Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Universal Design for Learning - Basics

As faculty members we are concerned with conveying knowledge and content in a meaningful way to our students. We're also keenly aware that the landscape of student learning is evolving. It is becoming more complex as we grow in our awareness that students are individuals with significant differences.

The path more taken is to design our courses with a singular delivery model and adjust it as demands for accommodations or change arise. However, with that we realize that it creates delays in student learning that puts them behind their peers in our classes. It also creates more work for us through the semester as we adapt materials. Enter Universal Design for Learning...

In our workshop we're covering a few of the basics. We need to introduce the concepts and give some practical skills that will help you realize the benefits of incorporating this technique. Here is a broadcast/video of our February 13, 2013 seminar.

Ideas for Your Class

Of course, as with any course re-design or modification it is often difficult to scrap it and begin again. We simply don't have time to do that. We also might not be able to fully envision the course redesigned in a UDL manner. To that end, begin smaller with making a few changes in your course. Here are some ideas to get you started.
  • Re-write your assignment to be universally clear
    • Segment information into smaller chunks
    • Use white space in the document liberally to permit readers to take a break and understand there is a break in your explanation
    • Use common language and/or language support for higher language levels
    • Avoid colors and complex formatting schemes
  • Present materials in multiple formats to students.
    • Use only digital formats for text (allowing them the option to print if needed).
    • If you are using video files for students, get help copying the audio-only portion for those students who prefer that format.
    • Provide written scripts or captions for audio, oral, or video presented materials
  • Provide an assignment choice where it make sense
    • Consider that some of your assignments might not need to be in a particular format.
    • Create assignment options that meet the same rigor but allow students to demonstrate knowledge in a format that is preferred or more adequate for their expression of knowledge
  • Make certain your learning space is accessible
    • Ensure your room layout provides adequate space for student work and mobility
    • Ensure your students can see materials easily
  • Provide guided notes for students when using projected materials so they do not need to write down notes as you lecture.
  • Allow students to audio record lectures or provide an audio recording for note taking and review afterwards.
  • Vary your delivery method between styles so students can benefit from different forms of instruction
    • Use a combination of lecture, hands-on application, reading, etc.
    • Allow students to provide input on what works best for their learning.
The CETL and the Experimental Classroom are available to help you design and develop these modifications. Another aspect of UDL is a broader supportive environment, of which, we can be a part.


Here are some resources for you about Universal Design for Learning, designing your courses, and advocacy for universal access to learning.

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