Offering choices via the Libraries

November 5, 2018 / By: Ann Gwinn Zawistoski, Associate Director for Research & Outreach

How the libraries can work with you to implement Universal Design for Learning goals

I have had the opportunity to attend two Universal Design for Learning (UDL) workshops at St. Thomas in the past few months.  That’s led me to think more about how the libraries can help support UDL in the classrooms.  In his October workshop, “Reach Everyone, Teach Everyone,” Dr. Tobin gave the advice to offer students just one additional choice, whether that be in choice of topics, choice of ways to express their mastery of a concept, or choice of ways to engage with the content of your course.   In this article, I'm highlighting a few of the ways that the library can help you provide just one more choice.

Choice of topics

Our libraries’ collections are designed and organized to facilitate the exploration of subjects.  We have a wide variety of sources that let students explore topics that matter to them.  Students can work with their liaison librarian to investigate different ideas for their assignment and find those that spark their interests and curiosity.  Librarians can break down the often opaque process of library research for students, making more explicit and understandable the individual steps involved, and give students strategies for finding topics that not only appeal to them, but are also researchable.   That work can be done in class, at the reference desk, or in one-on-on consultations with the librarian.

Encourage your students to work with a librarian as they explore possible topics for their assignments.  Talk with your subject liaison librarian as you develop your assignments to find ways to make the best use of the range of resources available to your students. 

Choice of ways for students to get help with research

Different students have different ways that they prefer to reach out for help – and we do our best to accommodate that.  We have a Library Help module in Canvas that offers help to students in a variety of ways:

  • Multiple links to research starting points on the library’s website so that the students can explore the help on their own.
  • Options to reach out to a librarian for immediate help (via phone or chat) or for help at a later time (via email or scheduling an appointment).

A screenshot of the library help module in Canvas with links to research help and research starting points labeledYou can learn more about how to enable and use the Library Help module on our guide for integrating library resources in Canvas, or talk with your liaison librarian.

Choice of ways to perceive and comprehend information


Our media collection includes both streaming media and physical DVDs that present concepts via video.  Most of these videos are closed-captioned or contain transcripts so that students can choose to listen to the audio or read the information.  We also have some videos with multiple language options and “described video,” which offers an audio description of what is happening on the screen.

Streaming video collections with closed-captions, subtitles, and transcripts:

  • Academic Video Online  (AVON) -  streaming videos covering the areas of art, architecture, business, counseling and therapy, dance, economics, education, ethnic studies, ethnography, gay and lesbian studies, health, history, humanities, law and public safety, literature, opera, philosophy, political science, psychology, religion, science, theater, and women's studies.
  • - high quality training videos in the field of counseling, psychotherapy, addiction, and social work. The majority of the videos show therapists, social workers and other mental health professionals conducting therapy and demonstrating clinical skills, along with pre and post discussions.
  • Films on Demand- streaming videos from Films Media Group. It provides academic videos in the subject areas of psychology, history, literature, languages, engineering, business, art, sociology, sciences and more. Also covers foreign films under the World Cinema Collection.
  • Docuseek2 - covers films by the distributors Bullfrog Films and Icarus Films. It contains documentaries in the areas of: Environmental Studies, Political Science, Peace & Justice, Criminal Justice, Latin American, History, Art, Media Studies, and more.

Film collections with multiple languages

  • Swank  - allows the UST community to stream major motion pictures. You can watch any film from the interface or you can link the movie and add it to Canvas.
  • Digitalia films - films and documentaries from Spain, France, other European countries, North America and Latin America (especially Mexico, Cuba, Argentina and Brazil). Among the subjects included in the documentaries are archeology, history, nature, arts, and more.

Described Videos

Some of our DVDs are available with described video, which provides audio descriptions of what is happening visually.   Look for "Described video" in the language note in the catalog (example catalog record).

A screenshot of a CLICsearch catalog record with the Language Note highlighted showing “Described Video” as part of the note.

Resource lists

You can collect and link to a variety of course materials for your classes using the Canvas tool, Resource Lists.  Resource Lists help you find and collect course content that the library already subscribes to and presents them to students in and easy-to-use tool in Canvas.  Most of the readings are available in pdf, which allows students to either read on the screen, print and read on paper, or have a screen reader read to them via audio.  You can also add web pages, videos, images, and other content types to Resource Lists.   The example resource list below, from Stephen Preskill’s Foundations of Education course, shows a variety or course content, including a textual article, audio recordings, images, and video.

A screenshot of a Resource List for EDLD918: Foundations of Education, showing a reference entry, two audio recordings, two images, and one video 

Talk with your subject liaison librarian or take a look at our guide on Resource Lists if you’d like to know more about this service.

Background Resources

Many of our traditional reference resources are now available online and offer students additional ways to build their knowledge and address gaps in their understanding.

Credo is one such reference database.  It combines reference sources on a subject into “Topic Pages” that offer definitions, text explanations, images, and videos to explain that concept.  Those topic pages can be read aloud with the page reader and they can be embedded in your Canvas site using the embed code (click the “</>” at the top of the page, copy the code provided and paste it into a Canvas page using the html editor).

A screenshot of a Credo topic page with the page reader and embed code for Canvas highlighted.

Please do not hesitate to contact any of us in the libraries to discuss any of our services or collections.  We look forward to working together with you and your students in finding ways to reach everyone and teach everyone.