The days of a lecturer or instructor standing up in front of a classroom expounding their knowledge are fast disappearing. Online learning is becoming the way of the future. Universal Design for Learning (UDL) aims to provide materials with flexibility to meet each students’ learning needs. UDL is also pertinent to any presentation in any context. In a conference paper by Bauder and Simmons, digital tools and strategies are discussed that can be used in the creation and development of online and hybrid courses. The goal is to maximize student learning outcomes through a Universal Design for Learning (UDL) perspective.
The presentation slides are very informative and give good advice to anyone making presentations to any group of people – the strategies are based on inclusive thinking and practice. Lots of examples are given. You can go to the website to see the abstract and download the text version. The presentation slides are on a separate tab within the page.
Universal Design for Learning (UDL) has many followers with much academic writing and conferences about the topic. Indeed, Google searches on “universal design” usually bring up more items on UDL than any other topic. Matt Capp provides an Australian perspective in “Is your planning inclusive? The universal design for learning framework for an Australian context”. The paper published in Australian Educational Leadercan be downloaded from Informit, but it will require institutional access for a free view. UDL can be applied across all learning situations and people of all ages.
Abstract: In June 1994 the Salamanca Statement called for inclusion to be the norm for students with disability. Goal one of the Melbourne Declaration aims to provide all students, including students with disability, access to high-quality schooling. The Declaration also seeks to reduce the effect of disadvantage, such as disability, on students. Unfortunately, this is not always the reality in Australian schools. Long standing schooling practices are ineffective for some groups of students, and continuing to do what we have always done will perpetuate rather than eliminate the achievement gap (Edyburn, 2006). One solution to addressing the needs of diverse learners, such as students with disability, is the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework. UDL as a set of principles allows teachers to develop inclusive lessons by planning to the edges of a class, rather than to a core group of learners. Supports and scaffolds are proactively built into the instructional methods and learning materials enabling all learners’ full participation in the curriculum (Hitchcock, 2001). Retrospectively fitting lesson plans with adjustments based on flawed assumptions about the homogeneity of a core group of students consumes much time, and money, with only modest effectiveness. These retrospective adjustments are only the first step towards inclusion (Edyburn, 2006; Hitchcock, Meyer, Rose, Jackson, 2002). By being ‘smart from the start,’ UDL allows classroom teachers to develop lesson plans that are inclusive for all students.
With tertiary education institutions turning to online learning and creating videos of lectures, the need to caption these videos could be more important for all students than first realised. The findings of this study show the need for more work in this area, but early results show that captioning benefits most students, with or without disability. This finding could transfer to the general community.
“When queried whether captions were helpful, 99% of students reported they were helpful (5% slightly, 10% moderately, 35% very, 49% extremely). We were unable to determine differences among students with and without disabilities, as we did not track individual survey responses.” Interestingly, in this study 13% of respondents indicated having a disability, but only 6% were registered as such.
Various reasons were given for the benefits of closed captioning – noise in their listening environment, unclear speech in the video, spelling of new or unfamiliar words, and being able to take notes just by stopping the video and not needing to rewind to listen again. Students with English as a second language also benefitted. Although these results show the need for more research, they found there was a 7% increase in student results compared to the previous year’s students who did not have captioning. The article also discusses the cost of captioning and other options, such as speech recognition. The title of the article is,Closed Captioning Matters: Examining the Value of Closed Captions for All Students, and is published in the Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disability, 2016.
Editor’s note: Anyone who has seen the results of “automatic” online Google captioning will know that the results are very haphazard. It is good to see how captioning is now being seen within the scope of universal design and could be more widely applied.
While inclusive education at all levels is written into policy documents, strategies for implementation are sometimes few and far between. Barriers in many forms still confront students with disability in educational settings, whether it be the built environment, attitudes of staff and other students, or the design of the curriculum.
The main the main objective of this paper, Inclusive University Classrooms: the importance of faculty trainingis to identity, describe and explain barriers and aids related to faculty that students with disabilities experience in classrooms. The paper is by a cross-disciplinary group from the University of Seville in Spain. Reference is made to the work by Australians Valerie Watchorn and Helen Larkin on this topic. It is interesting to note the recent frequency of articles by Spanish authors appearing in the literature on different aspects of universal design.
The picture is of the library at University of Seville.
Here are links to four recently published papers on UDL from Proceedings of EdMedia: World Conference on Educational Media and Technology 2016 in Canada. Some articles will require institutional access. Here are the links to the abstracts:
Getting Them Excited: Designing an online course based on the ARCS Model to encourage attention, relevance, confidence and student satisfaction in a general educational humanities class.
The latest edition of the Journal of Inclusive Practice in Further and Higher Education includes papers from the International Conference held in 2015. All articles include the concept of universal design in learning with a focus on neurodiversity. It covers methods and research in higher education and transition to work. Contributions to this journal encourage emancipatory methods with neurodiverse people, particularly involving their personal experiences. The Journal is published in Word format therefore making it widely accessible.
Teachers who have embraced UDL are great advocates for the process of designing learning programs that include struggling learners. However, not all teachers are amenable to the ideas – resistance to change being a major factor.
On page 64 she writes, “Research has shown that students at-risk benefit socially, emotionally, and academically from implementation of UDL. Yet, successful implementation and application of UDL are rooted in teachers’ perceptions. Educational reform that promotes the use of Universal Design for Learning on behalf of equitable instruction for all students requires a positive perception of the UDL model. Teachers need to see evidence of student success rather than being forced to implement the instructional model of the year. Real systemic change calls for work designs that permit teachers to learn, plan, and implement UDL strategies through means such as shared planning schedules to allow department or grade level collaboration, Professional Learning Communities (Hirsh, 2012), administrative modeling, peer modeling, and formal professional development.” She adds that perceptions are unlikely to change by mandating instructional changes and consequently other methods need to be found.
This video is a supplement to an academic paper by Rebecca King and is a good example of how to present research in a way that is congruent with the topic. Too many academics write for other academics and consequently their knowledge is rarely translated for others to use. Even if you are not interested in UD for learning, the short video is worth watching to see how creatively the information is presented.
Professor Simeon Keates has been researching aspects of universal/inclusive design over many years. In this article he focuses on how designers can acquire the knowledge and skills to gain information about users and apply it to the design.
Abstract: Designing for Universal Access requires designers to have a good understanding of the full range of users and their capabilities, appropriate datasets, and the most suitable tools and techniques. Education clearly plays an important role in helping designers acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to find the relevant information about the users and then apply it to produce a genuinely inclusive design. This paper presents a reflective analysis of a variant of the “Usability and Accessibility” course for MSc students, developed and delivered by the author over five successive semesters at the IT University of Copenhagen. The aim is to examine whether this course provided an effective and useful method for raising the issues around Universal Access with the designers of the future. This paper examines the results and conclusions from the students over five semesters of this course and provides an overview of the success of the different design and evaluation methods. The paper concludes with a discussion of the effectiveness of each of the specific methods, techniques and tools used in the course, both from design and education perspectives.
The authors* of this chapter examine how to blend universal design (UD) with e-learning tools used by post-secondary faculty and with information and communication technologies (ICTs) used by students in traditional classroom, hybrid, and online courses. The focus is on how instructors can design and deliver their courses in an accessible way using e-learning. The authors conclude: “Considering UD when selecting and using e-learning materials in traditional, hybrid, and online courses can ensure an accessible learning experience for the diversity of students in today’s colleges and universities. Collaboration between the wide array of stakeholders is needed to design, implement, and support accessibility and usability. This includes the students, instructors, ICT vendors, institutional IT procurement specialists, and campus disability service providers.”
*In S. E. Burgstahler (Ed.), Universal design in higher education: From principles to practice (2nd ed.), pp. 275-284. Boston: Harvard Education Press.