Intentional Course Design: One EdTech Strategy to Rule Them All
Combining takeaways from the Canvas Certified Educator program and a trauma-informed approach to education, we'll explore how intentional and resilient design can improve student learning outcomes. Discussion will include frameworks such as Universal Design for Learning and Transparency in Learning & Teaching.
I got chills there for a second. It's it's important to, pay honor to your to, the people who came before you and paved your way. So Jen? So my name is Geneva or Jen. And I prefer theythem pronouns. I am an instructional design support specialist, and I've studied the impact of trauma on learning and social perspectives for about ten years now.
I'm standing before you as a medium height slender person with long hair. Thank you. So I'm standing before you as a medium height slender person with light skin and long hair wearing the garb of a ranger from middle earth. Val? Howdy, my friends call me Valentine or Val, I use she and they pronouns. I have over a decade of experience in the higher and higher ed instructional design field.
Currently I'm a Canvas admin and a senior instructional design project leader. I think I got it right. Occasionally, I am a facilitator for the Canvas certified educator program, which if you hopefully heard about in a previous session. And if not, at the end, we'll be sharing some resources that go ahead and provide more information about that professional development opportunity. And I am standing in front of you as a short plump person with light skin and brown short hair wearing a green hooded cloak, channeling my inner hobbit.
And Geneva and I have traveled from our homes in historic Philadelphia where we both work at Wharton at the University of Pennsylvania. Warton is the first business school in the world and has campuses in lovely Philadelphia, San Francisco, and online. And we're also proud members of our proud employees of University of Pennsylvania which is R1 Carnegie doctoral University. So why are we here today? What trauma got to do with it. Many of us would agree that our learners just had an epic struggle living and learning through a pandemic.
What many are finding coming out of the pandemic is that our learners have been changed by the experience or the trauma of it all. So give us a nice loud clap or, you know, little woot woot if you feel that you agree with that statement. Thank you. So, you know, most of us go ahead and and agree with that. So now our instructors are, we're we're here now and our instructors are, asking what we can go ahead and do about that.
So this presentation discusses how best to design classes for students with symptoms of trauma exposure, we're not here to diagnose our students. But we are here to consider intentional instructional design and we're going to define that term later on in the session. So some of you may know that the Lord of the Rings, author, JR Tolkien, wrote stories to deal with the trauma of war. And many of the battles in middle earth were inspired by real world war battles that he participated in. In the Lord of the Ring series, there are themes of trauma throughout the series and we provide some of those provide links to, talk deeper about those themes in the resources page that we'll share with you, a little bit later.
For those of you who are not familiar, which I'm sorry if you're not familiar. You're missing out because it's really awesome. I mean, the book are kinda long, but, at least watch the series on Amazon or -- I'm excited to learn this. Or, you know, cliff notes. The the lord of the ring follows, a hobbit named Frodo, his best friend, Sam, and seven diverse companions that traveled together with a common goal.
To destroy a great ring of power and save their land from the dark lord Sauron. And when they're going through this this quest and this journey, they encounter lots of intense struggles that impact the success of their journey. So beyond the catchy title of our presentation, one ed tech strategy to rule them all. We use the lord of the rings motif to represent an idea where we come from whether it be the Shire, Florida, or Utah, who we surround ourselves with and their support be it a band of misfits wandering the countryside, our friends, our family, our coworkers, and ultimately our struggles. Whether a quest, a pandemic, or the slings and arrows of life, they impact how we present ourselves to the world and play a role in our success, much like a learner's journey.
So now we have a art resources page and we would love absolutely love for you to go ahead and view those resources. Later. Later, later. But the reason why I'm sharing it now is because on that page, we have a padlet and this will allow you to go ahead and share questions with us during the presentation or later. And if we don't address those questions within our session, we're gonna go ahead and make these resources into a set of living resources.
So it will go ahead and respond, back there. And if you are one of those members who are watching from the website, the recording of the session, at any time, go ahead and ask questions, and we will go ahead and revisit that shouldn't respond to any questions that come up on the page. And so that's available at w h r dot t n forward slash three PP I r nine z. Jen? So when we're talking about, trauma informed education and trauma informed course design, we first need to get our grounding by defining what we're talking about when we refer to trauma. Because that's a word that gets thrown around a lot.
There are a lot of various perceptions on what constitutes trauma. So we have a couple of choices. We can rely solely on the clinical definition. Or we could go with an understanding of it that is more based on its effects for our students. So let's start by looking at the clinical definition of trauma, as defined by the American psychological association.
And that is an experience, which threatens the injury, death, or the physical, integrity of self or others, and also causes horror, terror, or helplessness at the time. So this is a very limited definition, and it focuses on experiences which impact the physical well-being. But as educators, we should also consider psychological and social integrity of students. Experiences which impact their ability to focus on education and hope for a better future. So for our purposes today, we are going to take into account the scope of trauma as defined by the APA, while also acknowledging that sometimes there are these traumatic incidences which threaten the psychological or social integrity of our students.
And a reminder, we are not diagnosing our students. We are being aware of the impact so we can design courses that will allow them to have a better chance of succeeding. Traumatic events impact our students' understanding of how safe their environment is and how to avoid dangerous situations. Changing their ability to focus on their education. We we also know that trauma and the response to trauma is directly and strongly impacted by social support and the reaction of your social support system.
Both at the time of the trauma and in the moment and gears following the event. If people are supportive and reaffirming to individuals that have experienced trauma, they are less likely to have extreme negative effects. Also important to note is that trauma can be short or long term. And this is both in the traumatic event itself, and in how long the symptoms can last. These factors can impact everything about the traumatized person's life including their educational experience.
So now that we have a foundation in what trauma is, we need to look at how common it is. This is going to help set the groundwork for why we should develop courses with trauma and trauma symptomology in mind. According to the APA definition, it is estimated that at least two thirds of incoming college students, will have been impacted by trauma. And even more will experience trauma while they're in college. As noted in studies from two thousand eleven, in two thousand and nineteen, are linked in our resources page.
Please note that this two thirds doesn't include students who are impacted by trauma while they're at college. So when considering trauma aware design, it is important to note that you will have students in your course that have experienced some form of trauma, even if you never hear about it. And that it's important to understand that you should never take it personally if they choose not to talk about their experiences. So we know that there will be students who have experienced trauma, but we don't know who they are. How do we design courses that will help them succeed? Our recommendation today is to be aware of how trauma can impact students learning and to use universal design for learning, which is UDL or transparency in learning and teaching, or tilt practices, which can benefit all students.
To explain, To explain how this works, first, we are going to look at the impacts of trauma on education. And learn how to use clickers on the fly. Okay. So when we're talking about how trauma, impacts learning, I'm breaking it down into three main categories that we'll cover today. And the first category is trauma impacts a person's ability to focus so this could be due to intrusive thoughts.
Now an intrusive thought is something that a thought that'll come into your brain and really grab hold and not leave. For people who have experienced trauma, these thoughts are generally related to the trauma they've experienced. The second, the Second symptom that impacts our ability to focus is re experiencing the event, in flashbacks or strong memories. Third category is overwhelming emotions, So sometimes they're not reliving the experience itself, but they are reliving the emotions related to that experience or the emotions that come afterwards. There's also a state called hyper vigilance.
Hyper vigilance is when the person who has experienced trauma is extremely aware of all of the dangers that could possibly happen. A way to describe this is if somebody has like, been walking through the jungle and got attacked by a big cat, then any other time they're walking through the jungle, and they hear the rustling of the grass, that's something that would catch their attention. And the final impact we're covering today with the impaired ability to focus is sleep disturbance. Trauma experiences come with a lot of nightmares, and a lot of insomnia and an inability to sleep, which leaves our students exhausted, in the classroom. And brings us to our next point.
That trauma impacts a person's ability to remember. So a lot of this does tie into the impaired ability to focus because if you cannot focus, it's harder to take the information and remember it later. Part of it is in avoidant symptoms, and this is when the brain tries to avoid any any reminders of the traumatic events, and it's completely subconscious. It's not something the students are doing. They may also be avoiding ambiguity, which can cause fear.
And so that's definitely something to keep in mind. And there are also, neurocognitive changes. So trauma changes the brain. And when it comes to memory, it changes how short term memory is processed into long term memory. And it can also disrupt linear memory paths.
So because, a person who is experienced trauma may be having a lot of unsettling memories and unsettling flashbacks that are throwing them back into the experience that can disrupt, how they remember things, and they'll remember in bits and pieces. Rather than as a cohesive whole. And finally, the third category that I would like to cover is trauma's impact on communication. So trauma can change the way the brain accesses language. Sometimes it'll make it easier to access written language than spoken language, and sometimes the other way around, they may have a easier time speaking, then writing.
Trauma can impact a self confidence, and this is both because they have experienced the trauma, which may be, interpersonal, but also the brain changes to more readily recognized what we consider negative emotions, such as anger and fear, and it will actually dampen some of the receptors for positive emotions. And then oftentimes there will be a different set of emotions related to these social experiences which are connected to their trauma. So if something happens over a holiday or, or a major event, rather than having positive associations, they may have more negative associations, which can leave them feeling like an outsider if that's what you're focusing on in class. There's also a lot of social discouragement from talking about trauma. And there are a lot of reasons for this, which I'm not going to get into.
But what that does do is because we are not talking about it and we're not developing a shared vocabulary, Some of our students, especially those who have more recently experienced these traumas, they may not know what words to use when talking about it. They may not be able to recognize which words are applicable and which words are maybe not applicable. And they may not be quite as comfortable talking around it, if that's necessary when completing assignments. There's also the fear or acceptance that their experiences may be minimized and the impact that could have on them going back to the need for social support. So with these symptoms in mind and these impacts in mind, Val will now guide us through using instructional design strategies to benefit all of our learners.
Just don't ask me to, guide you through a Mount Pass or anything like that. Geneva's better at that. So one of the things that I forgot to mention, this is a thirty minute session. And given that short time frame, we don't go ahead and provide a visual examples of amazing classes, in practice. And so given a four hour workshop or half day workshop or a full day workshop, you know, that's those are some of the things that we would be able to go ahead in get more detail into.
So we have a lot of background resources that are in our resources page. And if you're watching from home, we encourage you or here to, take a sip every time we take a sip of water. Every time every time, we say resources because, it's important to stay hydrated and high altitudes. So now that we've, you know, talked about trauma, let's define intentional instructional design. One of the primary concepts in all instructional design is a first a first focus on learning objectives And this is especially true when you're gonna go ahead and be using any kind of technology integrations.
The intentional part that we're adding to that is an additional focus on the student experience. And this requires knowing your audience and their diverse needs and better yet involving them in the process us. Part of that student experience includes several different components relating to the environment that you're fostering for your learners. It's all connected. It's kinda like hip bone, thigh bone, your teaching methods, your teaching strategies, course materials, physical and virtual spaces, technology and of course instructional design.
We have several articles that cover this topic more in-depth on our resources page. So there are some best practices out there when using intentional instructional design. This is, definitely the area that we're gonna in the future provide, more depth and resources for. For course development and evaluation, many institutions use, standards, or rubric such as the Quality Matters Program, OLC scorecard, or Oscar. Canvas provides their own resource, the Canvas evaluation checklist three point o.
It was previously two point o, but it just recently came up. Right before the conference. Imagine that. The two point o, although we today are going to talk specifically about the intersection of universal device designed for learning and tilt with some takeaways from the Canvas certified educator program. You might have guessed it, but we further highlight these topics in our resources page.
Hopefully, you don't have to use a bathroom yet. Alright. So with the word universal in it, you might think that UDL is a one size fit all kind of like a universal remote. But, that is not the case. UDL promotes the idea that there is no one size fits all approach to instruction.
By providing multiple means of engagement, such as incorporating various instructional materials, multimedia resources, in interactive activities. Teachers can increase student engagement and motivation involvement in the learning process, UDL ensures that instruction is flexible and accessible and catering to the diverse learning preferences and abilities of your students. And tilts complements UDL by explicitly communicating the learning goals, expectations, and assessment criteria for the students and encourages instructors to be transparent about their, the learning process sharing the rationale behind their instructional choices and providing clear instructions and guidelines. This transparency helps students, by allowing them to plan and organize their efforts as well as monitor their progress and most importantly seek appropriate support when needed. One aspect that we want to go ahead and consider when using intentional instructional design is setting student expectations as it removes the ambiguity for student, ambiguity for students.
A great way to start by that is obviously providing a syllabus with full dates at the beginning of the semester I don't know what's up with this TBA and Tbd stuff, but, you kinda wanna avoid that. And one of the things with this is you're basically letting them know what to plan for, especially related to any course materials and student costs, exams, proctoring, and of course big projects. Additionally, we want to set clear communication expectations. Tell tell students what we what they can expect from you when, you know, when you're gonna respond to them, what the timeline is for providing grading or feedback, and be clear if this changes at any time. So it's fine to go ahead and have a standard and then later, in the semester, if life happens, you're like, oh, Well, I need an extra thing because I have COVID or whatever whatever reason comes up that, you know, that contract that you've made with the students that you're gonna go ahead and braid within one week, if you can't meet that, just say that.
Also you want to go ahead and set rules for the classroom, for setting for respect, what is allowed, and what happens, what what how they should handle it when those rules aren't observed? Additionally, we want to go ahead and provide clear assignment descriptions and instructions. So with complex assignments, You want to outline the multiple steps, you know, basically scaffolding, in your assignment descriptions. We want to provide and define the criteria for which they're being assessed. What does the final project look like or the final product? And of course, at any time, you know, provide exemplars when possible. Also, a good aspect to go ahead and consider when using intentional instructional design is have a step where they reflect upon their work and they strategize what they can improve for future assignments and give them the opportunity to go ahead and review peer work as well.
Another aspect that is valued in intentional instructional design is providing flexible structure for students, flexibility and structure. This involves providing students with a sense of agency. Allowing basically a variation, in assignments, but having, like, not so many where they're gonna have, decision fatigue. But this allows, you know, students to, the flexibility that they need if they want need to avoid sensitive topics. You can also provide a little flexibility, and instead of writing a paper, maybe having them do a podcast or a video if they are more comfortable with that form of communication.
Also, if you are in a physical classroom, allowing students to choose their seats. And you were like, oh, well, why should I do that? But, you know, when we're talking about trauma, this will give students to find an opportunity, to find a seat that has the fewest distractions for them. And this kind of flexibility can extend to group membership as well. So when we're going ahead and providing structure to our students, one of the the biggest things that we want to go ahead and do is provide a clear canvas course site layout. You wanna minimize distractions.
Sorry. Hide items from the course navigation menu that you're not using to decrease cognitive load. Some instruction institutions provide structure by using design templates, but let's let's let's note that this doesn't need to be a cookie cutter thing. So some of our institutions, use a consistent structure within their modules to curate a student's learning journey. And an example of this is the Panda method, which the Canvas certified educator program uses and it is discussed in our famous resource document.
Alright. So also let us go ahead and be specific with students about the way that they can go ahead and contact you directly as the instructor. For example, Canvas inbox or email over public discussion forums. Okay? And finally, as you're building out your Canvas site, include resources for students to refer to, and some to which you can refer in class without pointing anyone putting anyone on spot. You can do these in something like a resources module, or sometimes just on the side of the page if they're relevant.
Some examples of resources you can include, is the national alliance on mental illness or Nami which has chapters across the US and will often have workshops. Things like the Trevor Project, Lifeline, and nine eight eight our resources students can go to if they are in crisis and they need to talk to somebody right now. You could also, if you have, local dedicated resources for abuse and sexual abuse, type of events, those are good to include as well so students get used to seeing that throughout the semester. If your institution has free or low cost counseling services, or there's any free or low cost counseling services in your area you're aware of, go ahead and include that as well. I know a lot of campuses have or are developing something like walk with me services.
And this can be either a number they call into campus security or an app, such as those of you in Utah may be familiar with the Save UT app, where a student or anyone on campus who needs to walk to their car or dorm room, especially at night, can call campus security if they're comfortable doing so. To get someone to walk with them. If your campus or local community has any identity specific groups such as LGBTQ IA plus groups, neurodiversity groups, anywhere students can go and start to build that social system, feel free to include those. And importantly, any local community or campus resources, such as, like, food pantries or places where they can go if they're struggling to pay rent. Any other support groups that you're aware of, go ahead and include those.
And also, given the importance of social support If there are free or low cost social events that you're aware of, go ahead and point those out to your students as well. So they have a place to take their friends to build that support system. So as we wrap up our presentation, we hope you take away the knowledge that there are going to be some students and members of your community who have or are currently experiencing trauma. And you may or may not know it, but they're gonna be there. Who hasn't? I have a takeaway that the that the back right now is the best dance ever created? Speaking of trauma.
I don't know if you heard Jen, but she said speaking of trauma. But by using instructional design best practices, leveraging UDL and tilt, aspects that can help all students be more successful whether they're experiencing trauma or not. And at the end of it all, remember the world was not saved by the fellowship alone, but by all who contributed along the way. So, you don't have to be Sam gamgee to be significant to someone's journey, sometimes just providing the light that helps them see through the darkness. Oh, we're not fun.
We're not done. Sorry. Oh, say. Yeah. No.
It it it was beautiful. Right? So before we share our awesome resources that we already shared, you know, you got questions and we may have answers. And as Gandalf said, the wise speak only of what they know. So let's start speaking. Any questions? And I'm gonna check the be lovely.
I should have brought that up. That would have been a, you know, like, a very, good thing to do. Alright. Oh, we do have, like, some questions. Okay.
Would it be beneficial to incorporate meditative pro practices and courses if so What would be recommended to accomplish this? I think If that fits with your teaching style and your personality, I think that could be very beneficial, because that can help students ground themselves back into the classroom and the idea that now is the time to sit and and try and focus. Good grounding exercises include things that require people to actively use their senses, what are, you know, five colors that you see what are you smelling, what are you, what are you hearing in the moment, which will help bring them back into that moment. If you as an instructor are more comfortable doing like a guided meditation, you can include that instead. So part of it is going to be what you, as the instructor, are comfortable doing to help bring students back into that moment. So, yeah, does that, does that answer your question? We need to we need to get your I can't hear you.
And if you're ever in a presentation, we always recommend that You never said, oh, can can you hear me? Oh, this is a fine. Always use a microphone, please. Just as an idea to build upon that, a really cool way to incorporate it for online courses is maybe taking a moment to take a breath before launching an exam. So as you said, it could be preferential maybe including, like, one of those breathing jifs where it's like, okay, take a breath, take a moment to review this content and then enter the exam. There's a lot really fun ways to accomplish that.
Thank you. Jen, this, this, questions for you. Okay. I mean, most of the questions are gonna be for you. Since trauma affects memory, what would be the best type of assignments to give and would simple feedback such as emoji's work best for those who are impacted by trauma and cannot communicate.
So I highly recommend scaffolded assignments. Because they do allow students to complete part of the assignment, receive feedback, and and then build to the final assignment. It's hard to know how to summarize all this stuff, but it is easier to complete things in small steps. And especially if you're being distracted by intrusive thoughts or flashbacks, which can happen at any time, being being able to to have a guideline of what you're going back to do, and a way to incorporate that feedback is very helpful. Now, as far as using emojis, I do wanna make sure I'm clarifying.
While it might be more easy to communicate in some ways than others, I don't wanna make it sound like people who've experienced trauma are non communicative. But I would hesitate in using emojis because they are easily, misinterpreted. You know, there's there's a little bit less of a standard interpretation for these. Now, if you do include emojis like a smiley face in what you're, writing to your students, that can be beneficial. But having clear explanations, making sure that you're not assuming that your parent your students will see the positive in what you're writing, being very clear about that.
Would be highly beneficial and clear about what the next steps should be. And the, the a caveat to that is, you know, between browsers, emojis look quite different. And also the terms that emojis are used for. Sometimes the the words, because maybe they have their emojis turned off, so that it just shows the text. I know some of the, emojis that I use aren't really appropriate.
But I'm, I'm relaying my enthusiasm and excitement. So, yeah, definitely can go ahead and be, mistaken for something that they're not. I'm gonna go ahead and take one question and then, we're gonna go ahead and be done. And any other questions that we didn't answer, we'll definitely go ahead and add to that resources page. Is there any benefit to having a central student course that has these resources, or do you think that they should be in every course? That is a very good question.
And when you don't have stuff in a centralized area, Like, I'm in this class. I'm not gonna go to other classes and click on a bunch of links to go ahead and you know, find stuff because I'm lazy. I'm just gonna admit it. And it's extra work. And it's a distraction.
And so I don't just say, you know, go ahead and put these resources in a class and be done with it. When you're going ahead and covering your syllabus, you know, talk about these things, talk about like, you know, that they have counseling resources that people go for a lot of reasons for for coaching and, you know, everybody has struggles. I have struggles. And, you know, sometimes it, you know, helpful just to go ahead and talk it out or, you know, vent. And, So it makes it more normalized.
And also going ahead and highlighting these resources, so it's not something that's just hidden away that's kind of like becomes furniture in your house that you just kinda like don't pay attention to because you walk across, you know, at every single day, and it's in its same place every single way. And I think that a lot of the times just having these resources like put in another course or not addressed by the instructor, does a disservice. Can I add to that? Yes, please. I also want to go back to the memory issues. And especially if someone is experiencing like trauma and or acute stress in the moment, it kind of you kind of get tunnel vision.
And the entire focus is like, how do I get through this crap? And be whole on the other side. And so if you have these resources in multiple places and the students see them in multiple places, then when they're when they're in that, that crisis moment, they're more likely to remember it or be able to find it quickly. Because if your brain is just like, oh my god. How do I get through this? You're not gonna remember, oh, yeah. There's this special dedicated course that they told me in my freshman orientation, you know.
So, so I think having it in multiple places throughout the student's journey is very helpful. So, I wanna thank you for being part of our adventure today. And to help carry this story, this knowledge on, we've prepared a resource page for you. And good luck finding the Easter egg on the page. We hope you found our presentation and our resources helpful. Thank you so much, and have a great rest of the structure, Khan.