’t as important as the, the let’s call it the instructor. Okay, how the instructor works and how they do things. So as somebody who’s engaging, I can learn by listening. I can learn by watching, I can learn by reading, it all depends, but they need to engage me. So for me, the best way I can learn is by being engaged. And I tried to bring that to what I do too. So as an instructional technologist, part of my job is training people teaching them how to how to use technology, in their classroom, online, whatever that is. And so number one, I tried to engage them and not just make it boring. And the other part is I try to encourage them to engage their students. So often I will use a term or say things like, Hey, here’s something that I’ve seen that works really well for other people to engage your students. And doesn’t this make life more interesting for you too? Yeah. And the reality is, that’s really kind of the goal in a lot of ways. bit of teaching is to not bore myself as the teacher and therefore not bore the students. Yeah. So part of this comes back to about six years ago, I was teaching at a technical school. And it was one day a week, six hours that day, for six weeks in a row and the seventh week I was repeating week one. Oh, wow. Okay. That was a lot of fun. But by the third time doing it, I had to make sure I wasn’t falling asleep. Yeah. Because I’ve given the same tests, I’m saying the same things, I’m using the same material i Everything is an rinse, repeat, rinse, repeat, over and over and over again, multiple times a year. So how do you keep yourself engaged? How do you keep your students engaged? How do you find those things that keep you from, oh, this is the 100th time I’ve seen this in the last three months, you know, so it helped me then realize how I can improve and therefore how I can help others improve.

Lillian Nave  06:13

That’s great. You know, you’ve already said engagement a dozen times, which is totally like a lot of my questions, as you know, are about engagement with you. And that is the first column. Now on the UDL guidelines, which is all about engagement and motivation. And we when you said that it really depends a lot on the instructor. That’s what made me think about how we’re motivated to learn. Yeah, and what motivates us and how we can motivate our students. And in that online space that I’ve been in and learn so much about in the last couple years, that idea of having a relationship or you know, a real person behind the screen is so fundamental, that it’s really the basis for creating that safe and risk taking educational environment, that we have to be motivated. Right, we have to be engaged before. Before anything else. It’s like this building block of each one of these classes. And when you mentioned the way you do one thing over and over again, I have found that my problem when I was in teaching a class back to back to back. So if it’s Monday, Wednesday, Friday, it’s 1011 and 12. Or Tuesday, Thursday, it’s 930. And then 11 o’clock, and then 1230. It’s always the middle class. It’s the one in the middle, like the first one, I’ll remember getting ready for them. The last one I always remember. But that middle one is always the one I was like, did I say that? Did I already say that? Have I not said that? You know, like I have to do things that helped me to be engaged at differentiate. Right? That’s, I think one of our, our issues as instructors to to figure out where we are and to keep us engaged as we do it. Absolutely. Yeah. So you go on?

Tim Van Norman  08:09

No, absolutely. Keeping us engaged. It’s a lot easier to keep students engaged when we’re engaged. Yeah. And, and that can be in an asynchronous class, that it can be the difference between you recording your own audio and video. And using YouTube for it. Yeah, there’s nothing wrong with YouTube. Okay. But what we’ve learned, especially over the last three years, is that students really liked the idea of hearing their teacher and having them make mistakes.

Lillian Nave  08:47

Oh, yes, exactly. Yeah, seeing the cat walk across the keyboard in the middle of the, of

Tim Van Norman  08:54

the lecture, or the video or whatever. Whatever that is, it humanizes. It’s no longer just this voice that’s talking to me out of a demo or out of a PowerPoint. And so the more I can have the person that’s involved, the better off it is for everybody. And as I said, there’s nothing wrong with using YouTube. Yeah, there’s nothing wrong with using canned material that you get from a publisher or something like that. That in and of itself is not it’s not a bad not a good or bad thing. It’s a thing. But when you can make it personal when you can bring a story out. I tell stories about my kids all the time. Why? Because number one if they ever met my kids, oh, that’s who that is. Okay. But number two, and more importantly, you’ll remember the story. Yeah. Okay. And you’ll learn something from the story. Probably not what I wanted you to learn, but you’ll learn something, you’ll get something out of it. And so I’ll talk about different methods of doing things and why it works for my daughter, but not for my son why it works for me or, or works for all of us or doesn’t work or whatever that is. Because now you get a picture in your head of a person, rather than this sage on the stage, pontificating about some theory. And there’s no meaning to it.

Lillian Nave  10:30

Yeah, you see it in action, and it makes a connection that like, this is valuable. This is useful, I can see it in the real world. That’s really authentic.

Tim Van Norman  10:38

Exactly. Yeah, exactly.

Lillian Nave  10:41

So this is a great start to all the things I want to ask you about. And you talk to many instructors in your role, and you use a lot of educational technology. And so you talk to people a lot about also universal design for learning. So I wanted to ask you, about when people that say are wary about how much work it is, perhaps to improve a course using UDL. What do you say to that criticism?

Tim Van Norman  11:14

So first of all, you one word in what you said is key, and that’s improve. Okay, yeah. I try to my focus is not to take a class, and now make it better. It happens all the time, and probably 90% of our classes do this, do that. But my focus is to try to get you to build it right from the beginning. Okay, and that will take half the extra workout. Not all the extra work, but half of it. So what am I talking about? If you take Ed, you do a video, and you put it in your class, and then you Oh, I need to get it captioned. And so you set it for captioning, and you bring it back and you put that in your class, oh, then I need to actually have a transcript of it. And so now you go to a transcript. Now you’ve done you’ve touched this video three times. Yeah. Okay. On the other hand, if you take it and record a video, immediately get it captioned. Take the caption file and put it into a transcript. You’ve touched it twice. And you now have a video with captions built in, and a transcript that can go along with it. Yeah. And does that takes it to that next level. So you’re designing it, building it in. The other part is use your learning management system. I don’t care if you’re in a face to face class, and your students never need to get online. When I was when I was teaching the last class that I taught the last six weeks that I taught it. I used Canvas as a learning management system. Half of my students did not have computers at home. Okay. They had to come into the school in order to use the computer. Okay, so I couldn’t do tests online. I couldn’t do assignments online, I couldn’t do all those other things that I really wanted to do to really use a learning management system. Yet I saw a 50% increase in grades. Really, once I started doing that, so what Wait, how does that work? Yeah, well, I, what I did is I created each week, because I was teaching that six week class one day a week. Each week, I would release all of the information they needed. All of the notes for the class, all of the everything. Well, almost everybody in the class had a cell phone, so they could go on their cell phone and do it. And so they could watch the videos. I did not record my own videos, because this was my first experience doing it at the time. I’ve done many more of these since but I did not record my own videos. Instead, what I did is every time somebody asked a question in class, I wrote it down, found a YouTube video, found an article found something and then put it into that week’s module. Great. Yeah. And now, the person who’s studying for the test the next week, every question that had been asked now was available to them in an organized manner, with two or three different versions, that all said the same thing, but in a different voice, whatever that was that they needed. They had that available to them. And at the end of the, the whole session when they’re getting their final. They had every module available to them to study from.

Lillian Nave  14:54

Yeah, that’s great flexibility. They’ve got the options. And I mean, it sounds Like you can, it’s you can either do the work later or earlier in the process, right? It’s not about how much it’s about when?

Tim Van Norman  15:09

Well, and it’s less work when you do it at the beginning, when you design it, so UDL that middle word is designed. Yes, it is. Okay. So that does not mean accident. It does not mean oh, I threw a whole bunch of stuff in, and I organized, I put it in the group for today. Yeah, whatever that grouping is called a module, a weekly thing, whatever you’re calling that for your learning management system. And by the way, Google will even give you a learning management system for free. If you as a teacher need to have it, Google Classroom works beautifully. Canvas has also you can go to, I think it’s And you can get a free one for you. So I’m not talking that you have to spend money as a teacher, I know teachers don’t have the money to do that. So. So looking at these other tools, find a way, there’s 1000s of resources out there for figuring out how to organize your class, design the class and use the best practices. Figure out your what outcomes you want for the class and build backwards to, to design that backwards design. There’s so many different things that work together, that as you design your class, now, you can also look at what are your learners need? Yeah. So looking at what your learners need, that can mean somebody who maybe can’t read. Okay, what do I mean by that? They’re driving in their car, on their way to class and they need to review your notes. Do you really want them trying to read them?

Lillian Nave  16:54

If not, then neither. Right?

Tim Van Norman  16:57

Would it? Would it be better for them to have an audio file? Okay, right. So think about that. Now, notice, I have not talked about a disability,

Lillian Nave  17:06

right? Here’s just a kind of life circumstances, which life circumstances have a wide variety of in higher ed now.

Tim Van Norman  17:13

And in higher ed, especially, you may have somebody, a parent who just got their kid to sleep, and now they’re able to watch your video that you just did. Yeah. And you come out and you’re blasting and you’re really loud and all this stuff. Well, guess what? Now it’s another 24 hours before they can do that, because you’ve just woke up the kid. Yeah. Versus having captions at the bottom that are available. And you can go and you can get, especially with an educator discount. There’s a lot of different places where you can either get free or almost free captioning service. It might be auto captioning that you need to tweak it. But frankly, how often if you’re trying to do Pythagorean, how often is that going to come up and be spelled correctly by an auto caption is? Yeah, even by a human, sometimes they won’t, because they won’t know it. Right? You know, especially as you get even further in math or something like that. But those types of things can be done without creating a lot of extra work for you as well.

Lillian Nave  18:18

Yeah, just knowing they’re available also, in almost every university is going to have a learning management system. I mean, I can’t think of a single one that doesn’t so many of these tools are actually available, we just need to know and talk to folks like you on our campus. And make sure we’re utilizing them for our students.

Tim Van Norman  18:39

Well, and also think about what your students are using before they come to you. So here in our environment, we happen to use Canvas from Instructure. But some of our students are using Canvas in kindergarten. Oh, wow. through grade school, middle school, high school. Community College, yeah. And now even at the university and graduate school, so they are using the same environment all the way through that alone can help them talk about universal design. If you can have this tie all the way through their learning from kindergarten through grad school, that’s not a bad thing.

Lillian Nave  19:26

Yeah. Well, and sometimes that’s the way it is. But sometimes it’s you know, a different one though. My My sons are went to community college, high school slashing, and then they go to college, and it’s a different they’ve actually had different learning management systems at the same time for high school for college. And then for the next you know, step of the way, and that’s one of the things I want to keep in mind when I teach at the university level is my if my students are having to acclimate to it. New tool. And then they’ve got five courses where every professor has something kind of different that they have to acclimate to, it’s much better if I’m just using maybe one or two tools within that learning management system, rather than, Oh, I want you to learn how to do this. And then I want you to learn this new tool, and then we’re going to add this other thing, right? So then I’ve got students who if I’ve got five different things, they have to learn how to use and then they have four other classes with five other things, then we’re not even getting to the content, because we’ve got, you know, all of these other ways, things, apps, or whatever to learn. And so I’ve found that I’ve had to be a little bit picky about, well, I don’t need what am I using this for? Is it important? And you know, what? Why should I be using these particular things I don’t want to overwhelm. We don’t need to try every new thing. So I want to get to some of your, you know, best picks about what, what might work. But thinking about our learners, not just how they learned, but like you said, where are they learning? Are they on their way to campus? Are they putting a baby to bed? Are they working a job and listening if they can, right? So this, these interventions are really important, but I guess you would be more of the expert than I am about thinking about when to use them right and being intentional about how we are designing and planning for our students. Does that make sense?

Tim Van Norman  21:36

Absolutely. Well, and and think about, oh, say you have a live type of class. Now that can be synchronous online, that can be in person, whatever that is, is there an advantage to having that class, that lecture that time available to the students at another time when they’re available? So several years ago, I was kind of against people just recording lectures, and posting them online. I just, I was doing a presentation about to do a class and the next day’s class I had to this was for faculty, the next day’s class, I had to tell people why it was such a good idea to for them to record their lectures. And so before, before the day before this class, started, there were some people in there and I’m like, Okay, I need help. How can I get on board with this? Because I know it’s supposed to be a good thing, but, and somebody raised their hand and they said, I’m, uh, I just graduated graduate school. And I love being able to just simply go back through the lecture, fast forward through the stuff I know, and then get to re hear the teacher say, What I didn’t remember. Yeah, go over and, and go over it again. And I’m like, okay, that right there that one reason is all it takes, that means it’s good enough for me, especially in today’s world, today’s world, you got Google meat, you’ve got possibly zoom, possibly Cranium Cafe, possibly blue jeans, that big blue button, there’s all kinds of different tools that you can do. And you don’t even have to be in a meeting with your students, you can just simply record, yes. Okay. And a lot of schools are paying for some of those and some of those that I gave her free. So it all depends on what you’re doing. But you can record it, you can download it, you can now have that available to your students at another time when they’re able to go through it. Yeah, if you put it on YouTube, for instance, now they can run it at one and a half speed. You don’t quite sound like a chipmunk. But you know, it’s still much quicker. You’re still understandable. But then oh, wait, what was that, that they said, Rewind and Fast Forward, you know, and come back through it. And think about this. When you’re taking notes. Is it possible to write down every word the person said no, while paying attention?

Lillian Nave  24:19

No. It’s not you can’t it’s not it’s not possible.

Tim Van Norman  24:23

Not? Yeah. And so if you’re doing if you’re even really good at note taking the ability to just simply go back through and review. Even if they don’t do it, it makes students feel more comfortable.

Lillian Nave  24:38

Yeah. Yeah. And the here’s the going back to like what we started with the design, if you design for your class, that every lecture will be recorded from the beginning and or every let’s say class period, whatever it is, whether it’s online or if it’s face to face, then you are designing for variability. So that let’s say a student is sick, they can’t make it, then you don’t have to, let’s say, repeat your lecture in your office hours or on Zoom for an hour, because they missed it. And they want to know what they missed, right? And they’re really conscientious students, but their car broke down, or they were sick, or, you know, some emergency, right? And thank goodness, we don’t have to ask our students either to that makes my life easier. If I am also not the arbiter of saying, Well, you get a pass, because your reason was better than this reason, I don’t even have to ask because I have this backup that they always have access to. And therefore I have less of a burden, first of all, timewise, to say, okay, these four people missed the lecture, they want to get the notes, they want to know what they missed, they’re a little confused. So I can schedule office hours at four different times to do exactly what I did the first time. And that’s a lot more time for me on the back end. Or it’s the I also don’t have the I think stress of saying, Well, you have to have a doctor’s note or this is an acceptable reason. But this is not an acceptable reason. And well, you had a cold, that’s not good enough. But if you had COVID, did you all of this decision tree that we used to think is we had to go through to get our students, you know, to kind of police them, and are they you know, being there or not, then I don’t have to do that. So that’s just like less stress for me. And I’ve also learned, though, because now I do that, where I record each, we meet weekly, and if a student misses it, I have them watch the recording, they have to answer kind of the interactive things that we did. So they’ll send me an email, I can kick it off, okay, you were part of this, you just did it a different time. But the reason we have a synchronous time is because it’s important, we have to meet together, I’ve started calling them our labs, because we have to discuss kind of our reactions to things. So we kind of do an experiment and and ask each other, like what your thoughts were like, You need to be a part of that in order to get the full experience. Otherwise, I could just do a lecture and put it on a, you know, on YouTube or whatever, all the time. But if we’re going to have a synchronous experience, then make it worthwhile. Like, if it could have just been a lecture, they could have read read a paragraph, why have a synchronous time? That there to me, there’s no point. So we have to know what those objectives are, like, why are we doing this thing? Why should something be synchronous? And then what can we leave to be very flexible about when students are actually to, you know, doing the reading or taking part in this and they can do it individually? And, and then only after year? I think I found Okay, well, some students were, oh, well, I can miss every class and then watch the video. And I thought, Whoa, now you’re missing out on the important part about, you know, being a part of that community. I said, Okay, well, I understand things come up. But you can do that two times, you know, out of the 14 that we meet, so if you know something comes up, and you need to watch it later. totally do that. But these are like, these are important. They’re important for us to meet synchronously. So there’s always a backup if something goes wrong, but you are expected to be a part of this community. Like synchronously, we’re doing things together. So that just took a lot of trial and error and figuring out why I’m doing something and having those options for students thinking about all the possibilities until I finally came up really with a policy about what’s going to work for my particular class. And it revolves around our learning management system, and being able to record on Zoom. Otherwise, we just couldn’t do it.

Tim Van Norman  28:51

Right. Well, and and to those points that you’ve made. There are some classes that are designed to be the big term right now is high flex, yes. Okay. Hybrid flexible. And so that is in person, online, synchronous and asynchronous and trying to have the student have equivalent experiences in all three areas. Yes, there’s ways of doing stuff like that, that are that are available now. So your learning management system, for instance, may have built into it a ability to record video, get it auto captions, so that you get to fix it, and then be able to create those into James those into quizzes. So for instance, I like to use the example of your your syllabus and higher ed, I don’t know why. Every faculty member and I’m going to over exaggerate, but only only for Some, some are actually worse than us. Every faculty member expects you, their student to read a 12 page document that then has attached to it the schedule of when we, I might be giving out my exams and assignments and all of that stuff. But eight of the pages is the same as somebody else except for five words, every third paragraph or you know, it’s just, it’s one of those things where if I’m taking five classes, I don’t want to read 200 pages of syllabus. I am not going to retain what it was for your class. Yeah. Okay. I’m going to skim at best. Right? So what I know a number of faculty are doing is they’re actually recording a video. They give them the written, but then they record a video and it goes through and at least does the highlights. Yeah. What you can do in some of these systems, and I’m thinking of things like Kaltura play posit is one of my favorites. Canvas studio has got one Panopto I believe, even Screencast O Matic which is one of my favorite systems for recording, and storing their great pricing. It’s a really cool tool. But these products have the ability to play the video, pause the video, ask a series of questions. Then have them play it more, pause the video, ask a series of questions and keep on doing that. In some cases, like play posit students can actually put comments into the video as well. And in fact, insert video. Yeah, so what does that mean? Now we’re talking about what was what term did I use over and over again? Engagement? Yeah, get the students to be engaged in your syllabus. Yeah. And frankly, did you want to read the syllabus?

Lillian Nave  32:04

No, I write the syllabus, but I had to well,

Tim Van Norman  32:07

there’s that and, and so what happens when you when you do a syllabus, you write one? Or you steal, you steal from a colleague who has stolen from a colleague who has stolen from a colleague, okay. Nobody, I don’t know who wrote the original syllabus, but everybody since then has done some sort of a copy of not everybody. We’ve got we’ve got some that have done beautiful syllabi. I love what they look like, but you get the point. If everybody’s is really similar, what good does that do? So doing your own video on the syllabus? Asking questions. Hey, when are my due dates? Yeah. Okay. Well, in in higher ed, faculty have this fascination with using a learning management system of having due dates be Sunday night at midnight. To me, that is the worst or second worst time it could be due. Okay. possibly worse is Saturday night at midnight. Yeah. Okay. Why do I say that? Because Are you as the faculty member is going to be up and able to answer those technical questions when something goes wrong, right at that time? And frankly, are you going to start grading right away after that?

Lillian Nave  33:29

Right. Are you going you might be up? But do you want to be answering these questions at 11:59pm? No, right. You don’t.

Tim Van Norman  33:36

Also, all the other faculty in higher education in your timezone are making it do at the same time?

Lillian Nave  33:45

Yeah, so it’s a big Yeah, it’s a it’s a big deadline for some of our students.

Tim Van Norman  33:50

Huge deadline. Everything’s due at the same time. What’s the difference between that and 10 o’clock in the morning, noon. Realistically, most faculty aren’t going to be grading until afternoon anyway, maybe at eight o’clock in the morning. But there, it’s going to be a little bit before they grade. So having the student get an extra eight hours, 10 hours, 12 hours to do their work. So much the better. For me. I actually answered the phones from students and faculty when they call and ask questions, and hey, I’m having a problem. Yeah, I guarantee I am not available at midday on Sunday night, right period, whether I’m awake or not, I am not answering that phone it. You know, first of all, it doesn’t ring for me, but I’m not going to be there. So what happens is now you get the better support at that time. So if you could make something do say at noon on Monday, everything flows from there and they get better support, things can happen. Now, that said, I’ve actually had students complain that they didn’t have enough time now logically, they had an extra 12 hours over what they expected. But what happens is those students who are trying to get it done at the last minute, now, they have to go to work at eight o’clock in the morning. And so they, they didn’t schedule their time over the weekend. They figured they’d have time on Monday. Yeah. So it still boils back down to time management for the students.

Lillian Nave  35:25

Yeah. And for the professors. Yeah, you have assessors, you have to know your students and know yourself. So if you’re not going to be grading it at midnight, then you could conceivably say, Well, I start grading, I will have every Tuesday at 10 o’clock, because I’ve got three hours that I do my grading. So as long as it’s due before then, then, you know, 10 in the morning, they have access to an A tech problem, Help Help Desk, that sort of thing. And so I again, it’s so much trial and error. And I found that I started doing like four o’clock deadlines for students, because I knew they could talk to somebody from the helpdesk if they had any issues in using a tool or the learning management system. And then I found that so many of my students had a full workday, or they had jobs kind of in that time period, that I ended up just because of my class, my first year students and where I was pushing that back after five o’clock, because so many of them had issues with, we would I would release something and then by two or three days later, when they had to do a small deadline, these are never huge deadlines for this. They just didn’t have enough time because they were in class all day or work schedule or something like that. But it took me a while just to figure out what was going to work, I’ve changed the days a bit and ended up making always to deadlines in a week, so that they know it’s consistent, it doesn’t change, they’re always gonna they can always plan for it, they know that it will be expected of them. And they’re so a big deadline is always broken up into two small lines, I get your first post up at this point. And then make sure you have done the extra work. You’re thinking about it. Here’s the second part of that assignment, and do it by this time. But it took me so long to figure out what worked in my context. And when I was going to be available because I did get a bunch on Sunday of oh, I’m not gonna make it i What can I do? I was like, I don’t want to be doing this on Sunday, because I was I was answering them all day Sunday. And I was like, This is not good for me. I need to change that. Right.

Tim Van Norman  37:34

And so, and going back to universal design, this is about that, too. It’s helping you it’s helping the student. It’s designing your course thinking through the logistics of your course. So that it’s best for them. Yeah, and best for you. And you know, there’s lots of arguments going on right now about due dates. Should you have them? Should you not have them? are soft due dates, hard due dates. Do you allow for late work? Do you never allow for late work? Do you only do it once do all of those different rules? Okay. I’m not going to weigh in on that topic. I just think there’s a huge topic that a lot of people are weighing in on. But that think about that for you. And by the way, your Monday, Wednesday class might have different results than your Tuesday Thursday class. Yeah. It might be everything’s due on Friday or Saturday or Sunday for for both of them. And it might not depending on what that class is. And that means it could change semester to semester. So be build a design in such a way that you can be flexible. Yes. And that will make you not go crazy.

Lillian Nave  38:57

Yeah, exactly. Yeah, that the design man we are really talking about specially towards engagement and design today. And I’ve just learned so much about how that design is so important for each each course. And each group each semester, you know, as we move have moved through the last several years, the factors that go into each class has changed have changed dramatically. So we I have had students who had spent their last two years in high school totally online, and then they come into a college setting. And that made for a very different class than two years prior when they had been regularly at school all day interacting face to face with their teachers and their peers. And so thinking about and building in choices, options, flexibility, and being able to be limber, I guess This is kind of the way I’m thinking about it in how we teach is so important for me to have that successful class and be responsive. And feedback is a huge part of learning and of Universal Design for Learning, as well. And that reflection about what has worked and what hasn’t worked in the past, because I am always changing and it because we get a different set of students, and all of those students are quite varied as they come through.

Tim Van Norman  40:30

Oh, absolutely, absolutely. And as we look at this, think about those tools that you can use that maybe in your classroom, maybe face to face, maybe asynchronous, whatever it is, but there’s some other really neat tools that you can use to engage your students. Okay. Okay, I’m here. I’m thinking, you’re, I’m thinking about things like Kahoot. Yeah. So one time, I had a faculty member, we set up some stuff for a class, and she’s like, I want to try it once. Let me just see how it goes. So I’m standing in the back of the classroom, the students kind of looked at me like, What are you doing? And I’m on my laptop, so I can see what’s going on. And so she turns on Kahoot. And they start asking questions. So Kahoot is where you ask a question. And then all the students use their own personal devices, their cell phone, their laptop, their iPad, whatever it is, they’ve logged into a website, and they answer the question by by literally hitting a button 1234 type of thing, or different colors, or whatever it is. Well, what happened was, all of a sudden, I’d hear Yeah, like, well, what’s up with that? Yeah. Well, as she would ask the question, the students would all of a sudden, all, at the same time, get the opportunity to answer question, the first person who answered it correctly got the highest score. And if you answered it correctly, you got a high score. If you answered it quickly, you got a higher score than somebody who answered it slower. And so throughout the whole thing you’d hear, yeah, got it. And I’m like, wait a minute, this is really cool. Because you’re hearing college students excited about taking a test. Yeah, literally is what was going on. All of a sudden, at the end, it said, you know, red chipmunk or something like that? One. Yeah. And this girl in the front stands up and said, That’s me. You know? Nobody knew who it was. She self identified. Yeah, that she had gotten it. Now. Do you think the next class students were paying attention in the hopes that they were going to do that again? Yeah, it’s absolutely I would have, yeah. Okay. Now, all of a sudden, you have engagement, and the fact that a student chose to self identify, at the end, that was amazing to me.

Lillian Nave  43:11

Yeah, they had a lot of fun. And, and I’ve done it, where you can even do a table group or a group of students. So they’re kind of talking about the answer. And then, and then it becomes more of a group discussion kind of project. And I love that it can be anonymous, like you don’t, you can have a pseudonym. And it’s free. And students are mostly I’ve seen, they’re very familiar with it, they’ve used it in high school or somebody before. But there’s so many like, I mean, Poll Everywhere, Mentimeter. Even using like, jam board, I’ve used that with Google, which is another free one where you can just put some answers on. On a shared document, you can do that online, you don’t even have to be in the classroom, you can. So all of these you can do, you know, not in the same room.

Tim Van Norman  43:59

A fascinating one, for me is Padlet. Padlet allows you to so for instance, say you’re teaching a bunch of students who are not from your region, especially online, this is really good. But it can also be, say ESL or something where students are physically from another area, have them introduce themselves with a pin on where they’re from, or pin on where they’d like to go visit or something like that. And Padlet gives you the map. Those types of things help engage your students. And that’s really what it’s about. And the beautiful part is, these things can as you can break it, but for the most part, these things are built in a way that it’s very accessible.

Lillian Nave  44:48

Yes. And it’s very participatory and anonymous, it can be like so so students are not that that person who is afraid Need to raise their hand emits 20 or 50 or 100 other people, when the professor says, what’s the answer to this question? Is it red or green? And then nobody wants to answer because they don’t want to be wrong, even if they think they’ve got it. And this way, everybody, it’s not just one where we wait until one person puts their hand up, or wait until somebody answers on the chat, let’s say, everybody can participate. And then we can see why. Well, 80% of us got it right. All right, I think we, we are understanding this concept. But let’s make sure you know, we get it before we move on. And then we might say, oh, only 10% of us really, you know, got got this answer. Maybe we need to spend some more time on it. It’s a great formative assessment tool where it’s super low stakes, like, you can actually try out your thinking, but you aren’t penalized for it, you actually get to learn from making mistake.

Tim Van Norman  45:59

And going back to your comment earlier, don’t use every one of these tools in the class. Right. So in in the podcasts that I do the higher ed tech podcast, we often. I mean, it’s about tech and higher ed. And so we’re constantly talking about technology. And part of that conversation is the fact that while you might have 20 different things that are interesting to you pick one, yeah, pick two, and by the way, build the ability to fail into your class. What do I mean by that? So I, I walked into a class one day, and I wanted to try something, I had arranged it with the instructor, not a problem. And he says, Okay, class, we’re going to be guinea pigs today. And we’re going to do this. Now, this was an ESL class. Okay. The concept of a guinea pig was already scary to them. Yeah. There was no look of fear in their eyes. They were okay. What do we do? Yeah, they were excited about it. He had built into the class, the ability to try things out. And that, hey, we’re gonna just see if this works. If it works, great. If it doesn’t work, fine. You’re not a big deal affected. Your grade won’t be affected. You know, it’s worth a try. We’re trying this out for the college, whatever it was that that it was. I loved that concept. Okay, I love seeing students not afraid to try something extra. That had nothing to do with their grade. But in the end, it really did help their learning.

Lillian Nave  47:41

Oh, yeah. Wow. Okay. I, that’s a whole other concept about grades versus learning. So.

Tim Van Norman  47:49

But in the end, it made them better. It made the class better. And it it worked, because now they had that ability. And so he had built in the concept of allowing technology to fail. Yeah. And great trying things out. And so, if you build that in to your class, then you’ll be okay. If you don’t build that into your class, they are going to expect you to be perfect.

Lillian Nave  48:20

Yeah. And guess what we are, which is dangerous?

Tim Van Norman  48:23

Well, but but think about it, do you expect your students to be perfect?

Lillian Nave  48:28

We shouldn’t we do we have to build in that risk and failure as okay. And that’s a pretty new concept. I think, with higher ed, because we do penalize students, if they don’t get it right the first time. Oh, well, your first test, you got to 60. But that’s going to figure into your final grade. But what if you did learn it by the second time? Now you’ve learned it, but just that one particular point in time, way back in September, you didn’t know it. And that is a big thing. You know, that’s going to turn put your grade down. And that has been the concept for so long. But it’s I think I see it slowly changing. Where we are expecting our students to risk to try to Taketa fail, as long as you’re learning from that failure, then that’s great. And that’s, I think that’s what we want. Wow, great. So when you’re, when we’re having, let’s say these engaging times, and we are thinking about the variability of our learners, and then we want to, after we’ve had some formative assessments, which are those low stakes things where we kind of find out what people are learning and how they’re learning it. Let’s say we do have some summative assessments where we do want to have a test or a paper or a deadline. We’ve talked a little bit about due dates earlier on in our conversation, but the question I want to ask on a further along than that is we talked about when would be a good time. due date, that’s good for us. It’s good for our students. But what about what do you think about deadlines? Whether it’s synchronous online, face to face, whatever. When you think about neurodiverse students, and I know there’s a lot of discussion about that. So I wanted to get your take on deadlines and student variability.

Tim Van Norman  50:26

That’s an interesting question. And I will admit, right off the top. I don’t know there is, I don’t think there is a single answer. Okay. So I have seen very successful people with deadlines. Like I mentioned before, having a deadline due at noon on Monday or something like that instead of Sunday night. Another thing I like is when I see I know, one faculty member, makes everything available on Friday. And then a week plus Monday later, so they’ve got two weekends to work on everything. Oh, great. Yeah. Okay. So technically, that means that the student could work every other weekend on the class. Yeah. And avoid every other weekend for the whole class. Yeah. But that builds in that extra time, that extra ability, the flexibility, hey, what do you mean, you didn’t have time this weekend, you got a weekend after it or before it, that you could have that you could do it. So it builds in some of that extra so that students can be successful. The thing that I’m most concerned with, though, is the lack of accountability, some students find, okay, okay. And so, myself, I’ve taken some online courses that have that aren’t real clear on when something is due. Okay. That’s really hard for me, because I have a life. And I’m trying to take this course and learn something, but and I’ve taken on other courses who this is a three week course, week one, you have to do this, if you’re not done with that. Week two is not going to make any sense. And while you won’t get a certificate at the end, but you know, here’s what your participation is. I actually got those done. Yeah. And I had them done on time, because somebody gave me a deadline. And because of that deadline, yes, I was one of the first people done with the whole course. Well, wow, wait a minute. Compare that to taking a course that is that stretches on and on. And honestly, I’ve there’s a number of courses I’ve taken, I’d have never finished. Because I don’t have any sense of finishing. Why what is it that I that is finished for this step? Yeah. So myself, I see a unimportance of having deadlines. Yeah, I also look at the world that we move into once you get out of education. And even even in education as an educator, you have deadlines. But, um, I have deadlines. I have presentations that I have to do. And I can’t just say, oh, you know, I’ll, I’ll show up for that in three weeks.

Lillian Nave  53:38

Right? Yeah. Yeah, this is a life skill to meet deadlines. It is yes.

Tim Van Norman  53:44

So it’s important. The question is, how, how does that work for each individual student? There are some students who they can’t handle a deadline. I hope that we can figure out a way to help them get through that. There are other students who need that deadline in order to accomplish. So it’s a really good question. I know I have not answered in any way that question you.

Lillian Nave  54:16

You actually you have you’ve brought up the conversation around it is first of all learners are variable, that we’re going to have lots of different students, some students are going to need that deadline and it needs to be firm, and other students are are less likely to need it. And it might work better for them to have these more optional deadlines or they can do it kind of within their own pace, like the every other weekend kind of thing. But I think it’s again up to us as instructors to determine Well, what why is this deadline needed at this point, if we need to get this concept down before we move to the next, then there’s like we have to we have to finish by week one or by week separate? That’s the deadline because The rest will not work. But let’s say you have four papers, you have to write, and they have to be done, and they don’t build on each other, then that is, you know, the opportunity for a flexible deadline. But if our students are going to put it off to the end, they’re digging themselves a hole, and we’re digging ourselves a hole as instructors to grade 58 papers on the last day, then, yeah, having a preferred path or having us, you know, suggestions, or you need to have half of them done by this time, doesn’t matter which two out of four, and you have to have, you know, the third one done by this time doesn’t matter which one, you know, so I guess, figuring out when that flexibility is appropriate, and then providing options for our students that need it, like, if you need me to give you deadlines here, then have it in on the first to the fourth and the seventh in the 12th. Right. But you have some flexibility, I guess. So it’s again, that feedback and figuring out what works in your context, and why we would have a deadline? Is it because of grading? Is it because I want my students to be able to actually talk to each other in a conversation, within the same week that we presented the material. So if you’re doing all of your discussion boards on week 12, and you’ve missed week one through 10, that’s not working? That’s not, that’s not gonna work.

Tim Van Norman  56:25

And that’s exactly what comes up is. There are certain certain assignments, there’s certain things that maybe will work better with a flexible deadline, and others that just will not. Yeah, and keeping that in mind. So And likely, you’re not going to be able to have a single assignment be both flexible and inflexible, you know, some for one student, some for others. Without then creating inequity.

Lillian Nave  57:00


Tim Van Norman  57:01

I see what you mean. And so it’s, it is something where you’ve got to think about what your purpose is, it goes back to Design, you’re designing your class, what is the reason for the class? Why, why are the students actually taking your class? Yeah. Okay. Are they taking your class to learn how to write better? Are they taking your class to learn how to organize? Are they taking your class to learn to XYZ? How do you get? How do you accomplish that? And it’s part of why I’ve heard I’ve said it a couple of times, or alluded to it. Anyway, I liked the concept of backward design, figure out what you want to wind up with, and then build, you know, how can I get there? Bye. Okay, this is what it’ll take to get to that final step. And this is what it’ll take to get that step, et cetera. A lot of times that can work very well, that is not the only concept that I like, by the way. It’s just it’s one of those.

Lillian Nave  57:58

Yeah. So that’s great. So we have talked so much about engagement, making courses engaging for students. So my really my last question is, sort of hinted at it earlier today. But do you have any advice for making the course even more engaging for instructors? Certainly, when we’re engaging our students, I’m more engaged. But any advice about making it more engaging for us?

Tim Van Norman  58:29

I’m getting the students to give you information about them, rather than regurgitating information that you’ve seen 20 times. Yeah. Okay. What do I mean by that? So in a business class, having them look at something different. Everybody likes to write a story about Elon Musk and how successful he has been with Tesla and stuff like that. So maybe you instead create a reverse of that. Okay, what has Elan done that was not successful a Tesla and have a group, one group of students right about that? Yeah. Okay. What has not been successful? What could be improved in another area? That and groups your students doing things that are kind of the reverse of what you’re used to? Because they can find papers all day long? About? About success? Yeah. What about not success? Or how do you get them to think about something? Given this situation? How could you improve the situation? What are the tools that you might use and engage English students in other ways, what do your parents do for a living? And, you know, how does that affect you what? You know, what do you want to do? Anything that’s going to get them to personalize or them to think in a different way? Yeah, is really, really useful.

Lillian Nave  1:00:19

Yeah, some sort of authentic connection to make. And I must say, I don’t want to read the same things. I don’t want to see the same examples over and over again. So whenever I can give my students choice, right about whether they do an NSO A, or take these concepts and make them their own. Ooh, that’s a lot more fun for me. Right? And then reading the same, or watching the same PowerPoint or presentation, right.

Tim Van Norman  1:00:53

Right. Oh, absolutely. And, and that’s really the thing, how do you engage your students in something different than what you’ve seen over and over again? I love I love the whole, what did you do this summer? What did you do over winter break? Those four introduction, articles or introduction writing? gives you a sense for how that student writes and stuff like that. That’s a great way to get things started. But you’re also going to see the same thing over and over again. Can you ask them a different question that’s going to that is going to be more personal to them? Yeah. Can you ask them a question? Can you give them research to do that is different than other people?

Lillian Nave  1:01:46

Yeah. Yeah. And just thinking about, again, backwards design, what is it that we want to get out of it? And how many flexible ways can we get to that end point. And you’ve let me just tell you, our resources section for this episode is going to be very large, because you have rattled off so many different ways we can do that so many engaging ways. So I’ll have them all on our episode, web page, for our listeners to to figure out what one or two tools might work for them. And it’s given me a lot to think about to about design and engagement and thinking about how to make it make my class more exciting, even for me, not just for my students. So thank you so much, Tim, I really appreciated your time and, and I’ll have a link to your podcast too. So folks can listen to a lot of ideas about edtech at the higher ed tech podcast as well. Thank you. 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. Thank you again to our sponsor, Texthelp Texthelp is focused on helping all people learn, understand and communicate through the use of digital education and accessibility tools. Texthelp and its people are working towards a world where difference, disability or language are no longer barriers to learning and succeeding, with over 50 million users worldwide. The Texthelp suite of products include Read and Write equates to an orbit note, which work alongside existing platforms such as Microsoft Office and G Suite, enabling them to be integrated quickly into any classroom or workspace with ease. Texthelp has changed the lives of millions worldwide, and strives to impact the literacy and understanding of 1 billion people by 2030. Additional support for the podcast is made possible by Appalachian State University where if you call it Appalachian, I’ll throw in Appalachia. The music on the podcast was performed by the Oddyssey quartet comprised of Rex Shepherd, David Pate, Bill Folwell and Jose Cochez, and I am your host, Lillian Nave. Thank you for joining us on The Think UDL podcast

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