When adapting a technical writing course to an online learning management system, it’s tempting to rely on existing pedagogies first and then integrate technology into that tried-and-true structure. Yet, a strictly pedagogy-first attitude assumes that technologies are neutral and that any practices can be simply mapped onto any technologies to serve any student. But merely dragging and dropping face-to-face content into an online course misses opportunities for the multiple means of representation and customized learning experiences that technology can afford (Camplese & McDonald, 2010; Kumar & Wideman, 2014; Moxley, 2008; Schreiner, Rothenberger & Sholtz, 2013).
Our proposed paper, “Beyond Drag and Drop: Balancing Experience and Innovation in Online Technical Communication Course Development,” written by two technical communication instructors and an instructional designer, draws on best practices in Universal Design for Learning (UDL) to evaluate newly-designed hybrid and online technical communication courses. Technical communication courses generally include students who are from multiple disciplines and who may be resistant to taking a required course offered by faculty outside their major. A UDL framework that enables students to engage with course content in multiple ways can both lessen student resistance and increase students’ confidence in their professional skills. By comparing face-to-face assignments and student outcomes with online assignments and outcomes, we demonstrate how the incorporation of UDL principles encouraged us to make our courses more engaging, accessible, and flexible for diverse groups of students. We also highlight the recursive nature of these changes by explaining the ways our online course development has influenced the design of our face-to-face classrooms and assignments.
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