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Supporting Online Instruction

At the 2nd annual DCCCD Designing for Different Abilities Conference last week, Brookhaven College School of Arts professor Kathryn Fink Martinez spoke of the long process she’s gone through in trying to redesign her online course.

LeCroy’s David Wood hosted the event last Friday at North Lake College. The conference included a presentation from Director of STARLINK Network Rick Walker and breakout sessions with presenters.

In her almost hour-long keynote speech, titled “The ABC’s of Creating Change,” Martinez detailed months of emails with Wood, LeCroy’s Steven Rothschild and her textbook publisher.

“Creating change is hard and we all like to stay in our own little bubble,” she said. “We don’t like extra work, but change happens. Like Blackboard, eCampus, new software system and you realize all your links no longer work. You realize the symbols in your course are not correcting and you have to go back and change them.”

Martinez listed off different ABC’s of change – accessible, achievable, building bridges, be successful, committing, community, surprises, etc. – before talking about her decision to “completely scrap” her eCampus course this time last year.

“I teach completely online, so I thought, ‘Well this is a great time to build in accessibility,’” she said. “I assessed what my course looked like, what my course needed and I reached out to Steven Rothschild of the LeCroy Center.”

Martinez and Rothschild had several meetings going over how she could redesign her course before she got in touch with Wood last July to go over accessibility.

Through their meetings, Martinez found the materials made available to her through the publisher weren’t accessible, which began a long string of emails to the publisher. Two weeks before the fall semester, Martinez was starting to get nervous, she said.

“See, it’s all about perspective,” she said. “Usually when people look at a flower, they look at it from the top down. Or from the side or right in front of you. How often does someone look from underneath a flower? When I was looking at accessibility, [I had to look at it] from a different perspective.”

The issues she was having – like, her videos having incorrect closed captioning – were still continued a month into the semester.

After a conference call with Wood, the publisher and a content expert, Martinez got an email in October from the publisher telling her their accessibility would be improved going forward.

Although there have been improvements, Martinez is still sending examples to the publisher a year later about things not being accessible and compliant.

The publisher is in the process of scheduling another conference call to go over how they can better meet her needs, Martinez said.

Martinez credits her professors when she was a DCCCD student for her drive for change now.

“I was so excited to be able to come full circle to say some of the professors still here at the colleges encouraged me and look at how much I was able to do,” she said. “We don’t always hear what happens to our students and those surprises and I’m here to tell you I am one of those surprises and y’all have helped me. So, go forth and change happens with all of us.”

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Angela Auzenne