Monday, September 26, 2016

Teaching Tip: Using Alternate Text for Images

In higher education, there is an increasing expectation that students are able to access course content online, in the form of PowerPoint presentations, Word documents, and even original material added directly to the Course Management System.  When adding images to digital content, it is important to understand that students who require screen readers may be limited if alternative text (alt text) is not added.  Adding appropriately worded alternative text to an online image greatly improves the accessibility of your course content.   

In Microsoft Office products, alt text can be added by clicking on the Format Picture menu.  Type a phrase or short sentence into the description window.

The Format Picture menu in Word has a box for title and a box for description.  

In D2L, when an image is added using the Insert Image icon, you will be prompted to add Alternative Text.  If the image doesn’t add any additional content, you can click, This image is decorative.
 In D2L the user is prompted to provide alternative text.
Your alt text should describe the relevant content that the picture conveys to a sighted person.  As an example, the alternative text for the screenshot on the left might read, “The Format Picture Menu in Microsoft Word has a window to type in a title and a description.”  It is not necessary to use phrases like, “A picture of…” at the start of your text.  

WebAIM has a great article on alt text, that can clarify the purpose and process, and help you decide on the best phrasing to use in different situations.  

Removing barriers to learning is an important concept to embrace in education.  If you would like to discuss more about Universal Design or share your thoughts over a cup of coffee, contact Meg Elias ( or visit the CTE in TLC Room 324.  If you have more in-depth questions about accessibility for deaf and/or hard-of-hearing students, or blind/visually impaired students, please contact the Center for Student Access at 517-483-1924.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Tips for First Week Online Engagement

by Tim Deines

I’ve been teaching online at LCC for several years now, and I’m finding that there are some simple things I can do at the beginning of each semester to increase the chances, theoretically at least, that students will have a successful term. For you veteran teachers, some of what follows may seem obvious. In any case, it can’t hurt to reflect on how we invite our students into our classrooms in an online context.

Hopefully, it goes without saying that your syllabus should be up and ready to go. We are required to put them on Concourse now, but it might be a good idea to also have it available to students in Word form for easy printing, etc. I also separate out my reading and assignment schedule from the section syllabus so that students have easier access to those tasks and dates.

In addition to nuts-and-bolts tasks like the syllabus, I think it’s really important that teachers personally reach out to students and invite them to participate fully in the class. Online contexts can be intimidating places, too, and it is the teacher’s responsibility to create a hospitable environment for students.

I do this in two ways at the start of the semester. The first is by posting a simple greeting with the ‘News’ function in D2L, but then also pasting that greeting into a class email. This happens the morning of the first day of class.

The second thing I like to do is set up an ‘Introductions’ forum and require students to introduce themselves to the class. I introduce myself first, talk about my interests, etc. My experience is that students will do this. Those that do not, I send out a gentle email to make sure they want to be in the class and understand my expectation that they actively participate in the course. I often hear back from these students assuring me that indeed they are interested in the course and to please not drop them!

It’s important to not assume that students are automatically going to jump into our courses and wholeheartedly embrace them. Some may need a bit of cajoling, kindly reminders, perhaps even a personal email. In my view, this all falls under the job description of good, caring teaching. Education is an invitation to discovery, and we should be always thinking about ways to welcome students through that door.

If you have suggestions for first-week online activities, future blog posts, or if you would like to share anything else, email Tim Deines (, or stop by the Center for Teaching Excellence, TLC 324.

Friday, September 2, 2016

First Day Confessions

by Meg Elias

At the start of every semester, I plan the perfect first day experience for my students.  I’m organized, ready to rock, agenda and class list in hand … seriously, I’m prepared.  So how is it that the first day is never actually perfect? 

Last Thursday’s mess included:

There were TOO MANY white board markers.  I know it’s hard to believe, but there were at least 35 of them, overflowing on the little marker ledge.  There were so many choices that I couldn’t pick a color, and when I finally grabbed a blue one, I knocked five others to the ground.

I wrote the agenda on the board, then turned on the projector …  and the projector was projecting over my agenda.  I had to erase it and move it to the other side while the students watched quietly.

I made a little name tent for myself to model what I wanted them to do, and it kept sliding off the desk.  I had to do on-the-fly origami to get it to stand up.

Going off script, I think I may have implied that getting a 2.0 was not good enough.  (I know, ouch.)

I kept trying to call a student by his last name, even though his first name was clearly written on his little name tent.

In seventeen years of teaching, I’ve never been able to work that “first day magic” that seems obtainable as I prepare for class.  Yet again, I managed to only achieve some degree of, “Phew, we survived.”  On the positive side, there were a few laughs (mostly at my expense), and almost everyone came back for class on the following Monday.   And that’s just going to have to be good enough.

If you have suggestions for blog posts or if you would like to share your first day confessions, email Meg Elias (, or stop by the Center for Teaching Excellence, TLC 324.