The SoTL Advocate

Supporting efforts to make public the reflection and study of teaching and learning at Illinois State University and beyond…

Leave a comment

Creating Visually Accessible Presentations

Written by Jennifer Friberg, Cross Endowed Chair in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning and Professor of Communication Sciences & Disorders at Illinois State University (contact email:

It’s fairly well acknowledged that for SoTL to be SoTL, is needs to be shared in some form or fashion…and I use the term “shared” here with a broad vision (e.g, writing a blog, publication in a peer-reviewed outlet, conference presentation, completion of a creative endeavor, etc). That said, it’s not whether SoTL is shared that is the topic of today’s blog, rather, it’s HOW it is shared.

I have spent 20+ years as a speech-language pathologist, seeking to make various forms of communication accessible and valued for the clients I served. I’ve brought some of this disciplinary perspective to my work as a scholar who presents at conferences fairly regularly. For instance, I am very cognizant of the need for speaker voices to be amplified for folks to hear and process content effectively. I am sensitive to cultural differences in how language is used, and I know well that perspective and world experience influence how any message is comprehended. But there is more to access than this. Flash forward to ISSOTL last month in Atlanta, Georgia.

It was almost uncanny that four different conversations with four very different people at ISSOTL touched on — in some way — a need to think carefully about visual accessibility when planning conference presentations. As someone who likes graphics and color in my power point slides (when I use them!), I hadn’t before considered much other than having good contrast and easy (to me) ability to view slide content. I hadn’t considered how color choices might impact those with varied forms of colorblindness, low-vision, or other visual impairments. In reflecting on these conference conversations, it became clear that I needed to be more aware. It’s a case of “you don’t know what you don’t know…but when you know it, you have to make change.” With this in mind, I offer today’s blog with humility and a sense of purpose to improve my own efforts in the future. This blog is not expert testimony, but rather a way to share resources that have emerged from my dive into this topic since returning home.

  • Designing PowerPoint slides for Color Blindness: There are many different resources online for designing slides that individuals with various forms of colorblindness can most easily access. Of the many that I looked at, Robin Collinge’s blog post titled “How to Design for Colorblindness” was one of my favorites, sharing tips for ALL design, not just presentation slides. The blog post features several easy to implement ideas for good design AND provides a list of color combinations to avoid in order to increase the visual accessibility of your materials.
  • Microsoft Power Point offers something called an “accessibility checker,” which looks over presentation slides and suggests edits for visual accessibility (click link for usage instructions). I ran a recent PowerPoint of my own through the checker and found the feedback provided to be fascinating (image below for an example). Primarily, it was suggested that I use speaker notes and other text boxes to think about providing alternative text to explain graphics and other visual content (these annotations can be shared with those requesting them ahead of or after a presentation). Instructions for how to make my slides more accessible were provided in easy-to-follow format. Google has similar tools, to support its platform, as well.

  • This Microsoft Office reference lists in table form the types of behaviors most accessibility checkers attempt to identify, with a clear description and fix for each. It’s a good and informative read.
  • California’s Department of Rehabilitation’s division of Disability Access Services has an excellent publication called “Seven Steps to Creating an Accessible PowerPoint Slideshow” which provides a bounty of great ideas to increase the accessibility of your work.

Again, I am nowhere near being an expert on the topic of visual accessibility. Many of you may have other, better resources that might be of help to others exploring this topic…if that’s the case, I’d love for you to share them below in the comments section below.

1 Comment

Purposeful Amplification

Written by Jennifer Friberg, Cross Endowed Chair in SoTL and Professor of Communication Sciences & Disorders at Illinois State University

I’ve been back from the 2019 ISSOTL conference for a little over a week…and I’m *still* processing all that happened in Atlanta. There was a richness to this conference that was so very pleasing and I found that I was inspired by so many of the people I spoke with. I returned to Normal (that’s really the name of my institution’s town!) thinking about connections between formal sessions and informal conversations with colleagues and friends. There are many to be made, but one stands out quite prominently: we need to be purposeful in how we amplify our collective efforts in the SoTL community. While I could pick a number of conference moments to highlight to illustrate this notion, I have four that I’d like to focus on in this short blog post, as I feel they set the stage for the point I’m seeking to make. Questions/thoughts raised in my mind by each are asked in italics:

  1. The ISSOTL Advocacy and Outreach (A&O) committee sponsored a panel at the conference on the topic of “Grand Challenges” for SoTL, following the model some might be familiar with from the discipline of engineering. Grand Challenges are seen as wicked problems that define areas of need/focus for a discipline to move forward. Lauren Scharff (U.S. Air Force Academy) presented an overview of her analysis of data (collected over two years) from this project and identified several Grand Challenges specific to SoTL. One of three challenges identified was termed “challenges to SoTL as an enterprise,” and focused on the perceived lack of value/support for SoTL, questions of SoTL’s rigor, and questions about who is/should be engaged in this work. Essentially, data indicated that one of the major challenges facing those engaged in SoTL remains a need for advocacy for this type of scholarship — and for SoTL scholars, themselves.
  2. As part of an intriguing and thought-provoking panel, Lindsay Doukopoulos, Peter Felten, Mays Imad, and Huang Hoon Chng led a discussion focused on the importance of backstage conversations in SoTL as a mechanism for advocacy, engagement, and deriving forward momentum to realize progress (in whatever form or fashion). Backstage conversations help to develop networks that bring important work to the front (or public) stage, where broader impact for SoTL might be felt. Might we consider formal and informal encounters at and around ISSOTL each year to be one form of a backstage conversation? Are we networking together (and well!), but failing to move beyond our immediate social networks of SoTLists to advance our work? If so, what might we constitute as the front stage?
  3. In their presentation titled “Using SoTL to Advance Institutional Change: Exploring Student Success in Foundational Courses,” Wallace Lockhart and Brad Wuetherick shared their SoTL Impact Framework (at the time of the conference, this was in near-final draft status). This framework asked those in attendance to consider the potential impact of a SoTL project as part of its planning through the establishment of impact goals (why are you doing this project?), impact actions (what actions will you take to achieve your impact goals?), and impact results (how will you know if you have achieved your intended impact?). How might the discipline of SoTL change if we collectively considered impact planning as an integral part of disseminating our work? What types of impact are we seeking?
  4. Nancy Chick’s closing keynote strongly advocated for those engaged in SoTL to consider sharing work through more public forms of scholarship (e.g., social media, blogs, white papers). She challenged those in attendance to create a broader impact for their work by taking something that matters to individuals or small groups (your own SoTL work) and making it matter to others beyond the immediate SoTL community. How might the profile of SoTL grow in value if we worked purposeful together to accomplish this?

My take aways from these conference moments? Nancy Chick identified a new path for our our consideration in her conference keynote. The sessions I attended and conversations I had with colleagues in Atlanta strongly backed up her call to truly make our SoTL work public. SoTL advocacy work is still clearly needed. That work needs to move from the SoTL backstage to a more public front stage to purposefully amplify our SoTL work/findings/efforts. We, as a community of scholars, can plan systematically for this to happen. In doing so, we have the capacity to grow the SoTL in terms of value perceptions, stakeholder engagement, and broader societal impact.

Blog References:

Chick, N. (2019). SoTL as public scholarship. Keynote presented at the annual meeting of the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Atlanta, Georgia, USA.

Doukoplulos, L. M., Felten, P., Imad, M., & Chng, H. H. (2019). Cultivating backstage conversations in SoTL. Panel presented at the annual meeting of the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Atlanta, Georgia, USA.

Lockhart, W. & Wuetherick, B. (2019). Using SoTL to advance institutional change: Exploring student success in foundational courses. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Atlanta, Georgia, USA.

Scharff, L., Draeger, J., Ahmad, A., Friberg, J., Hamshire, C., & Maurer, T. (2019). Grand challenges for the scholarship of teaching and learning, phase II. Panel presented at the annual meeting of the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Atlanta, Georgia, USA.