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Make My Teaching Life Easier With Travis Thurston

Welcome to Episode 48 of the ThinkUDL podcast: Make My Teaching Life Easier With Travis Thurston. Dr. Travis Thurston is the Assistant Director of the Office of Empowering Teaching Excellence at Utah State University in Logan, Utah. This episode details the four groups of people that all instructors should work with to make their lives easier and their teaching more effective. There are many colleagues at universities who are ready, willing and able to help new and seasoned instructors to find, curate and develop resources, design and facilitate engaging courses, interpret student behavior and feedback, and create effective presentations of content, and Travis is here to tell us who they are and what they can do for you!


Find Travis Thurston on Twitter @Travesty328

Travis has graciously provided his Google Slide presentation and his recorded webinar of Leveraging Instructional Services to Optimize Remote Teaching from Utah State University’s The Remote Teaching & Learning Analytics Web Series. Take a look at the slide presentation or recording to see even more Twitter academics to follow!

Lillian and Travis reference the Community of Inquiry Framework which includes social presence, teaching presence and cognitive presence.

Travis mentions the great work on inclusivity that Dr. Viji Sathy and Dr. Kelly Hogan are currently doing. Here is their article 8 Ways to Be More Inclusive in Your Zoom Teaching from The Chronicle of Higher Education. Follow them on Twitter (@VijiSathy and @DrMrsKellyHogan)

Shannon Riggs and Katie Linder’s IDEA Paper 64: Actively Engaging Students in Asynchronous Online Classes gave Travis the nomenclature of the “architecture of engagement” which has informed his work and this presentation.

OER= Open Educational Resources are freely accessible texts, media, and resources that are available for instructors and students to use in their courses.

Canvas Commons is a great repository of online course materials for Canvas

Topr: Teaching Online Pedagogical Repository

Lilly Conferences are fantastic Teaching and Learning Conferences and the Scholarly Teacher Blog has helpful advice for all instructors!

CollegeSTAR has excellent resources and instructional aides for UDL in your classes

Travis mentions Ryan Seilhamer (@rseilham on Twitter) when referencing learning analytics professionals

Travis mention’s Josh Eyler’s How Humans Learn as a great resource for teaching in any mode

Utah State University uses Rice’s course workload estimator and it may be helpful to understand how long your assignments take to complete with links to Wake Forest’s enhanced course load estimator

99 Tips for Creating Simple and Sustainable Educational Videos by Karen Costa. Karen appeared on Think UDL’s Episode 44: Your Humanity is an Asset: Instructional Videos and Trauma-Aware Pedagogy with Karen Costa 

Michelle Pacansky-Brock’s (@Brocansky) Whole-Student Learning episode goes further into the humanizing factors of online courses

Travis recommends Ryan Seilhamer at the University of Central Florida as a great online resource as well!
Listen to Lillian’s conversation with Tom Tobin to learn more about “Plus 1” (+1) thinking with UDL!


This is an auto-generated transcript. It may be slightly inaccurate. A corrected version 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 48 of the think UDL podcast make my teaching life easier with Travis Thurston. Dr. Travis Thurston is the Assistant Director of the Office of empowering teaching excellence at Utah State University in Logan, Utah. In this episode, Travis details the four groups of people that instructors could and should work with, to make our lives easier, and our teaching more effective. There are many colleagues at universities who are ready, willing and able to help new and seasoned instructors to find, curate and develop resources, design and facilitate engaging courses, interpret student behavior and feedback and create effective presentations of content. And Travis is here to tell us who they are and what they can do for us. So thank you, Travis Thurston, for being here with me today on the think UDL podcast. 

Travis Thurston  01:41 

Thank you so much. I’m happy to be here. 

Lillian Nave  01:43 

So I’m going to start in with our first question I usually ask all my guests and that is Travis, what makes you a different kind of learner? 

Travis Thurston  01:53 

I love this question so much. For me, it really goes back to kind of my own educational journey, right? Yeah. So when I was an undergrad, I was I was working, and and, you know, making my way through school. And to be able to do that some of the things I had to do was take these independent study classes, right. And which, which was fantastic for me, because it gave me the, the opportunity to continue working. For example, at one point, I was working at a residential treatment center for for at risk teens. And so I would go in early, and I would work on my homework for my independent study classes beforehand. And then actually, my job was working as a counselor and as the, their academic tutor in their first school for them. Anyway, so I finished my, my bachelor’s degree in history teaching, and PE and coaching. And then I taught for three years in high school. And then, and then ended up going back to school. And I, I ended up going into a fully online master’s program. Okay. And which was a fantastic opportunity for me, at Boise State. And what I found in Boise State in those online classes, was just how much different a well designed online class can be. Not only for learning, but also for for interacting with other students and interacting with the instructor. Right, that that’s obviously lacking in independent study classes. It’s kind of read the chapter take the quiz type thing. Right, right, 

Lillian Nave  03:51 


Travis Thurston  03:54 

And so I did my master’s degree in, in educational technology, with a grad certificate in online teaching. And that actually led me into the world of instructional design. So So after that, I ended up getting hired as instructional designer. And so for me, those experiences, looking at independent study, looking at online learning, have really framed and changed the way that that I think about education. So for me, I’ll say two, I’ve never been one, that that’s a really good test taker, okay. I always look for the options for a project or a video or some other way to demonstrate my learning. And that has always helped me as a learner to succeed is when I get those opportunities to demonstrate learning in maybe a untraditional way. 

Lillian Nave  04:55 

Yeah, well, and when you were talking about taking your own thing, Dependent study courses, those seem to be all application based or they were about like what you were doing in real life. So not the abstract concept, but or at least if they were you were applying them. So it was like useful information that you were taking in or, you know, it had, it had real meaning it had real application, it wasn’t just filling in bubbles and, and that sort of thing. 

Travis Thurston  05:26 

Oh, absolutely. In fact, my very last class that I took to finish off my bachelor’s degree, I had actually been hired to teach high school before I had finished my last class. And so I was taking this independent study class on on world civilization. And basically staying a chapter ahead in that independent study class as I was teaching. My students 

Lillian Nave  05:51 

Yes, exactly. All you need is a day ahead, right? 


Yeah, that’s true. 

Lillian Nave  05:58 

So so that was all really helpful and, and kind of shaping how you are helping your professors at Utah State University right now. And I must say, I followed you for a little while, because we met and we think 2016 at a conference, and we happen to show up at the same table, and you spent so much time to my like, wide eyed questions, I often do this. You were talking about digital badging that point. And yeah, and I was I hadn’t heard of this, you know, this was new news to me. And so I, you spent a long time telling you about it. And I went back to my university and started talking to our instructional designers, like, Oh, yeah, we know what that is. and Travis explained this whole thing about how you get it done, and, and, and then this recently, it’s brought you to something I caught, I think on Twitter, you had posted about it, and I thought, Oh, this is something we need to get out there. And that is about the people you should collaborate with to optimize your remote teaching. And you’ve got four groups of people. And so that’s what I really wanted to talk about today, because you’ve got a lot of people and a lot of resources that I think we need to get out there to folks who are rapidly moving to remote or finding themselves longer and remote than they thought they might be. And, and we might be, you know, it’s just a new world. So we can’t do it by ourselves. So you have a great list of people and suggestions that that is, I think, going to be really helpful for anyone who’s doing this. So can you give me just a little bit of background as to kind of how this came about, you’ve got four professionals you should collaborate with, to optimize your remote learning, and how did you come into creating this? 

Travis Thurston  07:52 

Yeah. So it really begins with the way that we frame what we do. In our center, you test a and we use, we use what I call an architecture of engagement. And I really originally came in contact with that term from a paper from Shannon Riggs and Katie Linder, talking about an architecture of engagement in our online classes. Right, so So really, it’s this idea of creating a support structure, creating the structure, and then inhabiting that structure and engaging within it. And so for us, with our center with we’ve moved that from just thinking about an online class to actually thinking about that in the way that we do a faculty development and educational development. So we’ve created all sorts of structures, from workshops, to seminars to conference to, you know, learning circles, you know, all the all the things that we do. And then as we inhabit those structures, we have been very intentional about the people that we invite in to those structures. So not just our, you know, not just tenure track, folks, but also our adjuncts and our graduate students who are teaching classes. And then that also shifts to also thinking about these these four groups of professionals that are on our campus that also really care about student learning, and making sure that they have a space within that structure. 

Lillian Nave  09:23 

Yeah, you know, you bring up the not just not not just tenure track, right? We have so many folks who are absolutely essential to our, to our teaching and to the university’s success, and to our student learning. And the first group that I look for, because I’m one of them, are these non tenure track folks. And I hate that we’re defined by what we aren’t the non tenure track, so I’m pushing for a new term. You’ve probably heard of it, but I think it came out of actually mass and they’re calling them vital faculty and vital signs. stands for visiting. So each each letter has an A and it’s an acronym, visiting anyone with instructor in their title, temporary adjuncts. And lecturers, vi ta l, am I? Oh, yeah. Well, they are they’re so vital to the learning. And you know, in the old or traditional structures, were thinking tenure track, what’s your research? What’s your long term career goals, but so much of our university now, are these vital faculty. And we have so many other services and support people in our university that are part of that student learning experience. And if you are just kind of thrown in and you’re teaching, you don’t recognize or know all of these people who can help you. So that’s why I wanted to clue into this and get your recommendations about who should we know about who should we be working with, in order to have a successful learning experience. And I will add to that, when I was looking at your presentation, you couch it in that community of inquiry framework, which is so important. So having the social presence, the teaching presence, and the cognitive presence, so that facilitation is super important. So I’d love to find out. Okay, So who are these professionals that we need to be getting to know as we’re teaching remotely or online teaching? 

Travis Thurston  11:24 

Yeah. So first on my list is our librarians. We have, we have so many different librarians on our campus that that not only have different expertise areas, but also have different content expertise, right. And so one of the areas that that has been really important to me and to our instructors is thinking about open educational resources, and how Oh, er, can help us play a role, not only in, in getting students access to content, but also thinking about how students can be contributors to that content. Right. And so that’s one of the things that I’ve really learned from several of the libraries that I’ve worked with is there are so many different ways that we can use OCR, right? From from finding a resource that we can immediately adopt into our class, to finding something that we can adapt, or remix, to fit for the context of our course, to even creating something of our own and giving our students that opportunity to be the creators as well. 

Lillian Nave  12:42 

That’s that goes along with your answer about how you are as a learner, what makes you different is you wanted to create something, if you could make a video or you could do something that wasn’t a test. That’s what you wanted to do. So contracting with or working with other folks who’ve got, wow, they could edit a Wikipedia article, right? Or they could use a different way of, you know, creating something. Our librarians are incredibly underused resources, I think. And they’re just brilliant and helpful, and they are hired there to help us. We have to for our first year seminar, we have library modules. You know, information literacy is, of course, one of the most important things our students are learning. How do you tell if a source is good or fake? I wonder how relevant that is right now. It’s our librarians who can, gosh, they’ve got so much experience and can help us to design assignments. I’ve had librarians help me to figure out how I’ve got this kind of new idea I want to try out and they’ve helped 40 other professors who said, Well, you know, this has worked, this hasn’t worked. How about you try this? And I think, oh, gosh, thank you for doing the heavy lifting and for helping me think through something. Librarians are just fantastic resources. And I’ve interviewed a few librarians to on on the podcast before I’ll put a link to that in our resources about how much they can help in and helping students to, you know, do as you’re talking about maybe assessments in a different way. They also help represent information in multiple means. So finding articles, books, webpages, videos, oh my goodness, if I have an idea or or something I want to present on, I can talk to my librarian, and they can say, Oh, well, here’s this, this, this and this, and I haven’t had to, you know, do all of that searching they because they they know how to do it so much better than I do. 

Travis Thurston  14:49 

Exactly. I and I think that’s that’s part of it too, right? Like they have a very specific expertise that that I might not have as an instructor and so Being able to rely on their skills, and work collaboratively, can really help our students, that that even goes to simple things like having these small library guides, like helping the students understand how to access some of these ebooks or other digital content through the library. Not not just letting them know that they’re there, but actually helping them understand that the easiest way to access 

Lillian Nave  15:28 

Yeah, you know, we can have our librarians as a co teacher, or, you know, anon, I don’t know, it’s sort of, they’re not making the content, but they’re, you know, part of the online course, or they’re in our Moodle course, and can answer questions, and I’ve got a library guide for my different areas that I’m teaching. And they’ve really been fantastic about finding resources that were, I think, at the right level to for my students, and showing them how to use it. And they know so much more about that research process than I do. And I must say, you know, when I was doing a entry level research, he kind of thing it was a long time ago, and I had card catalogs, right. And so, my research has changed, and in the many years since, but they’re right at the forefront, and they can help us and help our students and in saying, hey, just, we can do a consult, they have, you know, open office hours, and all these different things where I can say, hey, talk to my colleague, this librarian is going to know, you know, a whole lot better about how you can find that one source that you can’t seem to put your fingers on. And that’s going to help me out a lot to true one, one example of 

Travis Thurston  16:52 

I guess how Oh, er, helped me rethink my own class to was not thinking that I had to provide all of the content for my course. Right. I taught a, an online class A couple years ago, and we, it was fully online. And so our interaction space was the discussion forums. And for the midterm, the midterm discussion, rather than me sharing additional content, or, you know, having the students engage in discourse surrounding that content, we actually turned it around, right. And so I said, this is the topic this week, I want you to go out and find a blog, find a podcast, find an article, something that really speaks to you about this topic, and bring it back to our class and share that with us in the discussion forum. And, and by far, that was the most engagement that I had in the discussions all semester, the students absolutely loved going and finding that content, how it related to our course, and coming back and sharing that with their peers. 

Lillian Nave  17:58 

Oh, that’s okay, super brilliant, I will be stealing that as well. Nice. The thing that Oh, er, to the barrier that it takes down for me is also cost. There are so many times when students have four or $500 worth of books, and maybe they have financial aid at helps to pay for tuition, but then books are on top of that. And anyway it can be it can be a choice between getting the book and buying food sometimes. So I’m trying to make all of my courses zero dollars, that they’ll have to, to have to pay. So as you know, that is about equity that’s about inclusion, that’s about accessibility, you know, in order for a book to be accessible it they have to be able to procure it, so is it you know, we’ve got a rental program so I can get some, you know, one book for free. But using those er open educational resources is a huge knockdown of a barrier for our students and like you were saying, in your undergrad, you were working full time, right? Or you’re working and paying your way. And that is much more the students we have now rather than the students who are blissfully, you know, unencumbered by life, for the real world outside, that their real world and real life is all part of their everyday academic, academic life. So if we can make that, you know, one less barrier, one less hurdle to get over that they can have easy access to digital information to low cost or no cost. books or information that you want them to have then 

Travis Thurston  19:46 

then I think we’re we’re doing our UDL best when we do that. Oh, absolutely. I think that’s a fantastic point that that it is about access as well. Right like I like you mentioned There no way that I’m needing to purchase these books? And if if we as instructors can find those, whether it’s an OCR, or you know, we have a host of ebooks available through the library as well, then 

Lillian Nave  20:17 

your librarian would know which ones and how about them. Exactly. Yeah, 

Travis Thurston  20:21 

exactly. So this this same class that I taught, I ended up switching one of our texts from a traditional, you know, go buy this at the bookstore or online to an E book that the students were accessing through the library. And it does make a difference for students. 

Lillian Nave  20:38 

Yeah. And when you have an ebook, too, you can use some of the tools that instructional designers have taught me about, which are things like hypothesis, where they can annotate, you can upload a ebook or a PDF or something. And as students are working together on that digital resource, so you know, even more chances for engagement for our students. And I love your idea of crowdsourcing. So we forget that we don’t have to provide everything like. In fact, it’s going to be pretty boring and pretty bad. If all my students are seeing videos of me, you know, there we go. It’s like the Bueller Bueller. It’s the same voice and everything. And I find, too, that it’s important for my students to get many different perspectives. And so I want them to be hearing from people who aren’t me. And they need to be getting interpretations from people who aren’t me, and how other people see the world. So I love TED talks and, and resources from around the world. But that happens to be you know, my subject areas, intercultural communication and things like that. And I’ve needed my librarians to to help me find some things. And I know that if you say, Look, I’ve got this like one source that’s like, super expensive, and they’re like, Well, here’s, you know, ABC and D, here’s some choices that you could use that our library actually has an E copy of, or, you know, etc. So what an incredible resource, my librarians and every college, I hope I’m not lying here, pretty sure every college and university has librarians to say, 

Travis Thurston  22:24 

I would have to think so. I would have to think so. 

Lillian Nave  22:28 

Yeah. And they’re there to help us, they are there to help. But they’re not there to just like, tell people to put the books back, you know, they’re there to help us to be better teachers. So I love it. Okay, did we cover everything that I wanted to say about libraries? I think 

Travis Thurston  22:45 

we did. Okay. That’s our first group. So my my second group on the list, that we should be collaborating with our instructional designers. And so I have some of my own experience in that in that realm. And I’ve had the chance to collaborate with so many different colleagues, who are instructional designers. So some of the things that I have learned as an instructor from my instructional designer colleagues is first. There are so many resources, this kind of ties back to OCR, but there’s so many resources where we can adapt content, there are things existing, that we don’t need to recreate the wheel. Right. So for us, for our institution, we’re on canvas. And Canvas Commons is one of those resources. Okay, right. So you can go into Canvas Commons, you can search for full courses that other instructors have uploaded, you can look for assignments, or quizzes, or other things like that, that you can actually pull down directly into your Canvas course, and either adopted as it is or adapted to your class or maybe even combine it with something else that you’re already doing. So I love Canvas comments for that. Another fantastic resource out of the University of Central Florida is topper the teaching online pedagogical repository. And in there, they have these peer reviewed assignments, activities, structures, approaches to classes, that you can go in and same idea you look at that activity. For example, they have interaction activities, so thinking about discussions and getting students working together. And and you can you can pull that into your into your own course. I actually like to frame this with my, with the instructors that I work with here, based on an old documentary from maybe like 10 years ago or so called everything is a remix. Okay. And in that documentary, the creator He talks about these, these three, these three foundational aspects of creativity, and copy, transform, and combine. And I love that because so much of what we do, really is thinking about things as a remix, right? So if if we’re looking at the literature, and we’re looking at evidence based practices, we may be able to adopt some of those exactly into our class as we see them, but we also might have to adapt them for the context of our own content, or even who our learners are in that class. Right. So we might have to kind of adapt that or change it. And, and of course, we could always combine it with something else that we’re already doing to to, you know, maybe add another option for our learners, you know, whether it’s, I got to work with a fantastic instructor named Dr. Courtney Stewart. And he actually devised, designed his whole course, that each week students could choose whether to to access the video, an audio recording, a reading, etc, etc. Right? Yeah. So that’s really hard to do. Unless you’re collaborating and using some of this existing content. 

Lillian Nave  26:23 

Yeah. So you are talking about making our lives easier. That’s what I was super Yes, about, right. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel, our librarians can help us to find the sources that we can give to our students that we need. And we don’t have to reinvent the course, we can go to places like topper at UCF. And, and the Canvas Commons. And I’ve learned so much at academic conferences, like teaching and learning conferences, like the Lilly conferences, and, and then also college star that helps to produce this podcast. So we’ve got lots of instructional materials there, we’ll put links to all of these in, in our resources for today. Because it doesn’t have to be hard, like rigor, it doesn’t have to be so stressful, and you’ve got to create everything. We can adapt and adopt and, and transform. And that is such a weight off of our shoulders to as many people are shifting totally online, and they think I’ve got to do everything I hear from many colleagues, this is twice the amount of work, it is, it’s a lot of work, a lot of work. It’s a lot of work. So you, that’s why I wanted to talk to you, because you give us the ways that we’re not copying out of doing our work, but we were actually making it better for our students and easier on ourselves. If we can give them more content, it’s tried and true, it’s been used before, then that’s really helpful. For our students, we don’t have to fail as many times we’re trying things, but being able to use something that somebody else has, has tried before. So I love these resources, we’re gonna make sure we have all of these in the resource page for our episode. So people can say, Hey, you know, I’d like to, you know, I’d like to have some interactive portion of this class, and let me see what topper has or what somebody else has used. This is really great for multiple means. 

Travis Thurston  28:31 

It’s, it’s so true. And, and from, you know, going back to the instructional designers, in my, in my own work as an instructional designer, if I would have someone come to me and say, Hey, I’m trying this discussion, it doesn’t seem to be working, the students aren’t engaging, we can sit down and say, Well, you know, I was working with, you know, one of your colleagues in another department, and they were trained this and it seemed to work well. So maybe we can adapt that to fit your class and fit with your students. Or, you know, I saw this great resource on topper last week, and and maybe that will help with with your particular class. Those instructional designers are familiar with these practices. And they’re seeing it in real time as they help other other instructors. And so I, I really want to emphasize that, that instructional designers can help us come up with these ideas with without feeling like we have to completely recreate or create something on our own. 

Lillian Nave  29:34 

Yeah. And I must say that that was another term I didn’t know much about, you know, as a teacher for maybe 20 years. I didn’t know there was a thing called an instructional designer, you just kind of go out there and you’re teaching. Right and you just teach until until you do, do you get Did you anymore, I don’t know. And then it wasn’t until, you know, of Boy, you know, 15 years into it that I had a position Where I had the chance to, you know, work with our Center for Teaching and Learning and find out that we have instructional designers and that they are there to help us. And it’s, it’s, this might be new for some people, they might not know that there is the these are on most campuses. And then there’s also if you don’t have one on your campus, you were probably going to be getting one. And there are also, you know, ways we can reach out on Twitter and, and follow others. So there’s, if your campuses to smaller doesn’t have a Center for Teaching, sometimes we don’t have like a center, there’s my knee to branch out. And we can provide some resources to about folks to follow and then what to be thinking about because, again, you don’t have to reinvent or create everything. There’s people that are here to help and make it better. 

Travis Thurston  30:52 

Absolutely. I think that’s a great point to end on, on that. Okay, great. 

Lillian Nave  30:58 

Yeah, get to know your librarian and get to know some instructional designers, they make your life better. Okay. Now, there’s a third type of professional you want us to know if we are remote teaching? And who is that 

Travis Thurston  31:12 

to the our third group are these learning analytic professionals, sometimes affectionately known as data Wranglers. And I’ve, I’ve had the opportunity to get to know several here at our own institution, as colleagues. But I, I didn’t know this was a thing until just a couple years ago, right. And so one of the things that we have done, that has been so beneficial to me and just many of our instructors, is collaborating with our learning analytics professionals who can give us insights into what they’re seeing in teaching, not only from a course level, but also from an institution level. And across the Academy. One, one particular endeavor that we took on was looking at how using a specific design tool that we use on our campus. It’s from it’s it’s a third party tool that we’ve added into Canvas. And we wanted to see if the instructors who were adopting that tool in their class, how that improved the organization, not only of the content, but how that impacted student learning in their courses. And so we looked at it from a perspective of persistence. Okay, right. So wait. So we compared the courses who had adopted that tool, versus those who hadn’t. And we found that the individuals who had adopted the tool and had gone through this intentional process of putting a structure in place in their class, they actually saw a left of 3% persistence in our courses is actually like 2.99%, which was significant across all of our courses at the university. Right. But the insight we weren’t expecting from that, which our date our learning analytics folks showed us was that that was even more significant for our first generation students. 

Lillian Nave  33:35 


Travis Thurston  33:36 

the courses who had employed this tool, and provided better organization easier to navigate easier to access content, it was more beneficial for our first generation students, individuals that, you know, maybe weren’t aren’t familiar with, with engaging online or you know, things like that. So we saw an increase with with all our students, but it was even more impactful for those first gen. 

Lillian Nave  34:04 

Wow. So that’s, that’s really an equity issue, you know, making things accessible and making it equitable to because maybe, I’m not sure maybe this is hinting in at that hidden curriculum. Like sometimes we don’t realize that there are these hidden things about if you’re going to be late, you need to tell your professor ahead of time, and some people don’t know you aren’t allowed, or that you could actually talk to someone ahead of a deadline, right or, but that’s not spelled out or that if you’re not showing up for these particular benchmarks, then that’s signaling something else. So a lot of times we have things as instructors in our heads that have been culturally placed there, because we’ve been in academia and we expect these things, but we don’t tell our students so we don’t, you know, we don’t say it and, and then students just don’t know it could be something as easy as how to address an email and so professors will get bent out of shape and others will, oh, doesn’t matter, you know, you can talk to me or text me and you know, some sort of group me chat. And, uh, and there’s no problem. But our students don’t know that. And so being able to really understand them get that data. One of the data points that has changed the way I’m teaching is the amount of students who access courses at our university from a mobile device. So that means all of my Moodle, and you know, all of my digital stuff has to be mobile friendly. And that’s what made me make a liquid syllabus, Allah Michel pukin, ski, Brock and made me think about how my course would look on a mobile device, rather than how it looks on my laptop, because less than half of my students are going to be looking at it, you know, and making that interface easy and adding more tools that could be more mobile friendly, or tools that have an app that they could put on their phone, right. So there’s multiple ways I’ve had several students who’ve zoomed while driving, you know, I’ve heard of a lot of 

Travis Thurston  36:22 

just over one. Do you know, have you been in contact with Ryan steel hammer at University of Central Florida, he has fantastic content about designing for mobile. And and this is exactly what you’re talking about. If we know that our students are accessing our courses, through mobile devices, we should probably be designing them for access through mobile devices. Right. 

Lillian Nave  36:49 


Travis Thurston  36:50 

And actually, it it sometimes it’s kind of that chicken and an egg thing. Like, I know, there’s a study, I saw a Northwestern college in the northwest, that looked at their courses and found that it’s something it was, I want to say it was something like 75% of the students were accessing the courses through these different devices. However, you know, they hadn’t been putting resources into designing the courses that way. So and so when we know some of these data points that really can influence the way that we that we can be more intentional in the way that we’re designing for to be student centered. 

Lillian Nave  37:28 

Yeah. That’s another conversation I had with Kevin Kelly, who did a whole course of how to learn on your mobile device, right. And again, that’s another equity issue. Some students are doing their entire college program on their phone, or, you know, using computer labs, they don’t have their own portable laptop, or it’s Wi Fi is not so great or unavailable at their home or wherever they are, or they’re at their jobs. And you can’t pull out a laptop if you’re, you know, trying to sneak something or you have the chance to, to work on something. Yeah, having that. It’s really, really helpful. So, you know, getting to know our learners, I suspect that those data Wranglers are telling me and telling us about feedback in a whole nother way. And feedback is such an important persistence principle for universal design for learning. Students need to know how they’re doing. They want to have frequent feedback and feedback that is more based on effort and persistence rather than like competition, or I just find that is so important in an online course. Because we get a lot of feedback, even just being in the same room with somebody, you know, head nods, you get a lot of Oh, what is the Raise your hand if you think this and you can see how everybody else is thinking and feeling. And if you’re on the right track. And in that online environment. It’s harder. 

Travis Thurston  39:05 

It’s different. It’s very different. 

Lillian Nave  39:07 

That’s true. Yeah. So any way that we can get feedback is really helpful. 

Travis Thurston  39:12 

One, one thing that also was helpful for me to consider my colleague, Dr. Mitchell Colver here at USU, he he did a he did a student focus group at the end of spring semester, right after we had done our switch to remote to get feedback from students on what they were seeing and and their own perceptions. And one of the insights that he was able to take away from students was that they felt like their their instructors were throwing more content at them to try to make up perhaps, for for the change in format from being face to face to being remote. They ended up doing a lot more work. No students So one tool that can be really helpful for being intentional about that is one that I was introduced to me by Josh Isler. It’s that work load course estimator tool out of Rice University. And that can be really helpful for us, as instructors, to think about what we’re asking the students to do, whether it’s, you know, reading, the density of the text, the difficulty, the level, at which we’re asking them to engage with the readings, writing assignments, exams, like all the all these things that go into our course, and how much time that might be taking our students, what what’s the expectation of time in those assignments that we’re adding to our students? So for me, that was really eye opening to go through that and look at Okay, I guess I’m, I might be assigning too much reading right now, based on the difficulty level of this text. Yeah, that is just not a realistic expectation for my students right now. 

Lillian Nave  41:05 

Yeah. And I think there’s, um, there’s also one, I think, additional one Wake Forest has one about, especially online work. And, you know, how do you determine how much time it should be to read a post and comment on a post or you know, what, it’s, there’s more and more things that we should be thinking about as far as what takes time. And if a student has five courses, and they’re all online, and we’re giving them all 10 hours of lectures to watch? How are we even gonna allow time to think and then, you know, write or post or, you know, produce something? It’s, you’re not the only person who’s told me that that many students have said that specially the switch to remote was a lot more they thought, busy work, and less meaningful, because professors thrown into it. And everybody was, I mean, through no fault of their own, everybody was thrown into it. And they think, how am I going to include all of the rigor that I thought I had? And we end up doing the content overload, and have an overstuffed curriculum that maybe we didn’t even start with? So being really cognizant of, what are the main things? What’s the value that you want students to get? And then how much time Can we really realistically have for that, and then for the actual thinking through, you know, you gotta have time to think about it, reflect upon it, and then do something with it, analyze it, or put it on a blog or put it in a discussion. And it’s not. It’s not just the two minutes it takes to type there’s some, you know, thinking that we need to add into that too. Well, let’s hope right, we hope that’s what’s happening. 

Travis Thurston  42:52 

That’s so true. Yeah. And, and part of that, too, is, if we’re thinking about these assignments in in a way that we want it, we want it to be a meaningful learning activity for our students. One of the things that we know from the data science is that promptness in feedback, being quick to respond to students is extremely helpful. We also know that semantics matter, if you’re being if you’re providing positive constructive feedback to students, that can also that can also help support students in learning. And, and that also takes a little bit of intentionality, and being flexible in what we’re doing with our students, you know, providing low stakes exams or providing opportunities for retaking exams, things like that, that that we know from the data can help support learners, even if you know, they’re not getting it this first time. That’s okay. And we can provide an opportunity for them to continue to grow. 

Lillian Nave  44:01 

Yeah. And that might be another conversation you have with your instructional designer to about how is it that I can structure feedback in my course. So if I have something due on, you know, a Monday and then I teach all day, Tuesday, I’m not giving myself time to get back that feedback to students. So that’s even a design problem to be thinking about, well, where am I? When am I going to have this feedback? How am I going to give it and if you’re overloading your students with assignments that you have to give feedback on you’re overloading yourself. So another good instructional designer question about about that, you know, if I want to be able to get feedback, I can’t just have all right, they’ve got to have everything due and then I found that people are like, if I have everything due on a Friday, my weekend is spent, you know, grading and maybe I could design my life very well. If that’s how I Designed to my course. 

Travis Thurston  45:02 

Yeah, we, we saw a colleague of mine, he looked at the data with our learning analytics folks on the impact of changing due dates, right? Because the LMS will just kind of automatically set that at 11:59pm. On the day that you set it. And so we looked at how shifting, shifting the due dates earlier in the day, completely changes. Student student behavior. 

Lillian Nave  45:32 

Motivation, maybe. 

Travis Thurston  45:33 

Yeah. So instead of it being due on Friday night, moving it to do on Friday afternoon, the students actually ended up turning it in before the due date. And we anticipate that that’s because they want to have a weekend as well. Yeah. Exactly. Instead of having the assignment due at midnight, and students turning it in it 11 and 1130 and 1am. Yeah, we saw them actually turning them in earlier in the day. Uh huh. 

Lillian Nave  46:00 

Oh, yeah. Another good result from our data Wranglers, I like that term. Exactly. That’s super helpful for us, you know, with all the people like me who are doing moving online, all of our listeners that are that are trying to do this and are doing it. Maybe for the first time, these are really helpful to hear that maybe our assumption is get it in by midnight. And we think that’s the right thing to do. Maybe that’s our assumption. And it’s not may be for a couple reasons, it’s not great. One of those reasons is if our students have problems with whatever tool they’re using, if it’s the Oh, our our LMS is down or we need help something it’s not submitting correctly. Or maybe this happens more often than not, I haven’t clicked the right box about how they’re able to, to put in their assignment. And there’s problems. Or what I just got today, where I said, Okay, folks, everything This is due on Tuesday, and then I had put in the LMS. No, I put it due today for Friday. And the students was like, Ah, you said it was due Tuesday. But the LMS says it’s due today. Are we supposed to do it? No, I’m sorry, I have to go fix that, you know, my problem. But if they’re having problems, they can talk to somebody between the hours of nine and five at the university that can say, Oh, you’ve got to click this and that, and did you disable this? Or here’s the reason why you’re not able to submit it. But if it’s at 1158, and they’ve got problems, and you’re getting your emails in your inbox that say I can’t submit it. And you know, that’s a really good data points. 

Travis Thurston  47:44 

I agree. Yeah. Okay, shall we talk about our fourth? 

Lillian Nave  47:48 

Yes, yes, you’ve got one more, and you’re kind of introducing me to more and more people, I should really get to know. 

Travis Thurston  47:55 

They, these people have helped me so much in my teaching. So our fourth group, our media production professionals, individuals who can help us produce, whether it’s audio or lecture recordings, or videos, or just help us think about how we can be more intentional with the way that we are using media in our classes. I actually had the chance. When I, when I taught my very first college course. It was as an adjunct. And I was working in office as an instructional designer. And the way that our office happened to be set up is that I was sharing space with some of our media professional folks. Okay. And so as I was planning that course, they really helped me to kind of rethink how I was going to be using videos in my class. And, and this is a story for another time, but I ended up doing like this whole gamification thing. Okay. That was amazing. But actually, what we know, is if we can make our videos less produced, and what I mean by that is like, less formal, less like, looks like I’m sitting in a studio reading off a script. Yeah. Our students actually respond to that better. Yeah. Yeah. And part of that I love Karen Costas. Well, yes. 99 tips for creating the simple and sustainable educational videos. Yes. One of the things she talks about there is is using what you have available, right? If If what you have available is your phone. Wow, we’ve got this video and audio recording device that we carry around with us. All. Right. That’s it. If that’s what you have, that’s that’s what you should be using to record some videos for your students. Some of these, some of these videos that I saw come out in in spring and summer in remote Teaching weren’t these Hollywood produced videos, it was an instructor pulled out their cell phone. And they said, Hey, I know this week is hard. Yeah, you know, I’m feeling it. I know you’re feeling it. I just want you to know that I’m here. If if you need support, if you need some extra resources, please let me know. Because I know things are hard right now. And that can go so far, in helping our students feel supported. And it’s not. It’s not fancy. I think there were Karen uses his satisficing. Yes, you’re right. Yeah, I’m just putting a video out there, that to get the message out to your students. And reaching out authentically, right, that whole idea of, of humanizing our course for our students, I think is, is, is a really important factor. 

Lillian Nave  50:57 

Yeah. recognizing our own humanity, and recognizing the whole student that they are humans too, and how humans learn is, you know, in a real life world and a real situations, 

Travis Thurston  51:12 

exactly. I, I got the chance to teach. So my colleague that I mentioned before Dr. Courtney Stewart, his class that he had created, students could submit video reflections at the end of the week, they could submit written reflections at the end of the week. And the way he had designed it was that if they submitted a video, for their reflection, he would respond with a video. And so I got a chance to teach his classes for one semester. And so I kept that same, that same principle. And what I loved about that, was that even though it was a completely online class, getting to see some of those reflection videos for my students helped me to get to know them. But it also helped them to get to know me a little bit when I responded with a video. Right, what one simple example of that was, one, one reflection comment or one feedback video that I recorded for one of my students ended up being recorded. At night, it was late at night, and I was and I was in my kitchen with you know, the lights are kind of turned off, I had kids sleeping in the other room. So as I’m speaking in hushed tones of feedback on this video, and I was wearing, I happen to be wearing like, a sweatshirt for one of my favorite professional sports teams, right? And so this, my student responded, after they saw this video was like, Hey, I just want you to know, like, I was recording my video with my son sleeping next to me in the bed. And, and what seeing your video reminded me of just, you know, we’re all trying to do school and trying to do work and trying to do all of this all at the same time. And it just made me feel like it was okay for me to record my video, when when I’m also being a parent at the same time. Yeah. And then also, you know, her husband loved the same sports team that I did. Right? So there’s just these, these little connections that I wouldn’t have anticipated, right? happening. Because we were doing, you know, this plus one thinking where you’re, you’re adding one more option for feedback or for reflection for students. Mm hmm. 

Lillian Nave  53:45 

Yeah. And it’s so authentic, you know, that’s an authentic task and an authentic outcome. And we know that’s what motivates students as well. And they’re seeing you as a whole person and that you actually care. You know, you have thinking feelings, though I’ve heard and read that for, especially undergrads in online courses, that persistence, fails, because they think nobody’s at the other end, right? If there’s not a human presence, if you’re not creating some videos and explaining a little bit about who you are as a human, then students feel like it’s almost like a correspondence course, that’s devoid of human connection. And that just makes it really a tougher environment to persist and to learn. So anytime that we can make these serendipitous moments have some I think helpful encouraging engaging parts to the to the course that maybe we don’t think about, but maybe if we talked to a media production professional, they can help us out. 

Travis Thurston  54:52 

Exactly, and, and I love that you you kind of tie it back there because one thing that I used to always feel like I know needed to do was make my videos seem like, you know, they were professionally produced. And you know that that meant my students would learn better. When we know that that’s, that’s really not the case, 

Lillian Nave  55:15 

right? Like the most watched video was when the cat walks across like the camera in the keyboard, right. And that’s what you see, you can see you can look at those analytics. And you see that the entire class stopped and rewound that part right when the dog is in the background, or the kids, you know, come by and ask for a popsicle or something, though, it makes it human. And they’re watching for those. And I know for a fact of the things that they make it memorable. And of course, that shouldn’t be every what the whole video is, but knowing that we’re humans, and you know, we’re just trying to make a connection. And we’re and we, we care about this. So we’re putting in that effort is very meaningful, I think more meaningful than we really think about or give it credit for that our students want to know how meaningful it is for us. 

Travis Thurston  56:04 

Absolutely. I also like one tip, my colleague, Ryan Christiansen gave me and that was, I guess it’s two parts, but one is to chunk out those videos, right? Like, if if we’re not sitting in a lecture hall, and you’re not, you only have you know, 60 minutes to, to engage with your students. You know, maybe you need to need to spend 45 of those minutes talking and sharing content and, and introducing students to whatever that topic is. But if it’s an online class, and we have, you know, what, what we sometimes call anytime teaching opportunities, if we, if we’re breaking that content up into six to 10 minute chunks, it’s easier for a student to sit down and commit to 10 minutes, yeah, 10 to 45 minutes of content. Right. And, and part of that also means that when we are making that content, we can be intentional, in the way that we make those breaking points where we’re splitting the content, right? At the end of this video, take three minutes and and reflect on, on what stood out most to you, you know, we can use that that break or that split in the video as an intentional teaching moment. 

Lillian Nave  57:30 

Yeah. And I’ve found to with my students, that the longer the video is, the fewer students will persist. Throughout that video, yeah, I think you’re right, six to 10 minutes is, is good. Yeah, I think there’s a reason why TED talks are no more than 20 minutes. They figured that out. And and then if you’re like me, and you watch videos on like, 1.5, or 2.0 speed, then you can make that 20 minutes down to 10 minutes. So and offering, you know, accessibility to for those videos. So that is it has to happen for me is every video I make needs to have closed captions, and has to have a way for students to, to engage with it if they can’t spend the time listening, right? Maybe I was, you know, in this past pandemic, they you couldn’t get your hair cut for a long time. And I finally was able to go get my hair cut. And there was a hairdryer going and I had to watch a video for you know, a faculty thing that I was doing. And so I just turned on the closed captions, and I was able to go through it. Otherwise, there was no way I was going to listen to this in the time I had. So it’s not just for accessibility for Heart of hearing, it’s for life accessibility, we’re going to need that. 

Travis Thurston  58:52 

It’s so true. I had that same student that I refer to when you know, when she’s recording her reflection video. She She made the comment to me in kind of the posts, the end of class survey that I sent out that it was helpful for her to have those closed captioning, the closed captioning on the videos because she was taking care of kids and sometimes had to turn the volume all the way down to try to keep a kid asleep. 

Lillian Nave  59:22 

Yeah, it happens more often than we know. Absolutely. Yeah, I have students to my first year students, and I’ve gotten some that are I asked them now in the beginning survey, if you are a caregiver for somebody else, and that helps me to understand to what sort of flexibility I know I need to have, you know, we just need to have that flexibility for students. And it’s not just if you are taking care of somebody. It could be just a million other reasons why having that those closed captions are really really important for our students, so they’re not going to be getting much out of your lecture. If they can’t really access it in a way that works for them, 

Travis Thurston  1:00:04 

exactly, I and I love that, because we do know for in UDL, that, that some of these things aren’t just good for one specific population. 

Lillian Nave  1:00:15 

Right. And that, when we’re designing for the margins, we make life better for all of our students. And, you know, I think it’s been in doctors offices and, you know, other places, or if you’re at a restaurant, whenever that happens, again, when we can go out to restaurants and, and they have, you know, screens, that seems to be the big thing of lots of screens, if you’re at a place that might have whatever your favorite sports team, right, and they always have the closed caption, so you can just sort of figure out what’s going on. And now I’m so used to reading while I’m listening, or not have the sound on that I’m reading most things. It’s, it’s more of a preference to and I know that most Facebook videos are watched with closed captions, rather than listened. So much so that you see the things that say, turn on your sound like it’ll say that on the video. The assumption is, you don’t have your sound down, because maybe you’re at work, right? Or maybe you’re scrolling while 

Travis Thurston  1:01:17 

doing something else. 

Lillian Nave  1:01:18 

Exactly, exactly. And they’re like, you better turn your sound on, because we know you don’t have your sound on right now. It’s gonna be important for you to turn your sound on. And I mean, that’s just the world, this world we’re in now. So we just have to be, you know, keep up with the times and our students who are different and have many different directions, who, just like your experience from the very first question was, you know, working your way through school, and that means you needed flexibility, or it went and that meant even just the kinds of classes you would take an independent study or a special topics that had to be available for you to persist and to finish and, and we need to be incorporating that in maybe smaller ways in each individual course. But, but thinking on it in small and then systemic ways. 

Travis Thurston  1:02:10 

Yeah, I think that’s a great point, I was introduced to the the phrase plus one thinking from from Tom Tobin. Right. And, and I think that’s, that’s such a great way to frame this is thinking about one small thing that you can do to improve that course, one small thing you can add to, to be responsive to learner variability. And, and which of these four groups of professionals can help you to make some of those small changes, so that you don’t feel like you’re trying to do it all on your own? 

Lillian Nave  1:02:47 

Right? We don’t have to, once you listen to this episode, say, I need to make an appointment with my librarian, and my media production specialists and my instructional designer, and I got to get me, you know, make sure all of these people know choose one, right? I might need a library guide, maybe I need to find the librarian who works in my, you know, in my field, and then think about what sort of resources can I have on board for for next semester? Or, you know, maybe I need to talk to my instructional designer and say, I am drowning with feedback. How can I restructure this so that I have a better life for something? 

Travis Thurston  1:03:25 

Exactly. And there really are so many resources available. And, and for us, my instruction is better, my teaching is better, because I have been able to collaborate with all of these other individuals that really care about student learning and student success. 

Lillian Nave  1:03:46 

Yeah, it’s made my life better and easier. Oh, my goodness, my teaching is better. And my life is easier. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel. We’ve got people who are here on our campuses to help us and we just need to tap into them. So so thank you so much, Travis for enlightening us and making me think about the the people what my next plus one might be. So I do appreciate these groups of people that maybe we haven’t been thinking about that’s going to make our teaching better and our lives easier. So thank you so much for joining me on the podcast. 

Travis Thurston  1:04:20 

Thank you so much for having me. It’s been great. 

Lillian Nave  1:04:35 

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 studies. headings, and the website provides free resources and instructional aids 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 in Appalachia. The music on the podcast was performed by the Odyssey quartet comprised of Rex Shepherd, David pate, Bill falwell and Jose coach as 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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