Lesson Design and Delivery

Table of Contents:

  1. General practices and principles
  2. Text-based material
  3. Visual material
  4. Oral lectures and audio
  5. Digital accessibility resources

General practices and principles:

  • Record every lecture: Set up a recording method, whether digital or note-taking, and distribute the recording to the class. Be sure to pair any audio with a written transcript. Consider appointing a class note-taker or working with speech-recognition technology. Panopto is a useful video-recording and livestream platform to which you can upload rolling transcripts. Be sure to inform students when they are being recorded and seek their permission.
  • Keep multiple channels of communication open: Create a system for students to submit questions orally or digitally during and after the lesson. Consider using a digital platform for live questions. Answer questions during built-in breaks and/or at the beginning of the next class.
  • Clearly communicate specific goals for each unit: Use daily and/or weekly learning objectives to facilitate autonomous and keep students on track. Provide guided notes for each lecture in advance. Introduce information slowly over the semester to prevent information overload.
  • Consider multiple learning styles: Use multiple, redundant means to represent your material, including audio, oral discussion, text, visual representation, and hands-on learning, without relying on just one.
  • Never assume students always have access to equipment, such as textbooks, personal computers, or other resources, such as bandwidth, in your lesson design.
  • Teach students “how to think” in your field or discipline: It is important not to assume students have prior experience with your field. As part of your course support, incorporate in-class strategy instruction on how best to study, how to read, absorb, and present materials, and how to use jargon, notation and format. Think about other helpful information that someone unfamiliar with your field would not know. Actively increase students’ exposure to norms of the field using guided examples (see below).
  • Incorporate examples: Examples, case studies, applications, and practice are an additional means of representing your material that can be useful to students.
  • Provide opportunities for peer review. Giving students the tools to assess each others’ work will improve their understanding of the criteria and strengthen networks of support among students. Peer evaluations may also provide useful insights or advice that you cannot provide, and are more favorable than instructor review for reducing stress.
  • TeamBased Learning (TBL): If students are comfortable with group work, consider using TBL techniques.
  • Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs): Incorporate brief in-class, low-stress (possibly ungraded) assessments to generate feedback on how students are absorbing your material. Model them in the style (questions, prompts, etc.) of higher-stakes assessments you will have later to give students an idea of what to expect and how they are progressing.
  • Distribute materials in advance: Give students time to adapt material into a preferred format.
  • Develop a glossary of shorthand, notation, and technical language that you use in your lectures, notes, and materials for student reference.
  • Incorporate representation: Inadequate representation reduces the accessibility of the material. Consider the practices and rhetoric used in your field that contribute to exclusion and marginalization, and formulate a plan to actively work against them. Respect the directive “Nothing About Us Without Us” by centering the perspectives and academic material produced by people proximate to the subject or geographic area being considered.

Text-based material:

  • Have print and digital copies: Microsoft Word and other Office programs have good adaptable capability. Word, Excel, and PowerPoint feature a built-in Accessibility Checker.
  • Increase white space: Break up overwhelming dense blocks of text into more manageable pieces. Be concise. Keep margins wide. Use 1.5 spacing or higher.
  • Ensure color-contrast: Use white or light-colored paper with dark text. Avoid layering similar colors on top of each other.
  • Use ordered and organized text: Use an ordering method, preferably with hierarchical design – such as an outline. Include a table of contents, headings, and other navigation aids that will help easily retrieve information. Make use of bulleted lists.
  • Align text to the left rather than centering. Keep consistency within each style (columns, margins, alignment, etc.)
  • Convert PDFs to accessible formats: PDF scans are essentially images that won’t yield screen-readable text. RoboBraille.org is useful for converting PDFs, JPEGs, and other formats into accessible files. Adobe DC also has OCR (optical character recognition) technology available for converting scanned images into editable text.
  • Ensure keyboard navigability. Test your documents by navigating with only arrow keys or SHIFT, TAB, RETURN, and spacebar.
  • Font style and size: Use sans-serif font styles and 12-14 point font for paragraph text. Avoid italics. Make use of Microsoft Word’s built-in heading styles.

Visual material and video:

  • Alt-text and captions: No image should be without alt text. For decorative images and visual flourishes, create null alt text. View image description guidelines to develop your own. You can also use an alt-text generator, such as Facebook’s. Have a colleague unfamiliar with the material read the alt text.
  • Never rely on color alone to convey meaning.
  • Tables and graphs: Tables and graphs can be roadblocks for accessible technology. Include alternative descriptions that convey the essential insight you want students to draw from the visual.
  • Using YouTube: You can add automatic or self-generated captions and transcripts to embedded videos and videos you upload. Auto-caps are imperfect and require editing and review. Visit YouTube’s help site for instructions and the Additional Resources page for more advice on captions.
  • Generating transcripts: While YouTube can be used to generate transcripts for a pre-existing audio file, difficulties arise with live-stream and real-time captioning. You can use ASR (automatic speech recognition) software, such as Amazon’s or Google’s, or you can appoint or hire a student to generate live captions in class.
  • Describing video, live art, and interactive material: Request or develop audio descriptions for visual representation more complex than static images. These audio tracks should play alongside any built-in audio in the material and convey all relevant visual information, including tone and context. (Follow this link to a short example clip.) Check if audio description is already available for your content. If not, use proper technique to develop the tracks yourself or employ a commercial service. Depending on your video player (which, like YouTube, may not support separate tracks), you may have to post another version that includes the track.

Oral lectures and audio:

  • Use Microsoft PowerPoint’s built-in Accessibility Checker. See Microsoft’s guide to making PowerPoints accessible.
  • Real-time captioning: Consider having a designated student or third party type live captions that can be projected on a screen or a shared digital platform, such as Google Docs. Paid captioning services can also be hired. Discuss with the captionist how best to capture material prior to class.
  • Describe all visuals: Oral communication and transcripts (see above) should include descriptions of visual information and material, such as a show of hands.
  • Repeat questions back: You should have a microphone, while your class may not. If you have multiple microphones, distribute them so questions or other contributions can be heard.
  • Check-in frequently: Pose check-in questions about specific aspects of your lecture, such as your speed or speaking volume and the visibility of your slide.
  • Pointing: Use a pointer to indicate materials on your slide, while also orally describing what you are indicating. Use a long thin object or laser. Green laser pointers are easier to see than red.
  • Face your audience: This is useful for speech-readers.

Digital accessibility resources

More accessibility tools can be found on the Additional Resources page.