The BCcampus Book Club began two years ago as a way to connect with colleagues in the post-secondary sector on topics of professional interest in teaching and learning. The guidelines for the book club series are that it be open, informal, and fun — an easy way for participants to share ideas and strategies and take what we learn to practice.
Following up on the success of our 2019 offering centred around Small Teaching by James Lang, we will be diving into Small Teaching Online by Flower Darby this spring.
Are you still feeling unsure about your skills as an online facilitator of learning? This selection for our online book club might be just the confidence booster you need! Join the discussion and exploration of strategies and tools to hone your online-facilitation skills. The book club will be facilitated over nine weeks, mostly asynchronously, with three optional synchronous sessions.
In his 2012 article “The University Culture,” Joseph Simplicio writes about the “unique and cherished culture.… [that is] steeped in tradition” at universities. He says that these values are important to an institution’s viability because they create “stability and continuity” for its members. These shared values and experiences, as well as familiarity with institutional practices and policies, create a bond between individual members of a post-secondary community.
Each post-secondary institution can come up with a list of ways that a campus-based printing service might access and incorporate its traditions and values. Here are some ideas:
Showcase. Display printed open textbooks in the campus bookstore window to expand awareness.
Normalize. Place open textbooks on bookstore shelves alongside other printed resources, such as commercial textbooks and course packs, to standardize open textbook use.
A post-secondary institution’s website often includes a page describing its history, values, mission, and how they serve their students and the community surrounding them. Below are examples from 47 public and private colleges, institutes, and universities across British Columbia.
Joseph Simplicio, “The University Culture,” Education 133, no. 2 (Winter 2012): 336–9, https://www.questia.com/library/journal/1G1-313160605/the-university-culture. ↵
To avoid overcrowding this textbox, these links have been excluded from the print version of this book. To view a particular institution’s values page, enter “[institution name] values” into an internet search engine. ↵
The feature image for this post (viewable in the BCcampus News section at the bottom of our homepage) is by mentatdgt from Pexels
Post by Leigh Kinch-Pedrosa, Head of Marketing & Communications, Pressbooks
Clint Lalonde, open education project manager for BCcampus, writes, “Discoverability of open textbooks has always been a challenge, and Pressbooks Directory will make a huge difference in making OER (open educational resources) findable by others. One of our goals at BCcampus is to make our materials as widely available as possible because every adoption or adaptation built upon a BCcampus book makes the initial investment in the development of that book that much more impactful.” It is for the purposes Clint outlines — discoverability and increasing the usefulness of each resource — that BCcampus and Pressbooks are so excited to announce the inclusion of BCcampus open textbooks in the new Pressbooks Directory.
The Directory works by indexing public books created on PressbooksEDU networks and allowing users to search great open resources that can be accessed for free. However, the initial release of Pressbooks Directory couldn’t support the inclusion of self-hosted networks (like those operated by BCcampus) because many of them were not using the newest Pressbooks version, which includes vital updates that allow the Directory to index books. BCcampus has been so innovative with its use of Pressbooks and its books are of such high quality that it was important for the Pressbooks team to have BCcampus books included. Steel Wagstaff, educational product manager at Pressbooks, worked closely with the folks at BCcampus to make the necessary updates. Similar collaborations were successful with other open-source networks, including Open Education Alberta, University of Hawaii, Ryerson University, and Plymouth State University.
The history of BCcampus and Pressbooks goes back to the early days of PressbooksEDU when BCcampus was looking for a platform on which to create OER, and Pressbooks was excited to start working in the educational publishing space. BCcampus was among the first OER publishing projects to adopt Pressbooks, and its staff made significant contributions to improve Pressbooks’ ability to support open textbook publishing. As BCcampus has grown into one of open education’s leading organizations, Pressbooks has provided the platform on which BCcampus built its open-textbook publishing program. Both parties have continued to collaborate, resulting in improvements to the Pressbooks platform and the advancement of each organization’s mission.
Hugh McGuire, Pressbooks founder and CEO, writes about the continuing partnership: “BCcampus was the first major OER project to adopt Pressbooks, way back in 2012, and since then they have been building a fantastic catalog of high quality OER on Pressbooks. Recently, BCcampus has been focusing on the exciting project of building robust collections of interactive H5P content into selected OER — turning Pressbooks books into powerful open courseware. The resources available in the BCcampus Pressbooks catalog represent almost decade of leadership in OER, and we’re thrilled that it’s now in the Pressbooks Directory so that it’s easier for anyone to find these resources and easy for Pressbooks users to clone BCcampus content in order to adapt, modify, and improve. Thanks to the entire team at BCcampus.”
Today, users can find BCcampus open textbooks alongside thousands of other public books in the Pressbooks Directory. Books included in the Directory, depending on the license and the author’s export choices, can be accessed and downloaded in multiple formats for free or cloned into a Pressbooks network, where they can be remixed and redistributed easily and efficiently. As such, this partnership promotes the 5Rs in tangible ways. More books + more discoverability = greater access.
“We think having BCcampus books included in the Pressbooks Directory benefits everyone by making a stronger open ecosystem,” Clint writes, “and I know we will benefit from being able to find other Pressbooks projects in the Directory to use as starting points for future development projects.” Everyone involved in this collaboration shares Clint’s enthusiasm and hopes for the future. It is with great pleasure that we offer Pressbooks Directory and BCcampus OER to the wide world of open education.
This month’s BCcampus Award for Excellence in Open Education goes to Instructor Andrea Niosi, Faculty of Entrepreneurial Leadership, Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU). Andrea has become a leader in open education at KPU and beyond. She gives presentations about open pedagogy, has participated in local and international fellowship opportunities, mentors others in open education and open pedagogy, advises on the development of zero-textbook-cost programs in marketing and entrepreneurial leadership at KPU, and has authored multiple open education resources.
Nominated by Melissa Ashman, Instructor, Applied Communications, KPU School of Business
Andrea participated in KPU’s SDG Open Pedagogy Fellowship in 2020, where she collaborated with faculty from Montgomery College and Maricopa Community College to create three renewable assignments. These assignments allow students to reimagine marketing by creating new narratives that accurately reflect the diversity and complexity of consumers past and present.
She supported 34 fourth-year marketing students in creating an open education resource (OER) called the Open Guide to IMC (integrated marketing communications). Students curated open content, created original content, developed H5P content, and paid close attention to approaching the guide through an antiracism lens.
In addition, Andrea was a mentor in the UNESCO Open Education for a Better World program, gave workshops on open pedagogy, and presented to faculty at Nelson Mandela University in South Africa. She presented at the Open Education 2020 Conference with two KPU students on developing the Open Guide to IMC. She is an active member of the BCcampus Business ZTC Advisory Group and a curriculum developer for the Entrepreneurial Leadership Program at KPU.
Post by Ross McKerlich, Project Manager, Micro-Credentials, and Helena Prins, Advisor, Learning and Teaching, at BCcampus
Definitions can be hard to find when it comes to recent innovations. Micro-credentials are no different, but it is important to build an understanding so you can discover applications for them. One way to build a definition is to start small, or basic, and add defining characteristics.
What are micro-credentials in basic terms? The word has two root words – “micro,” meaning small, and “credential,” meaning a qualification. This results in a basic definition:
A micro-credential is a small qualification.
This definition is true, but it somewhat mutes the potential impact of micro-credentials. Adding characteristics to the basic definition brings scope.
Characteristic One: Focused Qualification
One primary characteristic is that micro-credentials often result from industry and post-secondary institutions working together to meet an industry need. They have a specific focus. The learner can apply knowledge quickly and hopefully gain meaningful employment.
A micro-credential is a small, focused qualification the learner can quickly apply in an area of industry need.
Characteristic Two: Competency Based
A second primary characteristic is that micro-credentials are competency based, so the learning is about knowledge, skills, and ability, which is a bit different from traditional knowledge-based qualifications. Competencies are assessed and endorsed by the institution that offers the micro-credential.
A micro-credential is a small, focused, competency-based qualification the learner can quickly apply in an area of industry need.
With this rough, unofficial definition in mind, who are the stakeholders to be considered? What are other use cases for micro-credentials? What has been done elsewhere that we could learn from? How can we ensure equity-focused micro-credentials?
To explore some of these questions and more, keep an eye on our newsletter to join upcoming events and discussions around this hot topic! Here is one event happening soon:
Micro-credentials in the B.C. Context. March 1–12. A self-paced course with two special web conferences. Register here.
The feature image for this post (viewable in the BCcampus News section at the bottom of our homepage) is by Magda Ehlers from Pexels
Indigenous students are not always in culturally safe spaces on campus. The concept of cultural safety recognizes that we need to be aware of and challenge unequal power relations at all levels: individual, family, community, and society. The reality is that many Indigenous students experience racial microaggressions daily and this ongoing harm creates feelings of isolation and unwelcomeness. A racial microaggression is a “subtle behaviour that [conveys] hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to persons of marginalized groups” (Shotton, 2017, p. 33). Negative messages are based on myths and stereotypes. Below are a few common misconceptions to dispel as you work with Indigenous students and build your allyship.
Indigenous students get 100 percent free education
Not all Indigenous students receive funding. There is a federal funding program called the Post-Secondary Student Support program, but only status First Nations and Inuit post-secondary students are eligible for funding under this program. This program is underfunded, with little budgetary increase since the mid-1990s. This causes First Nations and Inuit-designated organizations, who administer the annual allotted funds to their membership, to ration who, how, and what is funded. For example, some eligible students will have just their books and supplies paid for while others will get their tuition if they enrol full-time. Some programs may not be eligible for funding, including any continuing education programs and some online programs. For those students who must relocate to attend college or university, costs such as housing, day care, and transportation, are often not covered. Métis and non-status First Nations students are not eligible for Post-Secondary Student Support funding, so they must seek student aid, scholarships, and bursaries. Métis students can also apply to Métis Nation BC for post-secondary funding through its Indigenous Skills and Employment Training Program, which is funded by Employment and Social Development Canada. Moreover, BC First Nations who have signed modern treaty agreements (for example, Nisga’a First Nation, Maa-nulth First Nations, Tsawwassen First Nation, Tla’min First Nation) no longer have access to the Post-Secondary Support Program and may or may not be able to provide post-secondary funding to their members. For more information about funding programs for Indigenous students, please see Appendix B.
Indigenous students are “underprepared”
Not Quite. Many Indigenous students are the first generation of learners to attend a post-secondary institution, so they may not know the processes involved in enrolment, transition, and graduation. Some students may need academic support to transition to the post-secondary classroom (for example, they may require tutors or academic support for numeracy, literacy, and technology); however, many will come fully prepared academically.
Students of mixed ancestry are Métis
Not all “mixed blood” people are Métis. The Métis are members of an Indigenous nation with roots in the North American fur trade. While some of their ancestors are European, the salient characteristic of Métis identity is based on shared histories, cultural practices, and community life. A person is Métis because they are descended from Métis ancestors and recognized by Métis relatives and communities, not because they are of mixed ancestry (Hancock, 2017). For further information, please see the Métis Bibliography [PDF], a supplement developed for the Indigenization Project.
If you’ve met one Indigenous student, you’ve met them all
Not true. Indigenous Peoples’ experiences cannot be homogenized; therefore, each student must be understood in relationship to their cultural identity, diverse spiritual practices, and experiences. For example, not all Indigenous people come from poverty, suffer from violence, or have lived on reserve. Understanding students’ socio-political circumstances is helpful in your role as an ally and service provider as is understanding the effects of colonization, residential schools, and other complex systemic issues facing Indigenous Peoples. However, we should not assume all students come from the same circumstance and that Indigenous people are all harmed.
Indigenous students are “spiritual”
Indigenous students are culturally diverse. Not all Indigenous people have the same spiritual practices. For example, not all Indigenous Peoples take part in smudging ceremonies or pow wows (these are primarily practiced on the prairies), and not all Indigenous people participate in feasts and potlatches (these traditions are practiced by Indigenous Peoples on the Northwest Coast). Spiritual practices are influenced by worldviews, language, and practices. Also, the effects of colonization, such as residential schools, mean some Indigenous students also practice faith-based religions either alongside or separate from their traditional cultural practices. Spirituality must be thought of as diverse as Indigenous Peoples themselves and we can’t make assumptions about what role spirituality plays in an Indigenous person’s life without knowing the individual.
Post-Secondary Student Support program: https://www.aadnc-aandc.gc.ca/eng/1100100033682/1100100033683 ↵
Indigenous Skills and Employment Training Program: https://www.mnbc.ca/directory/view/342-ministry-of-employment-training ↵
During his talk, Ryan Merkley described what makes a successful commons — and also drew on Elinor Ostrom’s work, on the tragedy of the commons, to touch on scarcity in the digital commons. “What is scarce about an abundant digital commons?” said Ryan Merkley. “Four things: collective action, community, collaboration, and gratitude. They are renewable. They are vital. But they are unfortunately rare.”
Gratitude. This particular point resonated with us. It’s something that can easily be expressed, makes a world of difference, and, as Ryan Merkley said, is renewable but rare.
Fast forward to present day, and we’d like to share a brief story that expresses gratitude and provide a how-to guide to get you started.
For the past two years, Christine Miller, Adult Basic Education science instructor at Thompson Rivers University (TRU), has been diligently working away at building and adapting an open textbook for Human Biology. She’s worked very hard to create H5P interactions, enhancing the text with stunning, diverse images and including local Indigenous content. It’s a beautiful book, and we encourage you to take a peek if you’re looking for inspiration. (The linked page contains samples of all these elements on one page.)
If you do take a look, you’ll notice Christine Miller relied heavily on images from the website Unsplash. Although these images aren’t Creative Commons licensed, they are free to use. Unsplash asks that you say thanks to the photographer for sharing.
Upon completion of this textbook in December, Christine Miller reached out to over 200 photographers to let them know she appreciated them sharing their photos, and she also sent a link to their photo in the textbook.
She did this on a Friday afternoon and didn’t really expect any replies. On Monday morning, her inbox was full! People were excited to hear that their photos had ended up in a textbook, and a few of them let her know they were going to tweet, blog, and post on Instagram about it.
Some of the responses included:
“Glad I could help, Christine. That’s why I put so many images on Unsplash. Thx for showing me where the image was used. Much appreciated.”
“Thank you so much for taking the time to reach out to me. I love seeing how my photos are being used, and I’m so glad I could help you build textbooks for your students.”
“Thank you for letting me know that you used my photograph! I’m delighted to forward the cause of making open textbooks available (and may take a read through the rest of the textbook for the fun of it, because I am an incredible nerd). Of course, your students may not appreciate the work that’s gone into making their textbook, because it looks so professional. I love seeing video links at the end of the chapter; it’s great that digital textbooks allow you to drop in direct links like that.”
“Thank you so much for sending me this. It really keeps me motivated to upload even more.”
“Awesome. From our trip to Ethiopia with my girlfriend, who has Ethiopian parents. Thanks for the link. Greetings from Berlin.”
“No way; this is so cool! It’s a cool connection because in my regular life I work for Trinity Western University and often process a lot of TRU transcripts. Your institution is dear to my heart, haha. It would’ve been even better if the people in the photo were TRU alum, but I don’t think any of them attended. Thanks for choosing some of my photos and for reaching out!”
As you can see from the responses, Christine Miller used content from global creators. It’s a phenomenal example of how creating and adapting an open work may draw on content and contributions from around the world.
Christine Miller’s act of gratitude was a small one but did not go unnoticed. We hope that by sharing this action, it inspires you to intertwine this principle into your open pedagogy. Christine Miller’s contributions are commendable and make her a trailblazer in the sphere of open education.
During the Q&A period of Ryan Merkley’s keynote, an audience member asked about ways to give gratitude. “We take gratitude very broadly, and I think one of the most basic elements of gratitude is attribution,” he said. “The least you can do to give gratitude to someone is to acknowledge that [the creator] made that thing and acknowledge it. And you’ll notice in my slides when I use an image that is CC0 and requires no attribution, I attribute anyway… One of the areas I’ve been focused on in the last year has been photographers, and one of the things that I’ve seen them most frustrated about is the ways in which their works travel around the web, and they never find out where they go, and they never hear back from those who use them. And they often don’t get credit.”
According to Ryan Merkley, one of the struggles is that attribution can be difficult. Today we’ll show you some simple ways to attribute images (even CC0 or free images) and how to find contact info for photographers, like Christine Miller did.
Attribution and Reaching Out
In this section, we detail how to attribute and express gratitude to open textbook authors, Unsplash photographers and Wikimedia contributors, and how to use the Open Washington Attribution Builder tool. You’ll also find some sample email text.
When you adopt an open textbook, whether it be from the B.C. Open Textbook Collection or another source, we encourage you to thank the authors in a variety of ways. You may want to send an email to the authors, mention or cite them in a presentation, or share their work on social media. Remember, citation is a form of gratitude!
When you’ve found an image on Unsplash you want to use, click the Download Free button in the top right corner. A pop-up message displays with the attribution. Click the copy icon (or highlight and copy) to add the attribution to your work.
To thank Unsplash photographers for sharing their work, click the user ID. This takes you to their profile page, which likely has a link to their website or social media. In the true spirit of this post, we reached out to the photographer of the heart image to thank her.
On Wikipedia, when you click any image in an article, the Wikimedia viewer pops up. In the bottom right corner, click the download icon to display text you can copy and paste to attribute the author.
Wikipedia/Wikimedia also make it easy to express gratitude to content creators. When you are logged in, click a user’s profile and find the heart in the upper-right corner, where you can share some WikiLove! Again, in the spirit of this post, we left Woodlot some WikiLove for sharing this image.
Open Washington Attribution Builder
Washington State Board for Community and Technical colleges (WA SBCTC) built this application to help you easily cite open material. Fill out the form, and the application automatically generates an attribution statement for you.
Each field has a ? icon that provides more information about what information you should add.
And, you guessed it, we reached out to the folks at WA SBCTC to thank them for building and maintaining the Open Attribution Builder. It’s such an awesome tool!
Here’s the sample email that Christine Miller wrote to creators to give you an idea about what to include in an email message:
I just wanted to let you know I’ve used one of your lovely photos in an open textbook about human biology.
Thank you for putting your work on Unsplash so that teachers like me can make beautiful, free textbooks for our students.
If you’re interested in seeing where your work ended up, you can see it here (url) in a section about (topic).
Call to Action
Now that you’ve learned some ways to spread love, we challenge you to reach out to creators and thank them for the work you use. Perhaps this is a textbook author for a textbook you’ve adopted, or maybe it’s thanking a photographer for their image. Another option is to tag a creator on Twitter or Instagram to thank and share their work. We encourage you to use the hashtag #OpenGratitude.
Starting today, BCcampus is committing to giving attribution to the photographers of the openly licensed photos we feature on our blog.
The feature image for this post (viewable in the BCcampus News section at the bottom of our homepage) is by Rahul Pandit from Pexels.
We kicked off 2021 with four synchronous sandbox sessions in Zoom to give faculty the opportunity to get more comfortable with Zoom features such as annotation, breakout rooms, and polls. In each session participants ranged from those who were “terrified,” with zero Zoom host sessions behind them, to those who were very comfortable and had hosted and facilitated more than 10 Zoom sessions.
Post by Helena Prins, advisor, learning + teaching, BCcampus
As we reflect on these four sessions, a few tips and thoughts stand out:
Don’t get bogged down with the “tech stuff.” Instead of launching a poll, you could ask students to use some of the non-verbal feedback icons or simply use the chat feature. Using cool tech tools can be overwhelming and inadvertently also create a barrier to access for participants with limited bandwidth and older devices.
Knowing what to expect will decrease anxiety and increase mental readiness, while having documents ahead of time allows students to prepare for the session. They can choose whether to print the documents for easier access or download them so they don’t have trouble doing so during the session. If you have a video to share, consider asking students to watch it before or after the session, since watching a video all together during a synchronous session could definitely create bandwidth issues for some. Ask yourself about the real purpose of watching the video together. Could it be done individually and achieve the same learning?
Plan your session with buffers of time built in to allow for the tech stuff to happen! For example, creating your breakout rooms, opening them, and closing them will add at least two minutes to your session if you know how to work these smoothly. Launching a poll (reading the questions in the poll out loud to ensure everyone knows what is being asked), waiting for the results, then sharing the results can also take a bit of time depending on your own launching abilities as well as your participants’ knowing how to vote! One of the biggest unanticipated challenges with Zoom webinars we witnessed in 2020 was presenters running out of time. Even if they managed to complete their presentation, very little time was left for questions.
There seems to be an assumption that when students turn off their camera, it means they are not paying attention. Although it could be true, a student most likely didn’t turn off their camera to cook a meal or cuddle their pets. What might be true is that the student is experiencing connectivity issues (low bandwidth), has some embarrassment about their appearance or background, or shares a space with others (very common reason). Having regular polls, asking for non-verbal feedback (“Show me a thumbs-up to let me know you understand, and I can move on to the next concept”), or using the annotation tool to brainstorm — ask for questions or one-sentence takeaways in the chat — are just a few little ways to check engagement throughout the session.
Sending a group of students into a breakout room “to chat about what I just said” may sound flexible and open, but it could create a lot of anxiety and awkwardness for those in the breakout room. Be clear with your guidelines and instructions for the breakout session. If a debrief afterward is expected, ask students to assign a leader in each room. If allowed, provide a Google Doc or slide deck for students to jot down their responses. Tell students how long the breakout session will last, and use the broadcasting feature to send updates and a friendly heads-up before closing the session. One of the recent updates to Zoom is that a co-host can also launch breakout rooms. If you feel overwhelmed hosting, facilitating, and creating breakout rooms, assign one of your tech-savvy students as co-host. They can launch polls and create rooms for you while you focus on the instructions and learning that you want to have happen! Wherever possible, co-hosting seems to enhance the experience for the host as well as students. The co-host could also become the “chat monitor” who would raise any questions or interesting thoughts shared in the chat.
Most of our sandbox participants joined from a laptop or desktop, but keep in mind that many students may use their phones to access synchronous sessions. They may experience barriers to breakout-room activities, difficulty viewing documents while also being on-screen, and different steps to navigating the platform, to name only a few of the potential challenges. When you design your session, offer some “workarounds” for participants who experience barriers to access while online.
If you missed our FLO sandbox sessions, feel free to watch the recording of the virtual tour and use our slides and Google Doc to orientate yourself, or perhaps gather a few of your colleagues to meet in Zoom and practice the finer features of the platform. Either way, we hope your next Zoom session FLOws smoothly!
Over the years individuals from institutions and organizations across British Columbia have taken Facilitating Learning Online (FLO) to the next level by participating in the Facilitator Development/Mentorship program and co-facilitating one or more of the FLO courses. If you are thinking about adopting FLO courses at your institution, these are the people who can help!
What got you started on this path to becoming a FLO facilitator and mentor?
I had the opportunity to collaborate with Helena Prins (advisor, learning + teaching, BCcampus) on a project for my course International and Intercultural Communication 560: Global Communication at Royal Roads University (RRU). After this experience, we debriefed and unpacked some of the intercultural competencies that were highlighted in the group assignment that are often overlooked within pedagogy. Then, last summer, Helena approached me with an opportunity to share how some of these approaches can help to create an inclusive and culturally sensitive environment within the online space.
At RRU, we are supported by such a great group of learning designers and learning technologists. I had my first Instructional Skills Workshop with Keith Webster and BJ Eib at RRU and have since benefited from learning from Dr. Sophia Palahicky, Ken Jeffrey, Dr. Lauren Halcomb-Smith, and many others. Their help has been instrumental to my approach; to be able to share from this wealth of knowledge and the approach I have developed is an honour.
What experience and expertise do you bring to this new support role of helping others to adopt and/or facilitate FLO courses?
I have a passion for social development issues as seen through an intercultural lens, which is informed by my studies in international development and experiences with the international public sector, various NGOs, and multilateral organizations like the United Nations.
As an associate faculty member at RRU, I incorporate community building and participatory approaches that translate this perspective into flipped classroom or studio-style sessions that reframe contemporary global issues through the lens of each individual’s experience.
I am a big advocate of effectively using a variety of online tools, like Padlet and AnswerGarden, that foster engagement and exploration of participants’ trans-disciplinary grounded expertise and personal lenses.
By Karolina Karas, Strategist, Marketing and Communications at BCcampus
My online accessibility journey began a little over a year ago when I stumbled on a font the Government of British Columbia created to help residents access written digital materials more comfortably. (It’s called BC Sans, if you’re curious!)
Since then, and inspired by the core values at BCcampus, I have spent many hours reflecting and implementing changes big and small to our online communication strategies at BCcampus, specifically materials created for our social media channels and webpages.
Many of the concepts I have worked on over the past year are not exclusive to those working in marketing and communications. If you have a platform online or are communicating in any way with a large audience online, I hope these tips are transferable to you.
Use Plain Language
Plain language is writing designed so that the reader can quickly, easily, and completely understand the content. You can implement a number of techniques to use plain language, including:
Using active voice, not passive voice
Avoiding jargon and acronyms
Writing shorter sentences and paragraphs
Using common, everyday words
Designing documents with lists, headers, and tables as needed
Word choice is also important in writing. A number of inclusive language guidelines are available online. Good places to start are here and here.
Add Image Descriptions
Alternative (alt) text conveys meaning and provides context for images, infographics, graphs, and other media. Blind and low-vision users rely on alt text to provide meaning to media on digital mediums like webpages or social media platforms.
Be concise! Detail is important, but for most mediums, sources recommend your alt text be the length of a tweet.
Think about which detail is helpful for your audience and context. How you would describe a picture of books for content about a book sale versus content about a semester reading list would have different details in the alt text.
Skip writing “image of,” “photograph of,” “picture of,” or anything similar. Screen readers already know they are announcing an image.
If text is included in the image and is central to the meaning, transcribe it.
Use a screen reader to read your alt text out loud. This can help you hear the details from the user’s perspective.
Be Mindful of Imagery
Here are some best practices for the design elements of images you post.
Strive to have good colour contrast on images you post online. WCAG 2.1 AA compliance is a contrast ratio of 4.5:1 between foreground and background colours when you use regular font and 3:1 with large font.
A number of tools are available to test colour combinations, including this favourite of some staff at BCcampus.
Avoid placing text on textured backgrounds or over images, unless the text is large and contrast is high.
Diversity in imagery is also an accessibility concern. BCcampus shared a blog post with a list of stock photo websites focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion, and we update the list when we find a new resource. I use it so often, it’s one of my most visited bookmarks.
I have a few more tips to help you make your online content a bit more accessible, but these don’t fit in any of the categories above.
When you use a multiword hashtag, capitalize each word. This is called CamelCase.It helps screen readers but also generally makes hashtags easier to read and decipher for all.
If you post a video, make sure you add captions. It allows deaf individuals and those with hearing issues the opportunity to watch videos and allows all viewers to watch videos more comfortably in sound-sensitive environments.
If you share a link on social media, use a link-shortening tool. Link-shortening services are key for accessibility because they limit the characters a screen reader has to read.
My journey is ongoing, and there have been a few bumps along the way. If anything sticks with you from this post (and if you made it all the way down here, thank you!), I encourage you to try, ask questions, and learn from mistakes or progress you make. One commitment at BCcampus is to publicly share its electronic data interchange and accessibility strategies for digital communications. It is by no means a perfect document, but a living and breathing one we intend to update regularly as we continue to listen, learn, and do. Making the internet a more equitable space is an ongoing project and requires commitment, so I encourage you to keep learning alongside us.