Universal Design for Learning

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As a member of the BGSU Teaching Community, you are well aware that there is no such thing as a 'typical' or 'average' student. Each student has their own variable learning needs. Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is an educational framework that aims to remove barriers to learning that exist inside the learning environment or curriculum; creating an equitable learning experience to meet student variability. 

Why use Universal Design for Learning in Your Course Design?

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UDL is based on research by the Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST) in the learning sciences, including cognitive neuroscience, that guides the development of flexible learning environments and learning spaces that can accommodate individual learning differences. Rather than modify your course in reaction to individual student accommodations, UDL is a proactive approach to course design. By utilizing UDL in your course design, you can minimize the need for individual student accommodations by creating an accessible environment for ALL students. Through UDL, instructors can eliminate common barriers and increase the chance that all of your students will complete your course successfully.

Universal Design for Learning Principles and Guidelines

Universal Design for Learning operates on three basic principles of course design that allow students to have a choice and voice in how they engage with the course content and express what they have learned. The three principles state that instructors should provide students with multiple means of...

UDL principles

The goal of UDL is to create expert learners who are purposeful & motivated, resourceful & knowledgeable, and strategic & goal directed. Explore the interactive UDL Guidelines framework on CAST's website.  The UDL Guidelines are a tool used in the implementation of Universal Design for Learning. "These guidelines offer a set of concrete suggestions that can be applied to any discipline or domain to ensure that all learners can access and participate in meaningful, challenging learning opportunities." 6


UDL Teaching Strategies

Students vary in the ways they are engaged and motivated to learn. Some student enjoy individual assignments, while others come alive in group work. Below are a few options to incorporate into your course design to engage the variety of your learners. Remember, it is important to allow your students a choice and voice in the way they choose to engage with your course. 

  • Provide options for course submission type
  • Provide options for class participation
  • Provide options for Office Hours/Student Hours
  • Optimize relevance of course assessments. Clearly articulate and define how each assessment, project, or assignment aligns with the stated learning objectives of the course. 
  • Demonstrate value of course content. Find ways to align the course content with student interests. Especially for BGP/General Education courses, it is important to demonstrate how the course content is relevant for students across a variety of disciplines. Develop projects and assignments that encourage students to frame the course content in the realm of their specific discipline, personal interests, or lived experience. 

Engagement. UDL. (2018, January 12). Retrieved September 6, 2022, from https://udlguidelines.cast.org/engagement 

Students differ in the ways that they perceive and comprehend information that is presented to them. Some students grasp information quicker or more efficiently through visual or auditory means, while others prefer to read and annotate printed text. Learning, and transfer of learning, occurs when multiple representations are used, because they allow students to make connections within, as well as between, concepts. In short, there is not one means of representation that will be optimal for all learners; providing options for representation in your course materials is essential. 5 Below are a few options for incorporating multiple means of representation into your course. 

  • Ensure all course materials are accessible. Offer alternatives for auditory and visual information. 
  • Open Educational Resources, eBooks, alternatives to physical textbooks. 
  • Illustrate content through a variety of multi-media resources. 
  • Clarify vocabulary and symbols.
  • Select course textbooks, readings, images, videos, etc. that represent a variety of voices and identities. 

Representation. UDL. (2018, January 12). Retrieved September 6, 2022, from https://udlguidelines.cast.org/representation 

Students differ in the ways that they can navigate a learning experience and express what they know. In reality, there is not one means of action and expression that will be optimal for all learners; providing options for action and expression is essential. It is important to provide a number of ways for students to demonstrate their knowledge so that you can evaluate if they have fully attained course learning outcomes and achieved their learning goals. 2

  • Allow students to complete assessments at their own pace 
  • Options for students to demonstrate their knowledge in a variety of formats. This could include online discussion boards, mind maps, active learning strategies, group or individual projects, creative presentations, fish bowl discussions, video essay assignments, non-graded quizzes, etc. 
  • Provide examples of ways for students to solve problems, complete projects, and be successful in the course. 
  • Provide feedback in different formats. This could include: office hours/student hours, written feedback, emails, verbal classroom feedback, recorded video feedback (with captions), recorded audio feedback (with captions), and online discussion boards. 
  • Provide opportunities for scheduled reflection for students to monitor their own progress 

Action & Expression. UDL. (2018, January 12). Retrieved September 6, 2022, from https://udlguidelines.cast.org/action-expression 


Incorporating UDL into Your Course Design

Incorporating UDL into your course design often feels like a daunting or near impossible process. But we have good news! You don't need to redesign your entire course to meet the UDL guidelines. All you need to do is adjust one aspect of your course at a time. This is what is referred to as the "Plus One Approach" to UDL course design. It is important to start slow and build up as you go along in the life cycle of the course. The purpose of UDL is to make your life easier, not harder! To begin working with UDL course design, download the worksheet below. Remember! UDL concepts can be incorporated at any point along the life cycle of the course! You do not need to wait until the next semester to begin using UDL concepts. Start now and see how UDL helps your students' learning improve! 

UDL Course Design Worksheet


Citations

About universal design for learning. CAST. (2022, February 8). Retrieved September 6, 2022, from https://www.cast.org/impact/universal-design-for-learning-udl 
Action & Expression. UDL. (2018, January 12). Retrieved September 6, 2022, from https://udlguidelines.cast.org/action-expression 
CAST. (2022, September 1). Retrieved September 6, 2022, from https://www.cast.org/ 
Engagement. UDL. (2018, January 12). Retrieved September 6, 2022, from https://udlguidelines.cast.org/engagement 
Representation
. UDL. (2018, January 12). Retrieved September 6, 2022, from https://udlguidelines.cast.org/representation 
The UDL guidelines. UDL. (2022, September 2). Retrieved September 6, 2022, from https://udlguidelines.cast.org/ 

Updated: 10/12/2022 02:47PM