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Purposeful, Humanizing, and Inclusive Instruction with Brett Christie

Welcome to Episode 59 of the Think UDL podcast: Purposeful, Humanizing, and Inclusive Instruction with Brett Christie! In today’s episode, I have the absolute pleasure to talk with Brett Christie for the second time! The first time I spoke with him at a UDL conference, our sound quality in a noisy room made the interview unusable. I am so thankful that he has agreed to talk with me again and this time about what he is doing to create purposeful, humanizing, inclusive instruction. Please check out the web page for a wealth of really great resources that Brett has graciously provided for us that include his UDL-universe website, resources on peer instruction, a purposeful learning check, and other great blog posts and information. Brett Christie is the Director of Learning Design at O’Donnell Learn and formerly introduced UDL to the entire California State University system. He has incredible expertise on systems integration of UDL in our largest university system in the United States, and is sharing his knowledge on how to integrate UDL into your classes on a course by course level as well. Thank you for joining me as I get to ask Brett all about purposeful, humanizing and inclusive techniques!


How to reach Brett Christie: (email) 

Find Brett on Twitter at @brettagogy, and @UDL_Universe

Look for him on LinkedIn 

Learn more about what he and O’Donnell Learn does at their website

Check out Brett’s website UDL-Universe as well for copious UDL resources

For Peer Instruction, start with Erik Mazur’s book and take a look at a recent blog post on “4 Ways to Use Peer Learning and the blog has links to 4 techniques and their respective webinar segments. 
For Purposeful Instructor support, here is a blog post that has context, access to the webinar from O’Donnell Learn, and access to the online version of the Purposeful Learning Check.


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 59 of the think UDL podcast, purposeful, humanizing and inclusive instruction with Brett Christie. In today’s episode, I have the absolute pleasure to talk with Brett Christie for the second time. The first time I spoke with him at a UDL conference, our sound quality in a noisy room made the interview sadly unusable. I’m so thankful that he has agreed to talk with me again, and this time about what he is doing to create purposeful humanizing inclusive instruction. Please check out the think web page for a wealth of really great resources that Bret has graciously provided for us that include his UDL universe website, resources on peer instruction, a purposeful learning check, and other great blog posts and information. Brett Christie is the director of learning design at O’Donnell learn and formerly introduced UDL to the entire California State University system. He has incredible expertise on systems integration of UDL in our largest university system in the United States, and is sharing his knowledge on how to integrate UDL into your classes on a course by course level as well. Thank you for joining me, as I get to ask Brett, all about purposeful humanizing and inclusive techniques. So I want to welcome to the think UDL podcast my guest, Brett Christie, want to say thank you for joining me again.

Brett Christie  02:14

Thank you, Lillian, great to be here.

Lillian Nave  02:16

Yes, I have interviewed you before. And I am so glad to finally get a good sound quality, so we can share our conversation with our listeners this time. So I wanted to start out with the question I’ve asked all my guests, and that is what makes you a different kind of learner.

Brett Christie  02:38

Wow, that’s something that’s definitely taken me a while to figure out. And, you know, first of all, I’m a first generation learner. And so I kind of went into things, you know, going through high school, and then eventually college as a first gen, I didn’t really have a blueprint, and I didn’t really know a lot about learning, and certainly taking it to that higher level. And, you know, just a sidebar, I hadn’t even applied to college at the point of graduating from high school and sort of, you know, sitting there during summer and luckily received a phone call from a local coach who had heard that I was still kind of figuring out my next steps. And he approached me and said, Well, why don’t you come and, you know, compete for us and go to college here, and I’ll help you get signed up. And so that gave me kind of a foot in the door. And then I think from there, it really took just a lot of perseverance and hanging in there. And then finding my way, and that perseverance got me through, you know, working a lot of hours to, you know, pay my way. And then also, to be honest, retaken a lot of courses, because I was stumbling along the way, part of it was learning how to learn and part of it was maturing, and part of it was being an athlete, part of it was working, and just a lot of combination of things. But I guess when things really started to click, and when I kind of got it was, you know, going into graduate school. And that’s when things became much more about authentic learning. That’s where you could start having smaller chunks of content, but start putting those into practice and have practical experiences and projects, things that you could start sort of taking ownership of and seeing where they were taking you. And you can be much more motivated by that. Where for me, the undergraduate experience was, you know, four chapters head down, okay, test, next four chapters test that type of thing, or anatomy and physiology, of course, and what goes with that? So, I’d say to sum it up, I’m definitely a learned by doing type person. But I’m also reflecting, thinking, well, I don’t know if it’s necessarily You are one type for your whole life, and that there is also some change that happens along the way. And so I reflected on that a little bit, too.

Lillian Nave  04:50

Yeah. Wow. It seems like I didn’t know that that you were just sort of hanging out after high school and hadn’t even thought about college. So it’s like that. The the big picture like you don’t know where you want to go, so you don’t know what steps you need to take in order to get there. What was it that made you think that you wanted to go to graduate school? Once you were in college, though, so what was it that kind of started that process to move you into that,

Brett Christie  05:23

you know, my original track in the undergraduate experience, I was looking at going into teaching and coaching. And so as I was studying about teaching and about learning, I really got hooked. And then I also had a mentor, who had me eventually come on as a grinder as a teaching assistant and undergraduate assistant. And that also gave me kind of the next step of Okay, I can do this Wow, I can actually help others. And that’s kind of another level is to where you can be sort of accomplished and knowledgeable enough and be recognized to them where you can be sort of a peer guide for others. And so that really helped me take that next step.

Lillian Nave  06:04

So and So you were becoming the mentor that you might not have had

Brett Christie  06:09

that I certainly needed. Yeah.

Lillian Nave  06:12

That’s great. Okay, so when I first met you and saw you at a UDL conference, you’re doing amazing things. with Universal Design for Learning, you’re still doing amazing things in a new role that we’re going to get to some of the things that you’re doing. So I’ve noticed that you’re focusing on engagement in some of the work you’re doing now, especially on this idea of peer learning. So can you tell us more about how peer learning can help students both face to face and online?

Brett Christie  06:47

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, the first thing that you mentioned engagement, and what I think about right away is a lot of the work that I’ve done, whether it’s related to Universal Design for Learning, or I also for the Cal State system developed and implemented a system wide quality assurance for Online Teaching and Learning Program, and developed an instrument and you know, we can talk more about that maybe. But as I did research on how effective courses were in their design, and delivery, and looked at student feedback, student performance, one of the things I always found was no matter how successful or how highly rated, the course was in quality, the lowest factors were always related to engagement and active learning. So there’s always room for improvement there. And students always want more engagement. So I continued to have that focus on active learning, peer learning, even peer instruction, taking that to another level. You know, I’m a huge proponent and things being learner centric. I really believe in student to student learning. And I believe in the research that what students can be enabled to learn from each other can be so much more powerful than what comes from the front of the room, or from the front of the screen, if you will, online from the instructor. You know, I like to use the quote that my colleague, Jerry hammer has been using quite a bit lately is that teaching is about people not content. And traditionally, what’s happened and maybe still, the majority of folks is their course design process starts with content. And that’s not necessarily where we should be starting, we should really start at the outcomes and do backwards design and think about the experiences, much more than just thinking about the content. I know, early on, I’m guilty of doing some of that where, you know, being hired for the first tenure track gig thinking, Okay, I have all these new preps. Where do I start? Well, it was usually getting somebody else’s syllabus, yeah, modifying that and then figuring out, okay, what’s the textbook to use for that discipline, and then sort of following that map of chapters, and maybe even the ancillary materials the instructor provided, and thinking that that was the way to do things, but it’s really about how, as an instructor, you can set up this experience that students have with one another, and the content can be the basis, but it’s really about what they can do with that content, what they can construct or co construct. So those peer learning experiences, whether it be face to face or online, for me, I don’t see a lot of difference. Except Yes, you do have to know how to navigate some of the technologies. But otherwise, I really don’t see a lot of barriers to that at all. I know. Unfortunately, with the rapid switch to remote instruction, a lot of people did find those barriers. And there were some reasons we can get into around that. But yeah, so setting up that peer learning experience is huge. That’s where you can also bring in the aspect of domain and that’s another thing that I really emphasize. That I don’t see enough of is that aspect is So how do you really get students motivated? How do you trigger them emotionally, and get them to see themselves as part of learning experience and part of where it’s taking them. And part of that is also to make it authentic. And, you know, there a lot of other things that you can do there as well.

Lillian Nave  10:17

So what would, can you give us an example? What would that look like, let’s say for an online course, to do peer learning or peer instruction, something where you’re engaging that effective part, you’re triggering some sort of emotional connection? And it’s really motivating those students?

Brett Christie  10:37

Yeah. I mean, one thing, just to even start that process is how, as an instructor, are you humanizing your course and I know people hearing a lot about that lately, and I love the attention that’s getting but how can you start to humanize your course starting from your syllabus, and not just that, but the language within yourself is how you approach that has not this students in this course will, it’s it’s more of, you know, propping it up as this journey that you will, you will do together, opening yourself up to them a little bit, you know, that you are human, and that they are human, and you are involved in this process together, some things will work incredibly well, some things will get messy, we’ll sort it out along the way, it’s a journey. So those are some things you can do to prop it up just by establishing that rapport and process and that sense of welcoming belonging, that’s got to happen first, then what you do by doing that, as you start establishing the courses of community, as a community of learners, and that has to happen, the class has to be a community. And so after you’ve done that, you can then continue to push things further into peer learning. And that’s where you can get students to start working in groups together. And it can be in synchronous settings where you’re doing breakout rooms. And yes, you have to be able to do that technically. But you also have to think about doing it with purpose. You know, what is the topic? What is the prompt? What is the task? What are the roles of students within their respective breakouts? And then how will they process within that breakout? And then how will it come back into the larger conversation. So that, as an instructor traditionally isn’t something that folks are used to, and it involves a letting go of control, that involves getting away from just driving content and now driving experiences. And that takes training, it takes time it takes risk, it takes failing and then correcting and hopefully acknowledging those failures and being open about those and then moving on, then the next time around doing it more effectively with the same group of students or a different group. So there’s a lot involved in that process. But that’s, that’s sort of one online example, synchronously, and then asynchronously, of course, you can set up all sorts of great, you know, group projects, if you wanted to case studies. But, again, some instructors may go into that, not necessarily knowing what they have to set up for that to happen effectively. So having a good rubric, having a good set of procedures, roles and responsibilities and accountability. What is the end product to look like? How is the group working within itself, how at times might interact with other groups and sort of do some sharing and check ins and cross validation of things? So there are a lot of different possibilities that you can do there and, you know, in technology brings about so many opportunities, and what’s exciting as these technologies become more and more open and free and sort of platform agnostic, browser based, mobile, all those things, and accessible to a certain regard that’s, that’s received a lot more attention to and that things pretended to be more accessible as far as the ADA compliance.

Lillian Nave  13:52

Yeah. So one of the things that you mentioned on the way to that peer learning was to really create after the syllabus and the language that you use, you said, to create a community of learners. And to make sure that the students feel that they’re in a community of learners, do you have anything that you would give us advice that would help to make your classroom your meaning your online class, a community of learners?

Brett Christie  14:24

Yeah, I mean, first is being explicit about it. You know, that that’s your approach, that you are not the expert who’s just going to be passing knowledge down onto them, and then just testing them and see whether they cut it or not. That again, it’s really about the experience, the process and what they all bring to it, but they all have something to contribute every single one of them. And so that’s part of respecting the individual students, and being inclusive. One of the tools that I developed this past fall that we use is this learner connectedness survey. And just by distributing to students at the outset, it gives them an opportunity to start sharing there, they start off with, you know their name. Because they may have a particular name, they prefer to go by, or maybe it’s a name with difficult pronunciation, they can explain that to you. Also, it also allows them to express their identity a little bit about their cultural background, how they identify their pronouns, and then you start moving into more of situational factors. And these are responses students just give to the instructor, you know, you might do something in an aggregate to share that with students as a result, but this is something just between the individual and the instructor. So they start sharing some of their situational factors. And that could be more, a little bit more about their motivation, their goals, where do they feel like they are successful as a learner? things that they do? Well, where do they feel they struggle, they may need support, how, as an instructor, can you help them, they may be able to give specific requests, these are the things that helped me learn. And so you can take that into account. And then other situational factors might be about sort of their environment or access. So particularly with a pandemic, people are in very confined situations, limited bandwidth. They may be working caregiving, juggling school, all of those things that wants multi generational households. So you can get to know a little bit about that, or in more traditional settings, is it a commute is a number of hours worked. So even just touching in on all of those elements with students and giving them an opportunity to express that to you is good for them, but also good for you to then know that information about your students individually. And collectively. That sets the tone right there. And that as you’re delivering the course. And you’re stepping back from delivering content periodically, let’s say every 15 to 20 minutes you’re pausing, and intentionally doing a check in across the whole group or doing an activity, then that gets the sense that they are active participants, which really again, goes along with a sense of community.

Lillian Nave  17:08

Yeah. And I noticed that you were talking about how a course is not about just covering content, you really want to bring these students tos to some outcomes, right to learn some skills, learn specific goals and knowledge. And that was a big change in my teaching. When I just like you notice what just like you noted, I you know, first started teaching, I got my old syllabus that I took when I was a student and just redid it. And if that I have to cover all of this that was that coverage. And really learning was not part of my directive. That wasn’t part of what I was trying to do. I didn’t care about it. Anybody learned I just cared about if I covered the material. And so this major move is student centered learner centered. Yeah, yeah. And changes our whole perspective. I think that?

Brett Christie  18:07

Absolutely. I mean, what you described, Lillian is a very common experience where, you know, we come out of our doctoral programs. In that case, you know, we’re trained as content experts, as research experts, teaching just happens, so to speak. And, you know, you may have been interviewed for your position, and it may be a teaching first institution yet, what you were asked to do was a research presentation as part of your interview in most cases, right? And you know, and then you show up, and you’re given a tour of the place, and you’re given the keys to the classroom, in the traditional sense, and away you go, good luck, and we’ll review you and see if you cut it. So, and I think, a lot of that traditional model, we saw things really sort of implode with the pandemic. Because I think a lot of teaching happens without a great degree of intentionality. And that’s been the one term that’s really stuck out for me, that I’ve been thinking about across the last 12 months as I’ve watched what’s been happening with the different teaching and learning situations is I’ve seen things really suffered because of a lack of intentionality and teaching. And so we we’ve been really focusing on for the last nine months that I’ve been with the Donald learn, that’s been one of our biggest areas of focus is that intentionality with teaching? Yeah, is you know, starting with those outcomes, backwards design, but also in your delivery, what’s that intentionality? How are you chunking the content and interspersing that with moments of student engagement and activity, but also formative assessments, micro assessments, checks for understanding those types of things. So if you have all of that really laid out and it’s intentional, there’s a much easier transfer of that from one modality to another. But if you’ve got this mass of content, push You’re used to doing that face to face, you can no longer rely on just standing in front of the classroom being the expert and falling back on that, you now have to do it in a way that’s designed differently. And to just get up there and do that lecture for 90 minutes and zoom. That’s kind of awesome. And so we’ve seen a lot of that happen.

Lillian Nave  20:20

Yeah. And that intentionality is this goals. First, you need to figure out where you’re headed with your students. And that’s a very universal design for learning idea is you have to know where you’re heading like a GPS, there might be many ways to get there, there could be lots of back roads or big highways. But you need to know what that final destination is.

Brett Christie  20:41


Lillian Nave  20:42

And one other point I wanted to, to bring out again, from what you said about peer learning and peer instruction is something that I have really moved into, in my teaching in intercultural work. And that is, I really cannot teach all lot of different experiences, because I only have one experience. And so I really have to embed and rely on my students to be teaching each other. So and our most recent, for example, our most recent module is on something called third culture, kids. And so those are people who grew up in a different culture than their own, and that and that of their parents. So that might happen if you are a military family, right? And you are growing up in Germany, your parents are American, so you’re, but you’re growing up in Germany, so you’re not really American, but you’re not really German. So you’re somehow in this third culture or immigrant experience, and that sort of thing. Now, I don’t have that. Because I did not grow up abroad, or I didn’t have parents from a different country raising me. And however, every year I have students who have and so they’re, they are able to share their experience. And you know, I have certain we have resources that we’re you know, listening to people tell their story and things like that. But to have a student hear it from their fellow student right there in the classroom, or online, is more powerful than what I can do. So I see how really important that is, and how much weight that carries to hear it from the pier rather than just me, you know, you’re coming at it

Brett Christie  22:30

as an instructor. bureaucrat is huge. Yeah. So another great reason to involve students. Absolutely.

Lillian Nave  22:38

Yeah. And I found that I had to really set it up in the in the modules and in in the small groups and things like that for them, so that students could hear other voices and not just mine all the time. So it’s got to be in the design from the beginning, doesn’t it?

Brett Christie  22:54

Absolutely. Yeah, great point. And it’s something that you can thread along the way, you don’t have to force it in a big push and make it overbearing, but just finding ways to kind of continually have that peer presence peer engagement. Yeah, for sure. I mean, he made me think of another thing, Lillian, is that, you know, as we went through our schooling, as instructors, I’m saying we as a large group generalizing but you know, those going on to advanced degrees, maybe PhD, and then going into teaching as a faculty member. I mean, we are a typical, and we have to remember that as we’re in front of our learners is that there’s no one way of knowing or learning. And we are a typical, very typical, and having gone to that extent of doing a PhD and, and that student, the students in our classroom, we’re all going to learn in different ways, and not many of them are going to want to be us. That’s not their goal to be us. So we don’t want to treat them like us. Yeah, like we learn. So it’s really important to kind of not stand on their shoes, but sit in their seat, if you will, from their perspective and think about how things happen for them what their goals are, where they’re headed, and what they need to know and how to motivate them for that. Yeah, what

Lillian Nave  24:12

a big shift. That is. Because I remember as I was starting out, the idea was, well, I had to do this. So I think this is what you’re supposed to do, right? You have to do the same kinds of things I did, it’s going to be the same cookie cutter image of how I learned art history. So that’s the way you will learn art history. But how many of my students that I’ve taught over the 20 years I’ve been teaching have become, you know, university art historians, very few of you have but very few, right? The overwhelming 99% were going on to have wonderful lives and careers. That did something else. So you know what, what is it that they can learn that’s transferable That’s still in, you know, interesting and helpful for them. That is not just to kind of repeat into making another research researcher, art historian, something that is going to be useful and really important to learn during that five years later, they’ll say, Oh, I remember that. That was you know that that was helpful to me. Yeah, rather than what a waste of time that whole semester was.

Brett Christie  25:27

got through that.

Lillian Nave  25:28

Yeah, exactly. glad it’s over. So okay, you’re also doing a whole bunch of wonderful things. Lately, I’ve seen at O’Donnell learn and and all the wonderful things you’ve been offering. So I wanted to ask you also about some of the ideas about faculty development and purposeful instructor support, which will help learners succeed. So can you elaborate on that idea?

Brett Christie  25:56

Yeah, absolutely. And I appreciate any of the kinds of comments you’ve offered. Lillian, thank you. Yeah. So I mean, as some people might know, as I worked for the Cal State University system for 23 years, the last and I worked as faculty went up through the ranks faculty developer, eventually worked at the system level. And one of the efforts that I led was this quality assurance program, quality learning and teaching was the name of the instrument and the training that we put on. And, you know, we were pretty successful in training about 1000 instructors today, and some staff as well. And doing some things to improve course quality, get some good data on impacting students, as far as you know, students access for GPAs course completion rates, closing equity gaps, I mean, those were some really good things on sort of the quality end of the spectrum and analyzing courses sort of on the back end. But what we’re doing, Donald learn is we’re kind of focusing more on what we’re calling purposeful learning. And we have a learning framework. And there are ways that we can use that purposeful learning framework, from the teaching perspective, for course design and delivery, and with learning designers as well. Or we can also use it as we think about it from the student perspective. And so with this purpose, Millennium framework, what we’ve done is we’ve really shifted from what I’ve seen, you know, I looked way back at Quality Matters. 15 years ago, I developed a different programming instrument that had been mapped to a lot of the same essentials as Quality Matters, but took things a little bit further, of course, in UDL, because of my efforts in that area from 2005. forward. And I did more on UDL on inclusion on mobile platform readiness. And then what we’ve done at O’Donnell learned since I came aboard in July is I was thrilled that, you know, my UDL background was embraced and the work that I did with quality learning and teacher was embraced. And we have taken it into kind of a new direction that I think is even more student centric, where we’re really looking at creating those learner centric experiences, humanizing things, making sure that it’s inclusive, making sure that it’s engaged, that there’s authentic learning, but there’s formative assessment really pushing those critical areas where we always see students wanting more, and that we know how those things make it much more about the student experience and less about the content or the instructors preferences. So that’s where we’ve been able to really do a lot of that. And as far as the support that we’re doing for faculty, that’s any, you know that those are a lot of different types of activities that you might do anything from, you know, workshops, where you hope you get them hooked on an idea. But ideally, to the extent of doing faculty learning communities where they’re doing sustained course redesign, maybe over the course of the semester, they’re doing a full course redesign for a subsequent semesters to implement that new course. And along the way, we’re guiding them through the framework to be able to make those changes and making those changes along the way. But having them realize that this is going to be an iterative, iterative process, that they’re not going to just do everything in one sweep, one pass, and it’s going to be perfect, that they’re going to make incremental changes along the way. And they’re going to make those changes, implement, reflect, get feedback, move forward. And it may have worked well or they may need to tweak things a little bit, but just making sure that they’re really cognizant of that reflective as they go on. So we’ve been trying to make things as proactive or as I said, early or as intentional as possible. And so that, again, goes to the design components of you know, really chunking and sequencing things and having things be outcomes aligned. That’s another thing that we’ve really started emphasizes that outcomes alignment. So, as you’ve stated those learning outcomes, how does everything drive toward that? And we do that verbally, we do that in written but we also do that visually, which I think is a powerful way of actually doing a concept map where you have your learning outcomes. But you also underneath those would align where you have the related activities, and then the related assessments or products that are expected with students. And so students will then on day one, as you present this visual to them, literally see the meaning of the course how everything connects to each other, where in traditional sense, you have a syllabus that’s covered on day one there, those objectives that are somewhere near page one, there are five to 10 of those, they’re stated. And then we just run down the road. And we don’t necessarily check in and we don’t necessarily know students where they’re going to stumble upon, those are expected to meet those explicitly. So we’ve been doing a lot related to that. And then again, formative assessment, really just continuing to push for formative assessment. And multiple reasons for that is that you’re going to give students earlier and more frequent opportunities to get feedback, as a check in, you’re also going to be able to do more assessment types, you’re also going to be able to get away from high stakes exam, because anxiety and remote proctoring, which is such a dehumanizing experience. That is one of the things that has been really disturbing and unfortunate about the last year is that shifts that I’ve seen to online remote proctoring you probably don’t want to go down that dark path right now.

Lillian Nave  31:29

Yeah. But you’re offering all these ways that that would be really not needed, right?

Brett Christie  31:39

Absolutely, in a way where it’s not needed. It’s a positive solution. You’re eliminating the need for it on the front end, by better design, and in ways that benefit students. And I understand that the hard part for instructors as well, they may have a limited knowledge of assessment types, based on their experience, their background, their training, understandably. So how can we provide opportunities to inform them and support them? And again, it would be sort of iterative, we can’t do this dump. Here’s 101 forms of authentic, authentic assessment. Good luck. It’s really okay, let’s think about your discipline, let’s think about your learning outcomes, then what could be those opportunities along the way to do these more formative assessments that will still hold students accountable, but doesn’t have to be this high stakes exam that can cause a lot of anxiety can not be effective for certain learners more than others? Certainly. And that can also cause issues around fear of cheating, because of the anxiety and because of the high stakes.

Lillian Nave  32:45

Yeah, and, and if we can get really authentic assessments, you know, things that would much more mirror the real world, I think we’re we’re doing a we’re doing a much better job educating our students and getting them prepared. I just don’t see that many real world jobs, where you’re taking a test, you know, daily, or to show your work

Brett Christie  33:10

time to test it that Yeah, yeah, come on.

Lillian Nave  33:14

Yeah. There’s just not a lot of multiple choice. Besides the driving tests, you know, that my teenagers are taking now. That’s the it’s rare that you have that in, you know, in your adult life. I mean, I do know, there’s some you have to, you know, pass some exams, so certainly like to get into certain fields. Sure. But when you’re practicing, actually, there’s a lot more that’s peer learning and communication and team building and working together and meeting a deadline together and being creative. That’s a big part of living in the real world and facing challenges and finding ways to meet those challenges. Far more than that individual. Sit down, don’t have any notes. can’t look up on Google. Answer it quickly.

Brett Christie  34:06

Yeah, in the real world. I mean, they need a number of solutions to problems as they arise. They need a very broad toolset to be able to apply as situations call for it. And having that hammer of the high stakes exam is not going to work for all those tasks that they face in the real world. They’re not going to have just nails. Yeah,

Lillian Nave  34:27

right. Right. And, you know, I’ve in my life, I’ve seen those folks who are really, really quite brilliant, very smart, wonderful test takers, and then have a hard time out in the real world with negotiating, just how to deal with people how to work with others how to come to creative solutions. So a lot of good students are really really, really good at being students, not necessarily learners, but good at being students. So we don’t want to miss, I guess we don’t want to mold those students, we want to create expert learners, which is what we say Universal Design for Learning does so allowing for students to build their own inventory of ways of learning, and to continue on with our own education,

Brett Christie  35:21

and learning how to learn. Yeah, continue learning Absolutely. And they haven’t just the exam is going to get you over those hurdles as you go. But it isn’t going to necessarily feed you in that knowing how to learn continually.

Lillian Nave  35:37

You know, and your idea about purposeful instructor support is also, it brings me back to our earlier part of the conversation when we talk about as instructors as professors are going through graduate school, and they’re becoming teachers. There’s, it’s very rare that a, in your program, you learn how to teach the information, you become a content expert, but you aren’t necessarily given really great tools and how you’re going to communicate that or assess, you know, in the education things. So it sounds like that’s one of the things you are trying to provide for instructors,

Brett Christie  36:20

we’re certainly trying to provide that. And you know, if it’s happening on the job, you know, that’s not ideal. And also, if it’s on the job, it has to be recognized, you know, by let’s say, the administration has to be recognized as part of the workload, it has to be ideally incentivized and rewarded, you know, in the tenure and promotion process that has to carry weight. And that’s going to happen different at different institution types, for sure. And different, you know, faculty ranks and whatnot. But yeah, ideally, at the time of the job, or excuse me, at the time of the job, it may happen. But ideally, if it could happen during the doctoral program, if that could at least be one of the areas of concentration or units within a concentration, if people are going to go into a university position. And that involves teaching them they should be teaching, taking some sort of three unit course on, you know, basic teaching and learning practices, methodology, technology, the tools that they would need to do. So yeah, that’s there’s been conversation about that, of course, through pod network, as you’re aware, there’s posts that come up related to that, and some people are starting to incorporate that in but it is, I think, a very small proportion of programs that are doing that it’s still, you know, research driven.

Lillian Nave  37:41

Yeah. So that’s why we need a lot of faculty support, to help, especially new onboarding of faculty. And, and when we have a major shift, like we just did over the past year, how do we do that and move online? And and I know, that was radically new and different to many of my colleagues who some hadn’t even really used our learning management system. So you know, it’s been available, but they, maybe they threw a syllabus on there, and maybe they didn’t, so

Brett Christie  38:12

maybe a couple threads of discussions. Maybe they had a file folder, sitting on there. Yeah, very limited. And all of a sudden, you’ve got to flip the switch within a week to go in 100% through your LMS and zoom. Yeah, that that’s definitely. That’s tough. Yeah. And, you know, now we’ve had a year and people I think, have been able to learn from it and adjust and improve. But I’m sure there’s also certainly a group that’s kind of waiting it out and wanting to go back to the way things were. But I’m, in a way looking forward to seeing what happens for 2021 22 and seeing where we land, because I think we’re going to have a much greater presence in that blended spectrum. Partly because we’re not going to be beyond the pandemic entirely and not for the entire population. That still remains to be seen. But I know the CSU, the California State University is looking at maybe about half of the courses being in person for fall. That’s huge for us system of almost half a million students where we’ll still be having online course experiences, where half of their load however it works out. Right. But yeah, I’m curious to see where things land. And I think I think it’s exciting because I think, you know, I get offended when I hear the saying, you know, don’t let a good pandemic go to waste. I don’t think of a pathway. Yeah, but I do think of, well, what have we learned, you know, where can we go with what we’ve experienced? And I think it’s pushed us in ways where we kind of needed to be pushed where we were kind of dragging behind and so, you know, if anything, I think at least we can take that out of it and hopefully learn from it and be able to do things because I was looking at research As early as this morning, out of the University of Central Florida, I believe in their report they posted and showing comparing face to face to online to blended and blended is that sweet spot where students get the highest ratings. And if you look at student performance, you’re gonna find that those are the highest. And I found that in my research in the CSU with 1000s of students that looking at blended online, if that was done with instructors who have gone through our training, and especially with instructors who went to the level of having their courses fully certified formally certified, that those experiences were actually better for students than traditional face to face courses. Because often, those are instructors who didn’t go through the training. So I think that blended realm, which is going to be a very broad spectrum, that blended realm, I think is going to be much more present. And I think we’re going to see a lot of interesting things happening.

Lillian Nave  40:56

And what do you mean by blended? Can you define that? Because I think many people might hear that and saying, lots of things. What do you mean by blended?

Brett Christie  41:05

Yeah, not gonna let me off that easy? No, that’s that’s complicated. I mean, there’s been the traditional sense is blended, you might go, let’s say 5050, online and face to face. And you know, you’ll you’ll come to class this week, the following week, you’ll be doing things online, probably asynchronously. That would be the traditional model. But it can be blended to a more online extreme or more face to face extreme, but there’s still a blend of the two modalities. But to me, blended I use, I prefer blended instead of hybrid, even though they’re interchangeable.


And this is not high flex, you’re not.


We’ll get there. So

Brett Christie  41:45

I’ll try and kind of cover the full spectrum in some way. But yeah, so with blended To me, that’s where you’ve really began intentionally, you’ve thought through the face to face experience, and how that takes place, why and how, and then how you’re setting up the asynchronous experience and how those are connected or blended together. It’s not just okay, partitioning things chunk, you know, time chunk and content chunks, it’s really about using the modalities but still keeping things hooked and blended together. One relies upon the other, using, you know, exit tickets, entry tickets, things like that. And then, yeah, if you think about high flex, there’s obviously been a lot of talk about that. And, you know, I know Brian Beatty, who wrote the open source book on high flex, and he’s certainly been popular since spring, with all the talk about high flex. But yeah, with high flex, I mean, you’re gonna have multiple center areas, there are multiple things happening at one time where you could have students in the classroom, taking the course in person, with the instructor, possibly in classroom, or maybe the instructors online, you don’t know maybe the instructors at risk still from COVID-19. But you could have a group of students in person, and then the instructor in person, you can have students simultaneously online, taking the course live and interacting. You can have students doing something in person on site, students online doing things, you can even intermix them, there’s no reason why you can’t intermix them. If you’re allowing students to use technology in both environments, they can be doing mixed groups. And that’s how you can keep the students who are online engaged as mixed them in with the on site students. And that’s how you can also help to make sure you build in community that you don’t have these sub communities. So it’s pretty complex. I mean, that’s one scenario. And I have to think of, you know, right now on WC T, there’s a discussion thread going on about the different modalities that people use for this current year. And I’m, you know, in touch with colleagues in the CSU still what I’m thinking of Kathy Fernandez, who’s director of Academic Technology at CSU, Chico, she shared with me recently for fall 2021. And this is on their website, if you wanted to grab that. But for fall 2021, they have identified 11 different modalities. Wow. And they’re, they’re identifying those upfront so that when students now are shopping for their fall courses, they will rightly rightfully be informed, because they have to decide do I need to be in Chico? Can I be in Southern California or Oregon or wherever? Or what proportion of time will I be on campus? What sort of limited limit? What sort of living accommodations do I need? How close to campus Do I need to be? Do I need a parking pass? Do I need a meal plan all those things. And parents of course, want to know all these things, too, so they can help plan or pay or whatever it might be. So it’s still going to be very complex scenario that we’re going to be experiencing and fall for many institutions and you’re going to hear not just online blended hyflex you’re going to have so many different flavors in between. And then that’s, you know, that’s Chico being very proactive. And upfront, which I think is wonderful. And I think the CSU has been good about that for the pandemic and making decisions early and communicating to students where others have been toggling back and forth. Yes, come to campus, everything’s fine. Two weeks later, oh, get out of here. Get out of here. Right, right. back after Thanksgiving or New Year’s? Yeah, yeah, well, we’ll

Lillian Nave  45:26

definitely have a link to that those 11 different modalities from Cal State, Chico. And I wanted to ask to about your ideas about universal design for learning that you worked so long and implemented so well in California, and made huge improvements that have benefited 1000s of students. So where do you want to see higher education moving with Universal Design for Learning?

Brett Christie  45:57

appreciate that. And it’s been a passion since 2005, when we started that work. And we were fortunate enough to get three federal grants in succession until 2012, and have a great deal of, you know, external supplementary funding, where we could do some great things to develop a program, scale it we did this at Sonoma State University, where I was based in with my good colleague, Emiliano Iola, who is sensitive Don to another campus. But we had a great time developing that based on the work that the Center for Applied special technology or cast did. And we worked with them to be able to say, Hey, can we take what you’ve developed, which has been primarily intended for K through 12? Can we are, you know, post secondary work with that? And they said, Absolutely, we want to stay connected, we support that. And, you know, we would love to have you be partners, so to speak. So we did that for a long time. And we had a great deal of success, formally at 15 campuses out of the 23. But informally, all campuses engaged with it. But we actually implemented very in depth training, not just a workshop, but we from that workshop that we would offer openly on campus, we would then say, Okay, if this is of interest to you applying this framework, and the benefits we’ve talked about today, for all students, how many of you would be interested in joining a faculty learning community over the next, you know, it might be academic here. And here’s what we’ll do. And here’s how we’ll support you. And here’s how will, you know, provide stipends, and these are the incentives. And here’s the letter from the Provost endorsing this, all of those things that we thought of, to kind of make it a full package to make it attractive. So we did that for one year cycles. And even one cycle that we did for three years where we did these very specific course changes the faculty made, according to the principles of representation, engagement expression, now I call them. And we did that made the course changes, we documented all that we did a pre and post examination with a teacher efficacy, student satisfaction looked at course GPAs, look at course completion rates, we looked at students with disabilities, and without disabilities, because we knew there was a gap and equity gap, we actually were able to close that gap. And we close it on an upward trajectory, meaning even the students who were at the top of that gap, the students without disabilities, they also improved. So this was a framework and methodology that enhanced things for all students. It wasn’t just for the accommodations based model. Yeah. And that was huge for us. And after all of that, what I’m trying to get to Lillian is, yes, I appreciate that. We, we did some good work. And we impacted a lot of students. But, you know, we, as far as we know, we touched upon, let’s say, 25,000 students out of 500,000. So, you know, this, this is a long journey. And to me something like accessibility. To me, that’s like a generation long effort that you somehow take place long term, you just incrementally keep at it. And you keep informing you keep making changes, you keep bringing it into the mainstream, so to speak. And I think we’re seeing that more and more with product development and technology companies. They’re now making it part of their original roadmap when they design things. It’s part of the skill set for designers and whatnot. So where I want to continue to go with that is keep pushing it into the mainstream, keep making sure that UDL is something that’s on the proactive radar, and that it’s not seen as something that well that’s related to the Disability Support Services, folks, they’ll handle that and we’ll have accommodations come up, etc, etc. It really should be part of the central academic commission and it should have yes, those folks from DSS but also academic affairs faculty development Academic Technology, academic senate students with disabilities student governance, Office of Diversity, Equity inclusion All of those people coming together, and seeing UDL as an instructional framework and process that can impact the greatest number and diversity of students. And that’s to me what it’s all about. It’s always been about putting it into that realm. Not Oh, it’ll help those five to 10% of students who are registered with the opposite of disabilities. It’s really about the benefits it has for all students. And really, the two examples that always kind of bring it down to the most simple denominator is, you know, curb cut curb cuts, physical environment, adaptation benefits, everyone. Yeah, the other for instructional, the closed captions that benefits everyone. Everybody uses that mount may not have thought of it intentionally, but they end up using them when they’re available, and in front of them, and they benefit from it. There’s a lot of data showing that. So it’s, it’s really about bringing it into that central conversation. And I’ve always been in the diversity, equity inclusion conversations representing that I’ve always seen when when people talk about underrepresented minorities, which is a very serious and important conversation, I think of students with disabilities sometimes as underrepresented, underrepresented minorities, right? I have to say it that way. And so I bring that into the conversation, I have to do so carefully and thoughtfully and appropriately, but I try and bring that aspect into the conversation, to make sure things are fully inclusive when we talk about diversity, that it’s not certain demographics properties, that we are talking about the full spectrum of being inclusive.

Lillian Nave  51:32

Yeah. You know, during this pandemic, there are so many universal design for learning principles, we’re, we’re engaged and used, like closed captioning, people are just much more aware of when we go online, making things more accessible, and having recordings available of lectures and things like that. And just recently, I was looking this week about, I think I saw it on Twitter, about what will happen when we go back maybe to normal, I’m using air quotes there, what is normal, but we can no longer say that this stuff is optional, you know, that. And we even though there is an ADA compliance, like there’s the laws, they just weren’t being enforced, they weren’t followed. And that there were certainly many students with disabilities who were either shut out of learning or a classroom, or made it just incredibly difficult, you know, it, the onus was on them to, you know, have a friend zoom them in, right, because the professor didn’t make it, you know, an option or those sorts of things that we’re learning are actually really necessary. And when we go back to whatever normal is, including those things that like, let’s push through this needle and say, I, you know, wish this pandemic never happened. But here’s where it’s like shining a spotlight in exposing those things, right. And I think that connection with diversity, equity, and and inclusion is, is really important. I’ve spoken with several folks on my podcast here that make that connection. And when you said that you close the equity gap gap to and you saw it on both ends. That Universal Design for Learning improves learning for everyone.

Brett Christie  53:35

Yes, yeah, absolutely. And then, you know, my mantra is always for the greatest number and diversity of students. That’s what it’s all about. Yeah. Yeah, I wonder, as you’re talking to Lillian, I mean, I started thinking of you probably remember, well, the graphic that a lot of people use when they talk about equity and inclusion, the kids at the baseball games standing outside the fence, and they’re standing on the different wooden boxes. And you know, at first, they’re all standing on the same box, and some can see some can’t, and then they stack the boxes differently, so they can all see. And then at the end, you know, the fence is removed. So there’s no barrier and what as you’re describing technology, we actually had a Donald learn, I worked with the team to create a new graphic that we’re really excited about that takes that concept and puts it into the realm of online course delivery. And you look at zoom and how we have some of those factors that happen if you use zoom in certain ways versus if you use it in the best ways. And so we premiered that recently, we’re actually going to share it that LLC next week, and we’ll have to send a copy of that to you really excited about it. Yeah, it kind of takes that that cute graphic of the baseball kids that represents it and puts it into this new reality or what we’re calling at our company now normal. Yeah, we’re facing.

Lillian Nave  54:55

Oh, that’s great. Yes, please do and we can put it with our resources here. I think we need an update. On that graphic for sure.

Brett Christie  55:01


Lillian Nave  55:02

Yeah. Yeah. And that this, the connection I see, as you’re saying with Universal Design for Learning and diversity, equity and inclusion, I think is where we might be going in the future. Because UDL has been historically most associated with disability and accessibility. And I think we’re this conversation we’re having in the last two years, because of world events and pandemics and and who our students are that we serve. Now. We’re seeing that the UDL principles are actually just dei principles as well, right.

Brett Christie  55:47

Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. And it’s a framework that has a lot of flexibility to and it’s, what’s nice is that it’s framework. It’s not prescriptive. So it’s going to work across disciplines for various outcomes at different levels of courses with different student populations. But it’s been a matter of Yeah, just kind of building momentum building awareness. And then, of course, now we’ve got the impetus of the whole pandemic throwing us forward, hurdling us forward, you know, 10 years of progress, you know, all in six months, probably.

Lillian Nave  56:18

Yeah. Oh, for sure. Yes. Super fast. warp speed as we go. Yeah. Yeah. Well, thank you so much for taking the time again to talk to me, and I really appreciate it and for sharing all of this information, and I know we’ve got a lot of resources that I will put on our web page for this, this episode, and I look forward to the graphic that you have. So we’ll have that out for our listeners when this debuts in a little bit.

Brett Christie  56:47

Great. Thanks slowly. My pleasure. And thanks, folks, for listening.

Lillian Nave  56:51

Great, 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. The think UDL podcast is made possible by college star the star stands for supporting transition, access and retention in post secondary settings, and the website provides free resources and instructional aides based on UDL principles. If you’d like to know more, go to the college website. Additional support for the podcast is made possible by Appalachian State University where if you call it Appalachian, I’ll throw 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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