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Simplified, Authentic and Engaging Library Science with Amanda Nichols Hess

Welcome to Episode 112 of the Think UDL podcast: Simplified, Authentic and Engaging Library Science with Amanda Nichols Hess. Amanda Nichols Hess is an Associate Professor and Coordinator of Instruction and Research Help, as well as the Liaison Librarian to the School of Education and Human Services at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. She has researched, written about and created many resources for library science that focus on UDL. In today’s conversation, we will look at the role of the librarian on campus and how she has incorporated UDL into many different areas, from small projects to campus-wide initiatives. Even if you are not in library science, you’ll benefit as an instructor to hear how collaboration with librarians on your campus can bring benefits to both you and your students. Amanda has supplied her work as resources and you can find them on our website for this episode.

Guide to the Future Conference

Use this link to sign up for the FREE Guide to the Future Conference: Lessons from the EDU Time Machine on August 2 & 3, 2023 sponsored by Texthelp and featuring previous Think UDL guest, the impeccable Dr. Tolu Noah


Find out more about Amanda Nichols Hess on Oakland’s website

Amanda also provided these resources:

Chapters 5-6 from Amanda’s book, Modular online learning design, which was written for a librarian audience — chapter 6 focuses specifically on UDL, but chapter 5 might be of interest as well

An article Amanda co-authored a few years ago with a colleague about instructional design in our credit-bearing course, which incorporates UDL in practical ways

A book chapter Amanda authored about my collaboration with Oakland U’s CETL around UDL

Finding Common Ground: Developing Partnerships Between the Academic Library and Campus Teaching Center to Advance Teaching and Learning by Amanda Nichols Hess




UDL, librarians, students, learning, library, learners, online, resources, focused, instruction, teaching, integration, information, intentional, faculty, connect


Lillian Nave, Amanda Nichols Hess

Lillian Nave  00:02

Welcome to Think UDL, the Universal Design for Learning podcast where we hear from the people who are designing and implementing strategies with learner variability in mind. I’m your host, Lillian Nave. And I’m interested in not just what you’re teaching, learning, guiding and facilitating, but how you design and implement it and why it even matters. Welcome to Episode 112 of the Think UDL podcast, simplified, authentic and engaging library science with Amanda Nichols Hess. Amanda Nichols Hess is an associate professor and coordinator of instruction and research help, as well as the liaison librarian to the School of Education and Human Services at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. She has researched written about and created many resources for library science that focus on Universal Design for Learning. In today’s conversation, we will look at the role of the librarian on campus, and how she has incorporated UDL into many different areas, from small projects to campus wide initiatives. Even if you are not in library science, you’ll benefit as an instructor to hear how collaboration with librarians on your campus can bring benefits to both you and your students. Amanda has supplied her work as resources for us, and you can find them on our website, think For this episode, thank you for listening. Thank you to our sponsor Texthelp, a global technology company helping people all over the world to understand and to be understood, it has led the way in creating innovative technology for the workplace, and education sectors, including K 12, right through to higher education for the last three decades.  Hey, everyone, before I get into today’s podcast, I wanted to let you know about some time sensitive information, something that you may be interested in, which is coming up on August 2 and August 3. And that is a conference called guide to the future lessons from the edu time machine that Texthelp is putting on and I was part of this last year and I’m following it this year. But I want to say that one of my guests Dr. Tolu Noah, who I interviewed recently will be one of the speakers along with Dr. Jeff Borden, from Gonzaga University and several others. But I wanted to let you know about it. And I’ll have a link to sign up for this free conference that’s on August 2. And third, if you look in the resources for today’s episode, and I highly recommend it, I think it might be really helpful. If you don’t have the time on those two days, you can sign up and then you have a pass to look at any of the speakers at your leisure afterwards. So check out the resources for today’s episode, and you’ll see a link for the guide to the future lessons from the edu time machine. It’s got a little Back to the Future theme for it. And check it out. Welcome, Amanda to the podcast. I’m really glad to have you.

Amanda Nichols Hess  03:43

Thank you so much. I’m really glad to be here. I’m excited to talk to you.

Lillian Nave  03:47

Oh yes. I’m excited because I actually had a special request, which was Do you have anybody who talks about library science? I said, No, I don’t. So I was glad to reach out to your colleague, Christina Mora, who I’ve interviewed twice on the podcast, and she said, Oh, my goodness, I do have somebody. So thank you so much for joining. And I wanted to ask my first question, what makes you a different kind of learner?

Amanda Nichols Hess  04:16

Well, you know, I’ve been thinking about this because in my head, I think I don’t think anything makes me a different kind of learner because, you know, we only know how our brains work, right? Yes. But I guess there are a couple of things. One that I’m not too embarrassed to admit, but one that I think is a growth opportunity for me. I like like I’m a librarian. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I’m an introvert. I’ve come to that realization later in life. It was like a daunting revelation of oh, this explains a lot. But I tend to be a talker outer like I have friends who, after a meeting couple hours will just send me a big long email that’s like their brain dump. They fought about things, but for me, I tend to be more internal, except when I’m like learning or figuring things out, I really benefit from, from talking it through from, from even listening to other people, but really, especially just having conversation. So when I was thinking about what’s kind of unique, I don’t think that’s necessarily a stereotypical view of a quote unquote, introvert but, but that’s something that when I think about my most effective learning, because that really is coming from, and probably explains why I love my like, I was always a kid who loves school, right and love being in class and didn’t really, you know, knew how to do school, so. But I mean, I have to be very careful, because I can go too far that direction, I’m, I’m thinking more critically about my own learning, and, you know, my lifelong learning and trying to be more careful and intentional about my listening. Because I learn a lot by listening. It’s not just a one way street in terms of talking. But the other piece, I guess, I really thought about, and this also, to me is sort of connected to my work as a librarian. You know, we talk a lot in my, at my institution, I’m at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan, we’re Christina Morris, as well. And even in I have kids who are in elementary school, they’re talking a lot about, you know, curiosity and inquiry and learning as something that’s intrinsically motivated. And I think I, as a learner have come to that very late in life. Like I said, I was always a kid who liked school was really was good at school. So it’s no surprise that I stayed in school, right, it was my jobs. But it wasn’t until I got to graduate school and library school, that I really started to think about learning as as inquiry as curiosity, and less of like a thing to do like a tick box to check, right. So I don’t think this is necessarily specific to me. But I think a lot of librarians are are like that, in that we’re really guided by curiosity and interest. Like, we don’t know anything about a lot of the subjects that we’re working with faculty or with students on. But there’s, I don’t know, if it’s something that they teach us or something, they prepare us for something, and our personalities are what, but it’s like, you flip a switch, and we’re like, oh, this is interesting. I’m gonna figure I’m gonna help you figure this out. And so I feel like I came late to the curiosity as learning piece. But I like to think that I’m making up for it when I’m working with students. And when I work with faculty, and help them with all kinds of different topics and get really excited about their topics, and they look at me like, what’s wrong with you lady like? Well, this is a great source, right? I’m like, really into it. So. So that’s my not so sneaky plug also for like, work with your librarians, because we’re everyone. We’re all curious. And we’re all interested in or we can be your, your secret instructional weapon.

Lillian Nave  07:45

So I like that the secret instructional weapon because I agree, I came late to understanding what a librarian can do for me. And yes, students, oh, my goodness. And now I heavily rely on our librarians. And I’ve noticed too, that I am taking my children. I’ve got three college aged kids right now. One who just finished and I find that when they I take them to a tour, like I’m so excited, half the time they are. But I found that some of them some of like a small liberal arts school, some of them will have you get your own library and the student does. From the very beginning. It’s like, Whoa, I thought that I need that. Because it solves so many problems I found in my teaching is having a good librarian who is helping my students with the the skills that I’m not great at. And it’s really helpful for my class, to work with our our particular librarians. Yeah, secret weapon.

Amanda Nichols Hess  08:52

I like that. Shouldn’t be secret. But yes, I think a lot of folks are like, Oh, that’s not what I thought a librarian could do. Yeah, we can be really very deeply ingrained in instruction, instructional design, intentional pedagogy, so I’m sure I’ll talk more about that. But yeah, great. I’m glad to hear that. That’s the case for you. And I hope that’s the case for other folks, too. But if not talk to your library. And I know

Lillian Nave  09:13

that it’s gonna be that might be the title of this. Talk to your library. There’s so good. So you’ve actually done a lot of work with UDL. And you’ve written about embedding UDL and online library modules recently. And I wanted to talk about that and ask, because I hadn’t heard of these, but what tools are available to build in access in these library modules? Or what ways have you found to be successful in implementing UDL in the library modules? Sure. So

Amanda Nichols Hess  09:47

I, my role I’ve been at my institution for about 10 years and my role when I came in, in 2012, was really focusing on instructional technology and Ealer learning and doing that from a library perspective, right building up our capacity building up our, our knowledge, my colleagues knowledge, so doing a lot of professional development and training. So my, my interest just sort of naturally aligns with instructional technology elearning. So, so my, my UDL work, I would say has probably is focused more in the online realm because of that, but I think and also, because I think for a lot of library folks that that is a little bit more of a unknown landscape, right, people maybe can figure out how to do things or pivot in an in person class, but the planning the constructing the designing, the building in the online realm can be a little more challenging. So. So a couple years ago, I wrote a book called modular online learning design. And it was published by the American Library Association, and the whole focus was on how librarians could make online learning content that could be scaled up scaled down, scaled laterally to serve different kinds of learning needs and goals, rather than creating one off kinds of resources. And one of the things that I had done some work in UDL at that point. But one of the things that I realized as I was working on that is like, there’s not really we were talking about UDL and libraries, we definitely when I go to instruction conferences, for librarians, we’re talking about UDL, we’re seeing examples of UDL, integrated into people’s practices. But often we’re framing I would say, more from like an accessibility perspective, rather than a true universal design for learning mindset. And so I think part of the focus in this area is because you know, traditionally, and still, libraries are the sort of big content hub, right? So we’re really focused on making sure that our content is accessible, that we’re meeting, you know, the god this necessary guidelines that we should be doing. And a lot of content can be really problematic in terms of accessibility. So that’s often been the focus, like remediation, ensuring that things are accessible to our students, to our learners, to our faculty to our patrons. But librarians tends to be a very practical and applied breed. And so I think that was kind of appealing, right? Like we can take these steps and make sure this content is accessible. But But thinking more proactively about UDL, and in our teaching was a more chat was could be, I think, a little more challenging for folks. So what I really thought about when I was working on this book is, you know, when people are making these online learning resources, not just figuring out how we can make content that’s accessible by anyone, but how we can design and develop that content that can be accessed by anyone at the outset. Right, just the core, the core principles of UDL. And so one of the chapters in this book focuses on accessibility and UDL. And I think one of the problems that I’ve run into is when you look at UDL guidelines, or even accessibility guidelines, right, it says the master list or it can seem really overwhelming. And so circling back to the idea that librarians are a very practical breed, I developed two resources in this book, one called the online UDL heuristic, which tries to connect kind of the theory, the principles, the ideas behind UDL, with really practical strategies that librarians can integrate with, you know, engagement with representation with action and expression. So, and it’s like I said, I keep saying practical, practical, practical, but yeah, it’s my it’s designed as a checklist. It’s like a, it’s, it’s not intended as a, you know, you got to do everything in this list. But, you know, I’ve tried to outline some examples of this is the idea. This is what this looks like, can your project or can your online resource that you’re developing, do this? And if yes, what might that look like? So for example, and I’m pulling a lot of these questions right, from the, you know, from caste, or from UDL best practices. So like for engagement, there are questions for librarians to consider about, you know, can an online learning project? Can you give learners options or choices? And if so, how, right or can you vary the levels of visual, auditory sensory input? Or how events are sequence? Can you give instant feedback? Can you give learners a clear sense of how their progress is happening over time? So sort of a UDL principle in itself, right chunking these ideas in into different pieces and saying, Oh, now this is more manageable for me. Now, I can think about this. And I can identify maybe one or two ways that I can integrate UDL principles into my online library modules. With representation, right, we’re asking folks to consider whether they can develop content that’s modified liable things can be zoomed out or zoomed in text, graphics image, that kind of images, that kind of stuff. You know, we’re really good at, again, providing the information resources, but like, if you’re if you’re talking about library stuff, can you provide hyperlinks? Can you provide definitions to things along the way so that learners can understand what we’re talking about? Can we, you know, be chunking information into smaller content, I think, again, I’m I this is all something I’m always growing in, but like chunking, really the importance of chunking information, just reiterating that and, and, you know, making it just a little bit more accessible, I guess, to students in terms of how much content they’re trying to digest and trying to understand at a time. And then actually an expression to some examples of the questions are like, you know, again, can you demonstrate, can you allow learners to demonstrate their understandings in multiple media? Or can you like, gradually reduce the scaffolds or the structures are the supports along the way, if this is something they’re working in, and they’re, you know, engaged in a little bit of time, you know, connecting the outcomes, the desired outcomes to what they’re actually doing. So it’s really just a tool that I, I think I find is helpful for me and being more intentional. And I think it really outlines things that librarians library folks are doing already, but we’re not necessarily thinking about as as UDL. And so by making it a little more conscious, by making just some notes about like, oh, yeah, I can do these things. It’s just a step along the way, I think to help folks and help myself, especially integrate those practices, those principles more intentionally, in my online learning design, and in the more asynchronous or freestanding resources that I’m creating for students. So

Lillian Nave  16:42

yeah, I really appreciated that. Because you go further than just, you know, accessibility. And that’s a great place. It’s a wonderful place to start. It is the place we need to start. But but it’s not enough. Accessibility is not UDL, but it is integral to a UDL, learning environment. We can’t have it without it. But that’s not all what UDL is. So I really appreciated that. And I wanted to ask maybe some more examples. Can you provide about how one can put this into practice in? And I like how you did this, you had small, medium, and large scale projects? So maybe some examples from those? Yeah, sure.

Amanda Nichols Hess  17:27

So one of the things that maybe folks know, but there’s a little bit different about how librarians generally go about doing instruction, is we are often creating learning opportunities that are embedded in other folks classes, right? Like they’re connected to, you know, disciplinary needs, or disciplinary knowledge, which is important. Like that’s, that’s the most useful and relevant library instruction for students, not just disconnected stuff. So it’s my examples maybe are a little bit different from what, you know, folks who are teaching a credit bearing course, or are teaching for a whole semester, maybe would think of in terms of their examples. But the other thing, so we do like smaller pieces in people’s classes, but then we can also sort of have this bigger, larger, sometimes institutional, or campus wide, or programmer, I’d reach because we kind of work because we’re making those connections across disciplines or with faculty in different departments. So we kind of can be really small and be really big. And in my role, I’ve been fortunate that I’ve had some opportunities to do both of those things, and sort of a middle ground. But I think that’s the case for lots of lots of librarians as well. So, and I will say, before I talk about any of these, that, you know, none of these have been an effort solo ever, right? They’re all informed by other people. They’re collaborative enterprises. So I don’t want it to sound like oh, look at all this one amazing work I’ve done all by myself. But you know, so I’m, in my role, I am the liaison librarian to our School of Education and Human Services. So when I think about the small piece, I think about like the in class instruction, or the last couple of years, the virtual instruction that I’m doing for incoming master’s students, incoming doctoral students, students in programs in our School of Education and Human Services. And so especially when we, and we have a lot of non traditional students at my institution, and a lot of graduate students who are working full time who have families, right, they’re not just doing graduate study, and that’s not their sole focus. So we’re always looking for ways to be more flexible with them, I think, and I think working with them, and being having been a graduate student while I was working while I had kids helped me to really see like the sometimes the life needs that we need that we can work around in terms of UDL. So in terms of just a small example and sort of drawing back to the is the heuristic and, and thinking about, you know, specific questions or ways that I could integrate UDL principles into my teaching with these folks. So, when we first moved in the in sort of the height of the pandemic, when everything at my institution, we pivoted everything pretty much online. And so then all of my in person instruction that I would come to a class and like orient them to the library or talk about graduate research or talk about just like, This is what the library is, had to move online. And so I started out by I would say, like text dumping students like, here we go, here’s all of this information, right. But in the last, I would say, your 18 months or so, I’ve really taken that. And now that I’m not in like panic mode, I’ll say or like survival mode, I’ve been much able, much more able, I think, to use UDL on a smaller scale, just in how I deal with that instruction. So taking all of this important information on like, you need to know all of this stuff, and I might never see you. And so you need to and say no, we’re going to like shorten this content, I’m going to make it more chunked, I’m going to make it much more accessible. By or I shouldn’t say accessible, but I’m one I’ve wanted to provide different formats, right. So I was, excuse me providing instruction via text, because I often think like, oh, well, this is this is maybe the easiest for many folks to access. But not if you’re riding the bus and you’re going home, or you’re commuting, and you have this limited window of time. And this is when you need to learn and you’re driving, you can’t be reading so. So I’ve converted my instruction, to videos, but included transcripts included the slide decks that I’m using to structure those videos, I’ve made sure they’re really short, really chunks really topical less than, you know, three to five minutes each so that they’re very bite size. So folks can take little pieces as they want. As well as integrating, you know, stopping points formative assessment questions along the way in these in these videos. And so to me, that was really a way to just engage students more. And also, me, this is not necessarily a UDL principle, per se, but just to show them that I’m a real person, right. And like there’s some a human person makes no increase those connections behind the scenes, and I’ve seen really positive engagement positive, I think learning outcomes, because then I’m when I’m when I do work with those students, I’m like, Oh, I think these this different way, this more focused way, more concise way of going about this fundamental or foundational library basics instruction. It’s sticky, right? It’s translating, and then we can build on that when I’m working with a class or with students one on one. And in terms of more like a medium scale, so when I think of medium scale, for me, I think more of like a something that I’m doing or our library is doing, within across a program or within a discipline. And one of the I think a lot of academic libraries that institutions have this, but we have a partnership with our first year instruction around our first year writing class. So our required writing class that our students have to take. And we have really moved in that way. And I coordinate that program. And we’ve moved in the last game last couple of years, from really focusing on those library skills, you know, how to how to use our library resources to talking about information literacy concepts. So how do we think about how information is created? Who creates information, like who has authority, those kinds of more bigger questions, picture questions that students are often exploring in upper level classes. While still, like you know, talking about this is what it means for when you’re using library resources. So, so this, we’ve been really refocusing our library instruction there in the last couple of years. But I think we’re at a point where I can say that we again, have seen some success. And we’ve done so through some of the same strategies that I kind of talked about with a smaller level, but with at a more programmatic scale in terms of, you know, creating a variety of different content types that students can engage with focusing chunking better really refining the ideas that we’re presenting. But you know, being really intentional about engagement because in the past, we would have said, Oh, here’s our sample research topic. And it’s a bunch of like, elder millennial moms in a room saying like, this is our baby, some Gen Xers, right? Like this is what we think these kids are interested in and they’re like, What are you we don’t care about this. Yeah. So being very intentional about you know, reusing real world examples that are relevant to our students today. And not being like that Steve see me meme where it’s like hello fellow humans, but like trying to, you know, get an authentic perspective from our, our library employees were like, Okay, what kinds of research are you doing or what would be a topic that you might explore in this paper or what might grab your attention, right? So, so we picked student debt, right? Because that’s, that’s a topic that all of our students are interested in talking about, right? Or the cost of college. But again, like we’re integrating multiple means of information, to try and get to that representation piece and engage students, whether it’s, you know, using different kinds of information sources, so maybe not just like epidemic articles, maybe it’s news, or maybe its opinion pieces, right? highlighting how different formats or different ways of thinking about an idea can be present in lots of different formats of information are represented in lots of different ways, podcasts, videos, etc. And then, you know, throughout it’s so it can be a little tricky for us, just like with many folks, when it comes to integrating multiple means of action and expression. Because, you know, we’re, we are mostly doing this online, we’re doing this in an asynchronous way. So we do have a kind of standard assessment that we ask students to complete just to show where they’re at, not as a punitive grade or anything. But we are trying to always provide information about time, effort, degree of difficulty, throughout the learning experiences for students that they’re having, connecting all of the content that we’re presenting, with the learning outcomes or with, you know, both at the beginning of the end of video or at the beginning, or the end of, you know, like a text based lesson like this is what you’re going to learn. And then at the end, like, as a reminder, this is what we’ve done. And this is what this will help you to do and take forward. So just to continue to make that meaningful and highlight the meaning that students learning has for them. And then for me, more of a large scale project would be one of those redesigns that maybe touches the whole campus, right or touches your whole institution. And again, this is kind of the weird dichotomy, I guess, or weird relationship in librarianship where you have like, the very small where you like, teach one class for a professor one time a semester, but you might also have something that like 90% of your students are completing, because it’s an online resource, that is something that ticks a box, right? So for us, we happen to have one of those. We have an academic integrity tutorial, that I would say about 1213 years ago, my colleagues introduced to our institution just to sort of meet a need of like, people were talking about issues with plagiarism with academic integrity. So my colleagues in the library, I wasn’t there at the time. So I certainly cannot take credit for the the germination and growth of the original idea created with our writing center, this free standing. So E course that students could work through and earn a badge of Completion with a certain with a certain grade, about academic integrity, about citing sources about different citation styles. And so this became very quickly very widely used across our institution, like, every, almost we have about between 17 to 20,000 students, and everybody does it.

Lillian Nave  28:09

Wow. It’s just

Amanda Nichols Hess  28:11

huge, because it’s, it’s, um, it’s easy. It’s an easy thing, right? It’s like, go complete this and give me proof. But so it had been in existence for about 10 years, and it was really seriously in need of an overhaul. We were putting band aids on it, right, we were fixing mistakes and broken links and changing citation style formats when we needed but it really needed to be more examined, I think more intentionally and holistically. And so this happened in, you know, very good timing. 2020, fall 2020. Right in the middle of COVID. But, you know, I think it was I think, in some ways, it was good timing, because we were all very focused on high quality online learning. And so we watched this in fall 21. So we’ve had a couple years to work out the kinks. But again, here, we’ve really, we’ve taken these core principles, and We’ve restructured how we’re conveying concepts to make them more engaging, and more authentic to learners. One thing we found, we mean, we went through processes of like, having students review and provide feedback and pilot tests and, you know, gathering sort of input about the issues that we had with the previous version, and one of it was like, Is this too academic? This is too, this is like designed for faculty, right? We were talking about concepts in a way that was not really very accessible to students. So we tried to, again, increase engagement there, divide up topics divide up tasks into smaller chunks, ensuring that we’re having lots of opportunity for learners to be engaging with the concepts and providing that formative, immediate feedback. And then you know, we because we were doing this in our online learning During our learning management system, which we use Moodle, we had a number of options in terms of interactivity with using h5. P. So we have a lot of interactive activities for students to really engage with, how do they work in this particular citation style? Or how do they, you know, understand, you know, the expectations around citation practices at our university. So I think we were really able to, I started the thread and all of my examples is like, we simplified, we made more engaging, we tried to make it more real world and authentic to students. And I think we’re at the point with this, to that we I can say we’ve, we have had some success, I think, you know, it’s always a work in progress, but, and that one that was, especially both my medium and my large scale examples, were very much team effort. So certainly not something I did by myself. But with our instruction and research help group at the library, we worked on our first year instruction. And then a group of colleagues, including folks from our writing center worked on revising and relaunching our academic integrity tutorial. So I think that’s been really helpful in increasing some, or making sure that these resources are more universal, right? Because it’s not just my perspective, like I said, the, the geriatric millennial in me, you know, getting lots of different viewpoints understanding like, this is what engineers would need versus this is what folks in health sciences need versus this is what you know, my education students would need. So I think even that just having lots of voices at the table has helped us just open the doors a little more widely, I think, because it’s ensured that we’re considering lots of different perspectives when we’re talking about like, what’s engaging and what’s, what’s meaningful representation to folks or what’s, what would be useful in terms of expressing learning or expressing knowledge for people in all these different areas. So

Lillian Nave  32:05

it’s fantastic, and I am becoming more and more aware of what you just talked about the small, medium and large projects that a librarian would do that it it can be all across the board, and you and it’s like, loved your librarian, they do so. But yeah, I could, that’s another title that could be this, this podcast, which is love, comma, your librarian, or love your librarian, because you do so much. That’s so helpful for the learning across the institution. And I know you were a faculty fellow, with your center for excellence in teaching and learning at Oakland University. And you had a particular inference, emphasis on SOTL, or the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. And I must say, I’ve benefited from your time as a faculty fellow because you collaborated on some great videos and StandAlone Resources, specifically about UDL that I’ve used many times and spread with much joy, especially the videos, but you actually had three very different projects related to the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning and UDL in your tenure as a faculty fellow. So could you elaborate on your year long, F D, I, your Faculty Development Institute, the three part workshop series, and of course, all those wonderful free standing instructional resources.

Amanda Nichols Hess  33:32

Yes, I’m very happy to share about my experience there. And I do need to give before I say anything, a tremendous amount of credit to the director of subtle our Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning at the time, Judy Abla. Sir, who has since retired, but Christina Moore, who, as you mentioned, is how we got connected. But Christina more especially with I’ll give Christina all of her props when I talked about the the resources but but Judy was really I would say, I Judy was a tremendous supporter of mine. When I started at Oakland, I came from K 12 education, I was actually a school librarian. And, and Judy had a K 12 education background too. So I think she, you know, I was very invested in very engaged in Sonal, pretty much right away, because my role was around teaching and learning in the library. And I’m very fortunate, I think librarians in general, can be very fortunate in that SOTL is absolutely accepted as a research perspective, search area in our discipline, which isn’t always the case for other folks. But because of that, Judy, and I have found this very natural connection and synergy. And, and when I applied to be a faculty fellow, she said to me at the time, you know, I really want you to focus on Universal Design for Learning and I had come in with instructional design knowledge. I have some graduate education and focus in instructional design and instructional technology. And I was like, Okay, I don’t really know that much about this topic, but but she was really on the forefront of it. And Christina, who came alongside me and was the virtual developer at the time it settled now was the associate director was really integral in, in seeing the potential, seeing the possibilities, seeing the opportunities for UDL, not just beyond are not just in the structures that that that all of our faculty fellows at Oakland do, which is we all have a Faculty Development Institute. And then we have sort of these freestanding workshops. But Judy and Christina have really been so responsible for giving all of these resources, a much more extended lifespan. So I want to make sure I give them credit right off the bat. But so in terms of my Faculty Development Institute, it was a year long, hybrid group. So we had some in person meetings, which was this was very much pre COVID was 2016 2017. But we were at the vanguard right of having a hybrid HyFlex kind of learning environment, where we had some virtual meetings, or had some times when we tried to figure out like, how can we use this webcam to have people online joining us in person, so wasn’t always wasn’t always error free, for sure. But where we focused on identifying ways for folks across different disciplines across the institution, who were interested in talking about how we could meet the learning needs of our increasingly diverse and then varied student population, which was something we always have kind of grappled with it at Oakland, because we have a lot of transfer students we have a lot of students with other life needs, we talk about it, right, like who are working with families, who are supporting their own families of origin, maybe even if they’re don’t have their own children, or others who they have to care for. But so something I think that our faculty were really knowledgeable about and considering anyway, so by talking about the principles of universal design for learning, and we integrated some other instructional design strategies there too, we’re talking about how we could meet learners online or in our in person classes. So in the fall, it was the Faculty Development Institute is just like a year long learning community, it follows a similar structure. But for us, what we did is in the fall, we did sort of the the learning piece, right, like we did the talking the connecting the understanding and exploring piece, with the goal of in the winter semester, we met less frequently. But we were focused more on developing plans or developing new approaches, or revising what we were doing in terms of how we were teaching something or how we had designed a learning experience to integrate UDL in some way. So the ultimate goal was that folks would be able to incorporate at least one of these concepts into their instructional practices, and then share their experiences their lessons, learned their knowledge with each other, but then also share it a little bit more widely. So that in addition to that, so that was a more intentional, or planned or, or consistent group, I guess, right? So we were, it wasn’t that big, it was like maybe eight to 12 people give or take, and you know, people semesters very so some people were really engaged in the fall and kind of fell off toward the winter, or were able to ramp up in the winter, depending on their teaching load. But then, so that was consistent where we were building those relationships and the connections that are really important in the success of learning communities. But then in addition to that, for like, the more I would say, more casual or more curious or more, sort of one off learning experiences are for learners who are more casual learners are more curious about this. I also had a series of workshops that I offered through our Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning in the winter semester about UDL. So one on the basics of UDL, sort of giving you an overview of, you know, here are the principles, one that focused on the challenges and considerations or like the opportunities that we saw, which was much more discussion based. So, you know, letting people kind of get in a room and say, Well, I’m concerned about this, or I have questions about this, or I see this as an issue, which I think is important when we are talking about kind of offending peoples, you know, moving people’s cheese right or amending their practices. But then the third workshop was an opportunity for the folks in that Faculty Development Institute to share what they had done or share what they were planning to do. And that was really useful, I think, because, you know, we talked about potential challenges. We talked about opportunities, maybe, but then we can see oh, this is someone who’s thought about this. And this is a way that they can see that they might put representation, Action and Expression engagement into practice, or have already done so in their teaching in new ways. So I always like to I was really grateful to have folks in that Faculty Development Institute to share because I always think it’s A more powerful when it’s not just me talking, right? When it’s not like, you’re all the examples you need, it’s like someone else has actually done this successfully, I promise I’m not just I’m not just, you know, telling you something to do, that’s not going to necessarily work. Here are all these examples from folks who have tried different things at different levels, with varying success, right, so, so those were the more sort of front facing or externally kind of intentional engagement with others facing kinds of activities that I did as a faculty fellow. And then towards the tail end of my time. In that role, Christina came to me and said, You know, I think from these, from the FDI, you’ve done from the workshop you’ve done, I think that we could create some really easy, you know, kind of quick resources, she calls them often quick notes. So like one pagers, right, that, like, are just documents that we can link to, would you be interested in doing this? I was like, Yeah, I’m sure. And Christina is just fantastic, wonderful dream to work with. And she really took the ball and just ran with it with those. But I mean, it was a, it had bass, she basically I think she had the real foresight to say, Hey, we’ve had these resources internally. There’s an audience for these externally, there are, you know, not everyone is talking about this externally, we could add to the conversation. And so yep, so she and I created videos, she and I created a kind of one pager, PDF handouts. She has definitely continued that work in a lot of ways, in her full time work through subtle, so I’m really glad to hear that they have been using they have been, they have been shared. And she shares that too. So it’s always exciting. You know, it’s always exciting when your work glyph is behind you. So. So yeah, I think it was in all in all, again, I’m sorry to keep plugging for libraries. But like, librarians we do send tend to have more of like a, an institutional view, we are siloed, too, but like, we have to connect with other folks to get our work done, basically. And so I think it was just a really unique opportunity for me to connect with further our settle just because that enhance my research. I think it brought new ideas to settle. And I think for the faculty who were in our FDI, or came to our workshops, I hope that it just like we’re talking about today, right? Like it, it opened their eyes. Oh, my librarian can do a lot for me. So yeah. So yeah, it was a great, it was a really great experience and a great partnership. And something I would 100% recommend for librarians to do with their Centers for Excellence in Teaching and Learning for Centers for Excellence in Teaching and Learning or teaching centers to pursue with their libraries. I think it’s made for a really great partnership. And it was a great way for us to highlight some of the library’s resources, right? Can we talk about representation, like libraries have lots of different kinds of information. So I think we were able to plug folks in with, with different videos or different datasets or different ways of presenting concepts that maybe they didn’t even know that they had before. So

Lillian Nave  43:04

yeah, it’s so fantastic. The more and more I learned from my librarian that I kind of get assigned one, and, you know, there’s different humanities librarian or the sciences and everything. It just makes my teaching so much better, more well rounded, and so many more resources. So that’s, I mean, that’s part of the whole UDL thing is finding those resources, and librarians can help you do that in ways I never knew of before. So I think that’s another like that’s a big takeaway from this episode, too, is how much librarians can do for you. So and you also redesigned one of Oakland University’s courses, the library 250 class, and you wrote an article about engaging students in this online course. And in that article, you cite Clark and Meyers elearning best practices, and I wanted to ask you about what overlap you see in these best practices and the UDL guidelines.

Amanda Nichols Hess  44:06

Yeah, so I’m, as I mentioned, library instruction can take lots of different forms, right. And I am very fortunate that I’ve been able to teach a four credit online course at our institution, with my colleague Katie Greer, who I co wrote this or the article that you mentioned with and, and I when I came to UDL, I thought I don’t know anything about UDL, but Clark admires you learning best practices were something that I learned in grad school when I was getting an IT specialist certificate and instructional technology, and I really was leaning on. And so when you ask this question, I’m like, Well, I don’t Oh, there are a lot of connections. So I guess I must have made those connections sort of subconsciously or unintentionally, but so I think I did come to UDL maybe with a with a kind of those, that foundation in place, but you know, they’re their principal holes. And I think what really resonated with me when I, when I was exposed to them and like, you know, it’s been 10 years now or something was just really about seeking to make online resources as accessible and, and opening access as widely as possible. So they were really focusing on what are our best practices so that we can design elearning for the best possible outcomes for all learners. And I think I think their practices or I think their principles are from like, 2011. So if we were to look at them now, or when we look at them, now, they still hold up, but I think if we think about, you know, the the the arts, the early 2000 10s, right, people are like web 2.0. What, this is amazing. Look at all this cool stuff I can do, right. So I think a lot of their principles are in reaction to, oh, I could put this flying thing in that comes in from the corner. And wouldn’t that be so cool? Like, what did this flash animation I can do? But so I think we’ve moved away from some of that now, but, but I do think that in more concrete terms, if I look at, you know, like what Cass says about UDL, or what we’ve talked about about UDL, I mean, they’re really, like in my I really focus a lot on chunking information, right? So cognitive load is a really big piece, which I think is something that we definitely are thinking about with UDL sequencing information, in a way that makes sense to learners, is simplifying and making sure that information is simple, not simplistic, but just it’s straightforward. It’s you’re not using jargon, you’re making sure again, that that it can be understood and accessed by a wide variety, wide range of people. And I think they’re just thinking about it more from the online format. So. So I think that there are lots of things again, that, and this is this is what I think I realized when I was working with with settle what I thought and what I was confirmed, I guess, when I was working with settle as a faculty fellow, is that in many ways, we’re, we’re doing the UDL best practices, or we’re integrating UDL, without sometimes even thinking about it, because we think, Oh, this is good learning design, or this is good online learning design, or I’ve read this principle, or I’ve read this practice. So I think with both Clark admires, and with UDL principles, when I think about them together, I think, mostly the value that they are the overlap that they have is just in like, if we think about these things more intentionally. Not only do we see the ways we’re already meeting those goals, or hitting those targets, or trying to address or make learning more accessible and more open for students, for faculty for whoever’s accessing it, but but we can see sort of opportunities for growth and development. And that’s something that again, Christina Mora has talked about a lot and at our institution in the work that she’s done outside of our institution about, about UDL being a process or even accessibility being a journey, right, it’s steps in a process. And I think that’s the same with with Clark and Meyers. Elearning best practices, right? I mean, we all want to hit everything right away. But, you know, there were ways that we can hone how we’re, you know, chunking information, avoiding extraneous information being focused in how we’re presenting information to learners. But I think for me, too, because so much of my instruction is happening online, whether at medium large scale, or even with those one on one in person classes that I’m teaching, maybe they just have a really natural synergy. But I think the elearning best practices are just guided and are founded in good instructional design, right? Like, they’re the same things that we would be doing in our classes anyway, or should be striving towards. So yeah. So yeah, I think they connect really nicely and naturally and in ways that I didn’t think about at the time, but I’m like, oh, yeah, of course. Yes. Imagine that. So

Lillian Nave  49:03

it’s sort of crystallized into two very similar principles, and you bring up another in that answer, you go back to something you you mentioned about 20 minutes ago, which was simplified, authentic and engaging. There’s another that’s another title for this episode. But every time it’s more simplified, it’s authentic, and let’s make it engaging. And that brings me to my last question, which is about when you also tackle a very difficult problem in online learning, and that’s group projects and creating an online community. And an important UDL guideline is to foster collaboration and community. So what advice do you have for faculty as they try to incorporate group work into let’s say, an online course? What advice do you offer to implement the community of inquiry model that you mentioned?

Amanda Nichols Hess  49:58

Well, online in group work, often not simple, not seemingly authentic to students, and not always engaging for the instructor or for students. Right. So I think sometimes we can, if we hit those three areas in group online group work, we know we’ve done really well. But sometimes we are not feeling not feeling that and neither are students. So yeah. So yeah, so the, the, the sort of community of inquiry approach and integrating group work that you mentioned, my colleague Katie Gruber, and I did when we redesigned that Li, B 250. Now we it’s led 2500, at our institution, which was our online credit bearing course. And we redesigned it through a grant that we got actually through our Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning because we were trying to integrate high impact practices into that online course, again, more intentionally. And so one of the ways that we wanted to do that was through group work through community through collaboration. And so we really thought long and hard and did lots of research and had the space because of this grant, to do more intentional inquiry and planning of how we would go about that. And so I guess, when I would say the first and most important thing, which is easier said than done, is the intentionality behind the group work and how group work is situated, structured, designed, built into an online course, or an online learning experience is, is key, because if it’s, you know, just like anything, right, if it’s group work for the sake of group work, it’s not it’s, it’s much less likely, I think, to be successful or to be meaningful or authentic, or engaging to learners. But one thing that I think Katie and I both learned, both in our redesign process of the course, and then, when we taught it, because we co taught it together, Katie has since taught it on her own. So I’m sure she would have other ideas to add based on changes that she’s made. But I mean, we really found how important structure was to group work. That’s something that we definitely saw in the literature about group discussions online or student engagement online. And, you know, clearly outlining what’s expected even assigning of roles, so that folks knew what was expected of them specifically knew what the due dates were, specifically knew what they needed to contribute to this effort, you know, what timeframe. But we really found that for group work and for connection, you know, we’d like to think that connection happens organically, and it does. And it can online, for sure. But around those learning experiences, it was not going to happen for us. And for the students we were working with who are in an elective course, who are meeting a general education requirement, right? So they’re coming from all over, they have all kinds of different experiences, we weren’t going to have success without a scaffold. And so scaffolding that process, and that involves us being actually involved, pretty involved, right, like being present, making sure that, you know, we reduced our scaffolds or our connections with our students or with the groups as they work through the class. But this was one of the benefits. And one of the reasons why we taught together, because then we were more able to focus on groups of students rather than having to focus on everybody, or all the different groups and try and you know, make sure that that things were working. Okay. I mean, I will say with that, with all that said, though, like the failure is 100% inevitable. Definitely, there were times when it really sucks for us really suck for our students. But we used those opportunities as times to learn but also times to show our students that we were learning like, yep, we realized that did not work like we were planning. We not really saying like, we’re apologizing, but but basically saying, Yeah, we’re sorry that this was not the kind of experience we were hoping for, you know, we’re going to take these lessons forward, do you have input on how we could help future students to, you know, engage in this more meaningfully? So I think, showing students that we were learning to and that we were seeking to improve their experiences in the course. But future courses as well, I think was important for us to take those failures or take those slip ups or those moments where things could have gone better, and make them meaningful or show I think, show students that we were invested and we were intentional about our practices. But I mean, I think for us, and the thing that we heard a lot of was that in an online class, the more engaged and present an instructor is, the more effectively we were able to, you know, integrate that community of inquiry model or the, like more of a community of practice kind of a framework. So I think we, again, you know, community of inquiry involves into engagement with each other with the materials, but also with the instructor. And I think that’s a piece sometimes that can get lost online, but something that I think folks have been much more intentional about, you know, during the COVID times, right, when we’re trying to figure out how to connect with our students online more broadly. But something that we really found, when we were present, we were able to foster collaboration to foster community in more more intentionally, I guess, but also just in more inclusive kinds of ways, right? We weren’t, you know, we we were able, I think, to, to notice when, you know, we could make a better connection between students, or we could connect with students and try and come alongside them, and make sure that they were, you know, connected to their colleagues, their classmates, but also to the content that we were working through in the course. So I guess the the one last thing, I will say, and I think this is this made a big difference for our group work, is how we graded students. And I don’t know that I would, you know, I’m, I’m exploring other grading approaches, other grading models, but I know for us one thing that I think students hate about group work, and I’m, I was the student, right, like, you’re not going to grade me on what they do, right? So I think we were really intentional about seeing group work as one of the one of the articles or research that we pulled from called it, collaboration group work rather than co working, right. So the idea was that they were getting input from each other, and their final learning product needed to include or address some of the input they gotten from their classmates, but they weren’t depending on each other to get their work done. And so I think, by having an our case, by having students grades focused just on what they were doing, I think gave them more incentive to, you know, like, engage with their group work, because that was what they were being graded on that not whether someone responded to their post or not, whether somebody, you know, did what they were supposed to do, necessarily, but, you know, because I think that often feels like not equitable to students, and can be a real challenge with group work in person and online. And I think that was, that was a way that I think we found, and it was tricky, you know, sometimes we had to navigate some, you know, bumps in the road. But I think by trying to really clearly delineate like this is these are our community expectations, but this is what you’re going to be assessed on. And this is what your grade is going to be informed by. I think that allowed students to engage with each other with that sort of barrier down. Are you going to screw my grade up? to migrate up? Yeah. So right, I like to think that helped, it seems like it helps so

Lillian Nave  57:41

well, they were more in charge of their own grade, they didn’t have to worry that somebody else was going to hurt them in the long run because of that. Yeah. Yeah, I’ve found that to be really important. For if students are motivated, right? Why would they do something if somebody else could really tank their grade? In essence, so yeah, it sounds like, again, you’ve simplified that group work, you’ve made it authentic, and engaging and and given really a reward for being engaging, like, the more they’re doing, than the more they’re actually relating to other people in their group. So that seems to work well. Wow. So thank you so much. I mean, that was an amazing amount of work you’ve been doing in the UDL field and Library Science. And so you’ve given me a lot of the resources that we’ll have on the webpage, too. And I’ll put a link to to the Oakland University’s YouTube page that has amazing resources that you talked about, plus the book, articles, things that you’ve done. So folks can look even further, especially our librarian friends that we love. Yeah, but thank you, Amanda, I really appreciate your time in talking to me today.

Amanda Nichols Hess  58:58

Well, thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate you taking the time to talk to me. And before I thought, how can I how can I make sure to plug librarians in this? And I think I’ve done that. Oh, yes, ad nauseam. Sorry, for all of the shameless plugs. But, but yeah, I really appreciate the opportunity. And, you know, this is just for folks who are interested in this, I do think that, even if they’re librarian say, like, Oh, I’m not familiar with this, they will, they are, they can be really great partners in this work. And so yeah, there’s that, you know, there’s, as we talk about building community, right, there’s a community that we can build right in our own institutions or with our colleagues who are interested in these topics. So I really appreciate you letting me you know, get on my soapbox about librarians but I hope that these resources are useful for folks and and that they keep looking at the great work that Christina Moore is doing it subtle as she continues all of this for oh, you Yeah, thank you so much. For sure.

Lillian Nave  59:53

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 website. Thank you again to our sponsor Texthelp. Texthelp is focused on helping all people learn, understand and communicate through the use of digital education and accessibility tools. Texthelp and its people are working towards a world where difference, disability or language are no longer barriers to learning and succeeding, with over 50 million users worldwide. The Texthelp suite of products include Read and Write equates to an orbit note, which work alongside existing platforms such as Microsoft Office and G Suite, enabling them to be integrated quickly into any classroom or workspace with ease. Texthelp has changed the lives of millions worldwide, and strives to impact the literacy and understanding of 1 billion people by 2030. Additional support for the podcast is made possible by Appalachian State University where if you call it Appalachian, I’ll throw in Appalachia. The music on the podcast was performed by the Oddyssey quartet comprised of Rex Shepherd, David Pate, Bill Folwell and Jose Cochez as an I am your host, Lillian Nave. Thank you for joining us on the Think UDL podcast.

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