Universal Design for Universal Design: How to Build Universal Design into Your OER Initiative

Workshop Session 2

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Take a behind the scenes tour of the triumphs and perils of baking universal design into faculty led OER initiatives and learn strategies to diffuse accessibility and usability principles into the process with a new tool chest of extensible rubrics and checklists to help faculty create great OERs.


Cailean Cooney, MLIS, MA, is Assistant Professor in the Library department at New York City College of Technology, CUNY, and coordinates the library’s Open Educational Resources (OER) initiative. She is interested in the intersection of critical pedagogy and open education, and the impact of OER on the student experience. She has published her research about how OER impacts students’ academic experiences in the International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning.

Extended Abstract

This workshop will ask participants: How do we elicit faculty connectedness to universal design principles when many are novices to the concepts and have no formal training implementing them in a pedagogical context? We’ll start off with a behind the scenes tour of some of the triumphs and perils of baking universal design into faculty led OER initiatives. Presenters will cycle through some of their pitfalls and peaks, and pivot to practical strategies to diffuse accessibility and usability principles throughout OER initiatives in a transparent and productive way. We will model our approach- one that aims to keep faculty in the driver’s seat while providing effective guidance and infrastructure to support lasting impact across the college community. We have asked ourselves, and will ask our participants to ponder with us: How do we use our limited resources to make instructional design an important feature of any OER initiative? How do we get faculty motivated about universal design on top of their many competing interests and often over-extended schedules? How do we square faculty autonomy with an OER initiative’s mandate to produce usable, instructionally sound OERs? How do we provide constructive feedback to faculty without inviting discord? And how do we support faculty toward a transformative learning experience?


Presenters will introduce rubrics and checklists they’ve developed to help guide faculty through the OER development process, and specifically to evaluate faculty designed OER websites for their accessibility, and usability. As a group we will discuss the theoretical and practical impetus for such tools and will parse out both documents to determine the foundational principles and best practices reflected in these documents. We’ll demo several scenarios to introduce how universal design supports effective learning environments. Each participant will begin to edit and mark-up the rubrics and checklists to customize them to their institution’s needs.

Some experience with OER related faculty development is ideal but not required. In order to fully benefit from the workshop, participants should, however, be in a position at their campus or institution where they can implement the types of practices the presenters will outline.

By the end of this workshop, participants will have a clear set of strategies with which to begin or enhance their OER initiative in the following ways:    

  1. Participants will be able to effectively assess the usability of faculty curated or created OER and give positive, constructive feedback.

  2. Participants will gain strategies for how to incorporate active learning strategies into their OER faculty development initiatives.

  3. Participants will learn strategies for how to overcome faculty resistance to using accessibility and usability best practices.

Presenters will require a computer and projector set-up. If participants have laptops they should bring them but they are not required nor necessary for full participation in the session.