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Podcast: An Inclusive Approach to Integrative Learning Design with Jarrett Carter

  • 30 MIN READ

Join us for episode 3 of our podcast, where we discuss designing inclusive learning experiences with Jarrett Carter.

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Welcome to Episode 3 of Teach & Learn: A podcast for curious educators, brought to you by D2L. Hosted by Dr. Cristi Ford, VP of Academic Affairs at D2L, the show features candid conversations with some of the sharpest minds in the K-20 education space. We discuss trending educational topics and, teaching strategies and delve into the issues plaguing our schools and higher education institutions today.

Episode Description

In today’s episode, we got candid about designing fulfilling and engaging learning experiences, with accessibility at the forefront. We welcomed Jarrett Carter, Associate Vice President for Integrative Learning Design at the University of Maryland Global Campus. Mr. Carter is passionate about creating inclusive and equitable learning spaces that eliminate long-standing barriers for marginalized groups. Mr. Carter and Dr. Ford discussed:

  • How traveling through France forced Jarrett to think about how learning experiences are designed for students with differing capabilities
  • Why accessibility and diversity should be addressed at the start of designing new learning experiences
  • Challenging the definitions of neurodiversity
  • How Jarrett and his team addressed test-taking anxiety in one of their projects
  • The benefits and limits of universal design for learning (UDL)

Show Notes

  • 00:10: A brief intro to Jarrett’s background
  • 02:29: Why a trip to France was a bit of a light bulb moment for Jarrett with respect to the level of compassion shown to how we teach students from different backgrounds
  • 05:51: Why accessibility is not only an issue of compliance and why we need to take a proactive approach to designing learning experiences
  • 14:34: How the definition of neurodiversity has changed
  • 19:35: Why it’s so important for educators, principals and learning staff to not assume when it comes to the baseline access and knowledge individual students have
  • 23:15: The controversy around Universal Design Learning (UDL)
  • 29:01: The advice Jarrett would give fellow educators as they move through a post-pandemic world
  • 32:50: What’s next for Jarrett and how you can connect with him

Resources Discussed in the Episode

Follow Jarrett on Twitter

Connect with Jarrett on LinkedIn

Learn more about the University of Maryland’s Global Campus

Learn more about Dr. Cristi Ford and the Teaching and Learning Studio.

About the Speakers

Jarrett Carter (he/him) is Associate Vice President for Integrative Learning Design at University of Maryland Global Campus, which serves almost 90,000 students worldwide. Jarrett has worked in higher education for over a decade, most recently spearheading cross-functional teams to develop innovative learning experiences in a variety of settings. His passions lie in creating inclusive and equitable learning spaces that eliminate longstanding barriers for marginalized groups. A certified Scrum Product Owner, Jarrett seeks out ways to fuse learning design principles with industry-driven approaches in the product management world.

Jarrett is an EdD candidate at the University of Florida’s Educational Technology program and holds an MA in educational technology from Adelphi University and a BS in mass communications from St. John’s University.

Dr. Cristi Ford serves as the Vice President of Academic Affairs at D2L. She brings more than 20 years of cumulative experience in higher education, secondary education, project management, program evaluation, training and student services to her role. Dr. Ford holds a PhD in Educational Leadership from the University of Missouri-Columbia and undergraduate and graduate degrees in the field of Psychology from Hampton University and University of Baltimore, respectively.

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Full Transcript

Cristi Ford (00:00):

Welcome to Teach and Learn, a podcast for curious educators, brought to you by D2L. I’m your host, Dr. Cristi Ford, VP of academic affairs at D2L. Every two weeks I get candid with some of the sharpest minds in the K through 20 space. We break down trending educational topics, discuss teaching strategies, and have frank conversations about the issues plaguing our schools and higher education institutions today. Whether it’s ed tech, personalized learning, virtual classrooms, or diversity inclusion, we’re going to cover it all. Sharpen your pencils. Class is about to begin.

So listeners, let me just give you a little bit of background around Jarrett’s work before we dive into this conversation today. Jarrett Carter serves as the associate Vice President for Integrated Learning Design at the University of Maryland Global Campus we affectionately know as UMGC. In the decade long work you’ve spent a lot of time recently spearheading cross-functional teams develop innovative learning experiences and a variety of settings. And one of those I know about is creating MicroMasters. Your passion line, creating inclusive and equitable learning spaces that eliminate long standing barriers for marginalized groups. And I believe you’re a certified Scrum project owner-

Jarrett Carter (01:17):

That’s correct.

Cristi (01:17):

And one of the things that you do is to fuse learning design principles with industry driven approaches in the product management world. So thanks for being our guest today on Teaching & Learn.

Jarrett (01:29):

Thank you. I’m so excited to be here and I’m looking forward to this chat.

Cristi (01:34):

We have had time over the years to really talk about the importance of how we design learning spaces. And so as I mentioned to you, accessibility is so near and dear to my heart. I think you know this, but I started my career in PK 12 and a level five non-public where all the students that I served had some type of neuro diversity.

I had students that were on the spectrum in terms of autism and Asperger’s syndrome. I had a student who was a selective mute. I had a student who had a traumatic brain injury. And so as I think about that time back in, oh gosh, I’m going to date myself, but in the late 90s, there was not a larger audience to think about how we design learning spaces. And I think you can really resonate with that. And so I just kind of love to hear as you thought about your conversation with me today, what came to mind for you?

Jarrett (02:29):

Some friends and I, over the summer, we had planned to go to France back in 2020, and that got postponed all the way to this past summer. And so in those two years that we were waiting to go, one of my friends spent all the time learning French. And so by the time we got there, she impressed the locals with her French skills. I am a professional study crammer. And so I learned just enough to get on the plane to Charles [inaudible 00:02:55] by myself because we all flew separately. I knew enough to order things from restaurants. But the limits of my knowledge quickly became apparent when we were on the train from Paris to Nice, the train was super crowded and so we had to separate. And so I was sitting in a section of the train by myself, and as the train is pulling out, the conductor makes an announcement on the loud speaker and everybody starts looking at each other really nervous. And I’m trying to figure out, “Well, what’s going on?” And I don’t have my friend to ask what is going on, and I get nervous.

And then the conductor makes another announcement and then everybody has a sigh relief on their faces. And so even though there’s been a sigh relief that whatever challenge that arose has been taken care of, I was still very anxious. And so I asked the couple next to me because I heard that they were shifting between French and English as they were talking, and I asked, “What did the conductor say?” And then he said, “Well, the first announcement was that the train was going… the train had left 20 minutes late. But the second announcement was that the train ahead of us, I guess, had left early. And so we’re going to be able to cut 10 minutes out of that 20 minute delay.” Now you could hear that story and rightfully so say, “Well, that’s a story about a provincial American who did not learn enough French and got stuck in that,” and you would be correct.

But what it did make me think of is that there were things I could have done to mitigate that situation. And yet there’s students in our education, be it K through 12, higher ed, even in our alternative credential space, who by no fault of their own, don’t communicate in that way, they’re not able to. And so I was thinking about how anxious I was for the 30 seconds in which it took for me to reach out and ask the person next to me. But I think about students who are… You think about how tough school can be already and the academic goals that you have. And we set up so much of K through 12 to say, “At least if you grew up like me…” my parents are always telling me, “You’re only going to be successful in life if you do well at school.” And there’s all this pressure and then in college.

And so imagine then coming into a learning space where you have a further barrier to learning and we have to have compassion for those students. And that has to guide the work that we do in this space. We have to design learning that is accessible and open to anybody, no matter what.

Cristi (05:10):

I love that example, Jarrett. I think it really is a perfect example to help us think about reframing how we create learning environments and how do we create environments in general that are inclusive? And how do we create opportunities for belonging for all types of individuals with newer diversity? And so as you shared that story, I wanted to bring it home a little bit to your work and ask how have you addressed accessibility in the work that you’ve done? You’ve done a lot of work as an instructional designer, you talked about your… I know you’ve got Scrum certification. How has that really played out in some of the work that you’ve done?

Jarrett (05:51):

I think one of the things for me is making sure that I’m framing this as a DEI issue because I think that oftentimes we see accessibility as a compliance thing. And certainly just as with any DEI initiative, there is accountability if you don’t follow the parameters. But really and truly, I think that what’s really important is making sure that from the beginning that we are designing as inclusive as we can. Now we know that there’s going to be limitations. We know that it takes time, but the more that we could be proactive in designing those learning experiences, the less it becomes about compliance. And I will tell you that my experience has been that the organizations that I’ve worked with that frame it that way, there’s a culture tone around accessibility. It’s more about, again, looking out for the students than it is a compliance thing on the other side.

And so even at UMGC, we’re always having conversations about how do we make sure that what we’re bringing into our ecosystem is able to be achieved by so many students? Because for those of you who don’t know a whole lot about UMGC, we serve almost 90,000 students across the globe, most of who are adult learners who are working full time. And there’s a lot of diversity among our students. So we’re not even designing for just the 18 to 24 year old, but anybody. We have a lot of military, others, so we have to be sure of that when we’re designing.

Cristi (07:17):

I like that. And I think that I resonate with that as a faculty member of my time teaching. I always try to help colleagues think about the proactive nature of creating learning environments. Small things like making sure that alt texts was provided in the images that I created, or knowing that students were going to come maybe week three and week four with an accommodation letter. I already had extended testing time for half time and double time so that I had that password protected so that when I got those requests, I wasn’t in a frenzy trying to be able to create those kinds of accommodations in the system. And so I appreciate that proactive approach that you mentioned to you work. I think that that is really super critical as we think about moving this work forward.

Jarrett (08:05):

I think it’s really important. And again, we know that it takes time to change, and we know that even as we’re learning more about the accessibility field and serving disabled students and just a variety of different students that we’re always learning other parts that we may not have thought about with accessibility. And so it’s just as much having, like you said, a system in place where we encounter something that’s not accessible as it is about designing as accessible as we can from the beginning.

Cristi (08:32):

And I’ll say this, and this is really a space around thought leadership, but last week we were talking to a school system, and one of the things that I remember from early days, and you do as well, is thinking about how do we create spaces to be able to have accessibility be as intuitive as possible? And so in the Brightspace platform, it’s really nice to see that when you’re creating a video that auto caption is already created and is intuitive to the system. And so you don’t have to go to a third party provider and find a plugin and those components. As you think about, or as we think about reframing the ways in which we think about those who are differently abled in learning environments we create, how do we need to reframe that narrative?

Jarrett (09:24):

I think there’s a few things. I would recently came across a social media post that talked a bit about how we talk about students who are disabled. A lot of times… I appreciated that you said differently abled or even embracing the word disabled. Because what I’ve heard from a lot of advocates in this space is that a lot of times we create, and when I say we, I mean those are not in that group, create euphemisms to make ourselves feel more comfortable. We don’t feel, differently able disabled, are terms that it’s not actually helping. When I posted that, a friend of mine reached out and she said, “Thank you so much for re posting that,” because she’s somebody with disabilities. And one of the things that she’s gotten frustrated with in her education journey is that along with those euphemisms is a patronizing attitude, sort of this in fantasizing them.

And the reality of it is that she said, “I’m a grown adult, I know what I want to do. I just need you to help adjust this part of the learning experience for me so that I can successfully complete it just as anybody else.” I think leaning into more of the direct words, serving our students and having compassion for them without further marginalizing them by being patronizing is really important.

Cristi (10:55):

I agree there. And I think what you’ll also hear many listeners refer to as neuro diversity. I really appreciate the reframing that has come about and that neuro diversity really describes the idea that people experience and interact with the world around them in many different ways. There’s no one right way of thinking or the one right way of learning or behaving. And it allows us to think about differences not as deficits, but as assets. And so there has been a lot of research and work done around newer and diverse populations, and what does that consider, who do we consider in those populations? And so I think when you talk about not being patronizing or not coming from the deficit model, I think that’s super critical as we talk about this conversation today and we think about learning environments. And so you mentioned some really good points, and I guess I find that sometimes even when we’re talking about learning environments, we sometimes have a narrow view of the way we design environments. We really focus on people with a hearing impediment or a visual impairment.

So as you’ve done work at UMGC or College Park or even the MicroMasters courses, do you have a few examples you could share that would really help us and our listeners to illuminate some of the things that we should be considering and doing differently?

Jarrett (12:18):

Absolutely. I really appreciate you bringing up neuro diversity because one of those, is first of all, who defined what neuro typical is? And so you think about the history of education and how narrow the focus was of who was admitted. And a lot of times we talk about it along racial and gender lines, but there was a lot of exclusion historically in education for other types as well. I think in its more current form, we talk a lot about, again, blind student and deaf students, but there’s all sorts of other accommodations that are out there that we don’t think about. One of the ones that surprised me when I began my doctorate program was finding out that our accessibility office at University of Florida includes mental health as one. People with test taking anxiety. And I am somebody who I do horribly at tests because it’s not even just it’s in my head, but I physically… I will walk out of the test and I will afterwards remember things like, “Oh no, I do know the answer to that.” And so there’s ways designed for that.

Of course, we talk about accommodations and some of my classmates and I were able to get accommodations that way. But also when we were designing the MicroMasters program at College Park for edX, one of the things we did is that we had proctor tests in our exams. And a lot of that was for, super long story short, to make sure that the academic integrity was lining up with what we were doing on campus and making sure that it was a comfortable experience. Now, with that, because I’m not always a fan of standardized tests, we made sure, for instance, that there was a full page or set of pages that gave as much information about the exam as possible without actually giving away the questions and answers. And what that helped with was that… and we included a part where students could reach out and ask other questions that may not have been on there. So we added to the FAQ. Students knew exactly how long the exam was, the types of questions. There was some faculty that we worked with that actually gave practice exams.

We offered a technical run through of the exam so that you can actually move around in the proper environment without a grade and assessment so that you can just get used to the environment so that if there’s something wrong, like your technical setup, you can address it there, than getting into the exam and finding out. And also for students that had different types of accommodations requests, we freely granted additional time to take the exams, because again, the screen reader, for instance, is probably going to read the question a little bit slower than you or I would read it directly on the screen. So let’s give extra time for that. We don’t need to create barriers where they need not be.

The other thing too, when we talk about other types of diversity, when we think about accessibility, the pandemic was one that immediately raised a whole lot of domains that we had not even thought of. How do you provide mental health accommodations for students who were hanging out with their parents on vacation five weeks ago and suddenly they’re in lockdown and one of those family members have unfortunately passed on? How do you reconcile a lot that the global headlines that were going on in 2020? There was a lot going on. And so there were a lot of faculty that were reaching out to me and wanting to talk and saying, “We don’t even know what to do right now. We want to support our students. We want to be helpful.” And so one of the things about accessibility too is that it’s not a checklist thing. We’re never going to come up with a static checklist. It’s going to evolve as the world evolves and we continue to learn more about our students and the challenges that they face.

Cristi (16:07):

I think that’s really key is that it’s a current evolution and it’s responsibility to be engaged in proactively. And I think at the same time, it’s a balancing act. I think that as I think about some research I read around advocacy and agency, we’re finding that as a result of the pandemic, these kinds of concepts are being reconsidered all over again in terms of how do we create advocacy for students in a learning environment, but at the same time, it shouldn’t be all on them? And so I think about my time in K through 12, and in that environment, it was all about entitlement. You were entitled by law to certain services, to get speech language pathology, to get reading support, to be with the OT. Those were entitled services that you got all the way through the 12th grade. And when you jumped into higher education, it became about eligibility.

And so it really focused on a shift around all of these years you’ve been relying on teachers, personnel specialists to come and pull you for certain services, and they were been mandated to you and now you’re going into higher education and you have to advocate for yourself. And so I think as we talk about the design aspects of learning environments, what do you think we need to think about in the ways we design our work to make sure that onus isn’t all on the student?

Jarrett (17:38):

I think having support systems in place really help and making it clear who students can reach out to for support, who they… Making sure that whatever process be the accommodations’ process or escalation processes are transparent to the student. We also need to make sure also that we are fully supporting the avenues that are available to them. You mentioned the entitlement programs. So one of the things that I remember, I was having conversation with a public school teacher in Brooklyn, New York about a decade ago when the tablet craze was first coming around, and these students were handing out tablets to the teachers, handing out tablets to the students. But nobody answered the question, “Well, what happens if the student doesn’t have wifi at home?” Nobody was asking the question about, “What if the teachers themselves aren’t sure how to use the tablet? How do you fund ongoing professional development?”

What do you do, for instance… Even going back to the pandemic, when we switch to, and I make a distinction here, that the pandemic induced emergency remote instruction, not online learning, because you and I have been this field long enough to know that it takes a long time to put together a quality online experience. Most of what we had in the pandemic, we had to put together in two week’s notice if that. But when we were thinking about the synchronous lectures on video conferencing and stipulating for students to have their webcams on, but what about the students who had to go home during parts of the pandemic and maybe did not have solid internet bandwidth? And so they’re choosing between having their webcam on and getting choppy audio because their bandwidth is further taxed or having their webcam off. And then a lot of faculty were asking, “And how do I ensure that they were engaged?” And we had to talk a lot about other strategies they have in the course to be able to see how your students are doing other than just seeing their physical face.

I remember one weekend when I went up to my parents’ house to work for the weekend, and I forgot that it’s not even just, ” Do you have internet or not?” But it’s also if your internet router was set up for only two people to be online at the same time, and now you suddenly have a family of five or six or seven all trying to use the internet, all trying to do conference calls for work and lectures. That’s a thing we also have to think about as far as it goes. But I think also the other thing too is ideating a little bit more about who do we think that we’re serving? So if you are putting together a course for, say, a global audience, you have to also think about things like if you mention brands and it’s an implicit… the implication of that brand is implicit in the course. Making sure it’s a global brand.

If you’re talking about sports, first of all in the United States, what we call football is something totally different anywhere else. Making sure that certain colloquialisms and sports teams and things like that, that we put in the course. If we are relying on the tacit understanding of why we’re bringing up that brand, but the other students don’t have exposure to that, those are things that we can do to make our environments more inclusive as well by being mindful of that.

Cristi (20:50):

I would agree. And as you were talking, it just made me think about cognition and metacognition and all of us really being thoughtful about cognitive load. I think about the work that we worked on together around adaptive learning pilots, and what I really found was such an aha moment, even in that example, was that we started to think about making sure the learner knew upfront the expectation, right?

Jarrett (21:17):

Absolutely.

Cristi (21:17):

This was going to take you about 25 minutes. Are you going to need an hour and a half to be able to work on this section? So that we’re being as inclusive as possible, but we’re also serving the needs of as many learnings and possible. I would raise my hand and want to know this is going to take me 20 minutes of my day versus an hour and a half and having that kind of chunking available. And so as you talked about those examples, I think it’s important what you said about being as inclusive in your design as possible in any and every instance of the work.

Jarrett (21:52):

And everybody benefits from it. We’ve heard the age old analogies of curb cuts and subtitles on movies. It benefits everybody. And the same is true in even in choosing-

Cristi (22:05):

[inaudible 00:22:05].

Jarrett (22:05):

Sorry?

Cristi (22:06):

I said I even use subtitles now on Netflix.

Jarrett (22:08):

So do I. You even think about how I was at the mechanic a couple of weeks ago and they had the news playing and there were people talking in front of me. And so even though, yes, I could go and sit closer to the television if I wanted, I could just as easily see the subtitles of what was going on. And so it turns out that that benefits everybody. And even when we’re picking the tools in our classrooms. If there is a tool that’s going to be more complicated to use, but doesn’t necessarily yield a higher learning value, I think we need to start rethinking even some of the tools that we use. And not in a way that we are trying to back away from tools or things like that, but just thinking about what assignment types tend to be accessible to everybody instead of having to individualize things so much. Because what we also don’t want the experience of our students that have is to constantly feel like they’re going to an alternative and an alternative and an alternative.

And there are times where we need to do that for sure. But there’s other times where if option A and tool B both have the same learning value to them and the same outcomes and tool A is more accessible, then let’s just go with tool A and benefit everybody.

Cristi (23:15):

Right. No, I agree in the tool space. And so I’m going to shift the conversation a little bit. I know that over the last year or so, there’s been a lot of controversy of UDL, universal design and how we think about the use of UDL, even going as far as saying that UDL has now become the new learning styles. And we both know the myth around learning styles and the research that supported that, and that there is some implications that UDL as a framework is difficult to teach. And so I just wonder, as I’m reading different articles in the K through 12 space and in the higher education space, what is your take on all of the controversy?

Jarrett (24:01):

I’ve been following that as well, and I think that the way we situate it matters. This way that we situate universal design for learning. I believe it was George Box who said, “All models are wrong, but some are useful.” And the way that I approach learning design is I’m very rarely wedded to one particular one over the other. But my sort of design approach tends to be sort of a gumbo, if you will, of different things that we borrow from different models and make our own thing. Any sort of learning theory, so we’re talking about UDL right now. I think that a lot of times in the education space, it tends to go through that hype cycle, at least Gartner’s hype cycle. And so when UDL first came out, it went through the peak of inflated expectations. It was going to solve all hopes, dreams, and desires of students with disabilities. I think now we’re seeing it sink down to the trough of disillusionment.

But I think over the next few years, I think we’re going to get to a place where we get into that slope of enlightenment so that we can get to the plateau of productivity and situate it where it belongs. Because here’s the thing, the amount of criticism in my mind does make sense because UDL was enshrined in a lot of education policy in the United States. It was included in a lot of didactic professional development for teachers and faculty. And so I understand people asking the question about like, “Well, is this really a silver bullet?” And let’s be honest, at the same time, there’s always going to be this tension in education between being data driven and being cutting edge, because the time that it takes for us to have enough data that’s a large enough sample size, you and I are both qualitative researchers, to get that sample size to really be able to say that conclusively, we’re going to be on the next thing.

So how do we strike that balance between saying, “Let’s glean from these different principles. Let’s use the best data that we have.” But at the end of the day, regardless of if it’s UDL or not, this is what I’ll say regardless of UDL principles, I think that it did start a conversation about how rigid our learning environments are. And much in the same way that learning styles, yes, the research has debunked it, but it did start some useful conversations about how you approach learning. And I think that there is a way that we can both appreciate those conversations as we continuously improve our instructional practices and our design practices, while also recognizing that we don’t want to give something more weight than is due to it. From my design philosophy, I do still borrow a lot from Universal Design for Instruction, which is again, designing things where there’s options.

I’ll give you a quick example. In my doctoral program, we had a course where we had to do presentations. And so, in recognizing that there are some of us who love an audience like me, and there’s other people who may feel more comfortable being able to record their presentations in the comfort of their own home and then record and retake as often as they need to. Our professor offered the option of doing both. So either you could join the synchronous session and do your presentation, or you could record it ahead of time. If you recorded ahead of time, you would post your presentation into the discussion forum and you would respond back and forth that way. If you present it live, you were expected to ask questions of your peers after their presentations. And so it gave us different options because public speaking is something that induces a lot of anxiety.

And if the goal of the assignment is to gauge their subject matter expertise, then whether or not it’s pre-recorded doesn’t really make a difference. So sometimes we need to figure out what are we assessing here, and be a little bit more flexible. And the last thing that I’ll say is that, the other thing though, about pre-building alternate experiences is that it does reduce the load on accommodations. If something is already at the ready for a student who needs an accommodation, I think it’s better to have that upfront then to have to send them through the loop of concept accommodations and trying to quickly build an alternate experience. So all that to say, wherever we fall on UDL, I think it’s still brought up conversations that we need to have in this space. And I hope that we continue to have as we continue to learn.

Cristi (28:18):

I think that’s the good thing. I love about being the educators, that we can always have some really critical conversations. And I would agree with you that it does give us a framing, and as we think about universal design and its earliest elements and the ways in which it was created for physical spaces and being able to use this as a framework and the foundation. And so I would argue that what you offer has quite a bit of merit in terms of having the conversation because we weren’t having the conversation as we are now. I think we would be in a really difficult place in terms of learning environments as we went into the pandemic. And so I appreciate your thoughts on that, and it’s been really good to talk to you today.

And as we spend time creating this podcast, we really know that educators are our listening base. And so as you think about what we’ve talked about in terms of accessibility, because we know accessibility can be so broad, we could spend another an hour, hour and a half talking about a whole different segment of accessibility. But I wonder if you might have a call to action for educators as they embark on this year of education. I say this is the post peak pandemic because we’re far from being out of the pandemic. But are there some things that you think that you like to offer as a call to action for educators listening today?

Jarrett (29:41):

Absolutely. I think the first is, as you and I have talked about this, is accessibility is not static. We’re going to continue to learn. We’re learning even more in 2020. We learn even about race and accessibility and how we make culturally inclusive environments and things like that, so I would say that. As you said, accessibility is such a broad space. And so let’s continue to think broader about it and let’s continue to even self audit our own learning experiences that we’re creating, whether you’re an instructional designer or a teacher or faculty or an administrator or whatever role you play a technologist to think about how can we make this even more inclusive? Because the more that we’re proactive, the better we serve our students. And the other thing that I will say is that one of the things I’ve observed, I’ve talked to colleagues, is the challenge of bringing tools into the space and wanting to be cutting edge. And sometimes they’re not always accessible.

And I’m thankful that with D2L, we’ve had a great relationship in that regard of having those conversations, but that hasn’t always been the case. I was one time looking at procuring a tool for one of our cyber programs, and they showed me this really cutting edge tool, and the instructional designer and technologist in me got really excited, and then I said, “Well, now wait a minute, what about how is somebody with a screen reader supposed to use this?” And just low hanging lowering fruit. And basically the answer was, “Well, we don’t know, but we can figure it out with you.” And so at that point, I said, “Thank you so much for this conversation. When you figure that out, give us a call. But for now, we can’t move forward with this.” And I think the more that we do that, here’s the thing, we may have lost that on that tool, but if that becomes to be the global expectation of working with K12 schools and universities and other educational institutions, it’s going to become a grassroots push to make sure that we’re including that accessibility from the beginning.

And that’s how we move the needle on this. That is how we continue to… Sometimes at work, I talk about building our ecosystem, building our learning ecosystem, and it is as much, because again, we can’t turn the dial all at once. It is as much looking at what we currently have and providing accommodations for that. But it’s also gate keeping what comes into the ecosystem to make sure that we’re also being proactive in that regard. So those would be my two, again, broadening how we approach accessibility, and then also continuing to be mindful what we bring it to our learning ecosystems that we’re building.

Cristi (32:07):

I love that. I would say that for me, that’s being a good steward of accessibility in the learning environment. And so I appreciate that call to action for educators. And I think that as you talked a little bit about GC and their approach to accessibility, it is front of mind all the time. And so I appreciate that for large institutions like a UMGC with so many learners, if we’re pushing the marketplace and the educational technology spaces to make sure that this is a requirement, that from itself institutions generate the demand and generate how things move across the continuum. And so thank you for sharing that. I think that we have a collective opportunity and efforts to that as educators. So before we wrap up today, I’d love to know what’s next on your agenda. I know you’re a doctoral candidate at the University of Florida’s Educational Technology Program. So just tell us a little bit about what’s up next for you?

Jarrett (33:11):

Sure. So right now I am finishing up my dissertation on experiences of black woman in online doctoral programs. And this really excites me even when we talk about accessibility, because while the participants that I’m looking at are black women, I’m really excited about some of the conversations that I’ve been able to engage with others in the field about the fact that there is no singular definition of an online student or an adult student. A lot of times we presume a very uniform definition in what I’m quickly learning, both in developing my literature review and now interviewing and coding responses, is that there’s so much diversity in our experiences that we don’t always see, especially at the distance. So the other thing is that at UMGC, we’re continuing to have cross-functional conversations about how to even further integrate accessibility and DEI into our learning model.

And so to further tighten all those pieces together, and there’s other things that are in the works right now that I’m not quite able to share yet. But I will say that you follow me on Twitter, and I’ll plug my socials here @jarrettgcarter, on Twitter, and then ‘Jarrett Carter’ on LinkedIn. As soon as I’m able to share those things, I will share. But I post a lot on LinkedIn in particular, and so I love having conversations with others in the field. So if you want to further this conversation, also would love to connect and learn more about what you’re doing.

Cristi (34:38):

All right. Thank you so much, Jarrett. You heard it here first, colleagues, he is open to continue to have this dialogue. So thank you for the time today, Jarrett. Thanks for Just having a conversation with us today around accessibility, and we wish you all the best.

Jarrett (34:52):

Thank you so much, Cristi. And honestly, thank you so much for your continued advocacy in this area, all the way from K12 to higher ed. And now as we were talking about tools, you’re in the tools space now, right? You’ve done it all and you’ve continued to push accessibility. So thank you so much.

Cristi (35:06):

Absolutely. Thanks so much. Thanks for joining us today.

You’ve been listening to Teach & Learn, a podcast for curious educators. This episode was produced by D2L, a global learning innovation company, helping organizations reshape the future of educational work. To learn more about our solutions for both K through 20 and corporate institutions, please visit www.d2l.com. You can also find us on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram. And remember to hit that subscribe button so you can stay up to date with all new episodes. Thanks for joining us, and until next time, school’s out.

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