Universal Design for Learning in Higher Education

Bianca Sorbera: Students come from unique
lived experiences. That’s why it’s so important for educators
to move away from the one size fits all approach to teaching and learning. Universal Design For Learning is a teaching
approach that helps educators do just that. Katie Billard: At the heart of Universal Design
is the belief that variability is the norm. Rather than design for the average student
Universal Design For Learning encourages educators to design their curriculum keeping in mind
that all students are unique. Bianca Sorbera: Universal Design For Learning
informs educators how to build a strong foundation for learning and ensure that curriculum design
is approached in a proactive rather than reactive way. Katie Billard: Based on the framework created
by CAST, Universal Design For Learning can be broken down into three core principles. Engagement is a crucial element of learning
and students differ greatly in the ways in which they can be motivated to learn. Bianca Sorbera: Some examples to engage students
are: providing students with an option to do a deeper dive with the course material. Provide extra resources and supports in the
notes section of PowerPoint. Katie Billard: Consider providing mastery
oriented feedback that focuses on level of effort and process to keep students engaged. It’s also great to Highlight
Learning Outcomes and encourage students to create their own learning goals. Katie Billard: Focusing on the post educational
goals of students is also important. Attention to their future career goals provides
them with motivation to stay enrolled and stay engaged. Bianca Sorbera: The next pillar of Universal
Design For Learning deals with how to best present teaching materials to students to
maximize understanding. Providing options for students to engage with
information, through text, video, audio or graphics gives all students a chance to learn
in a way that is best for them. Katie Billard: Another important approach
is to embed hyperlinks for vocabulary and symbols, that links students to definitions
and resources. It can also be helpful to make connections
between concepts by using graphic organizers or concept maps. Bianca Sorbera: Empowering students is what
inclusive design is all about. It helps educators remove the obstacles that
may be interfering with students learning. Katie Billard: The final pillar of Universal
Design For Learning deals with the options students are given to show what they’ve learned
and to best communicate with each other in the classroom. Students have different ways of navigating
the learning environment and expressing what they know. Since there isn’t one means of action expression
that is optimal for all learners, providing options is essential for student success. To provide multiple means of action and expression,
consider the following. Katie Billard: Give students a voice. Use student response software like Socrative
or Kahoot to give students options for communicating in class. Katie Billard: Flexible assessments. Allow students to use multiple media for assignments. Like comics, speech, video, music and visual
art. Katie Billard: And finally, foster critical
thinking by using “think alouds” to model thought processes and demonstrate your logic to students. Bianca Sorbera: A good analogy to sum up UDL
is to think of these concepts within architectural terms. If you construct a building you will have
to consider accessibility issues. Adding ramps and other features after construction
can be costly, cumbersome and time-consuming. The idea is to incorporate accessibility features
in the space within your initial design plans. Katie Billard: The cool thing is, if you remove
a certain barrier with one student in mind other students will benefit as well. Constructing a flexible course that gives
a learner autonomy while maintaining the same learning outcome expectations for all students
is the goal of Universal Design For Learning. Bianca Sorbera: By exploring these three
key principles of Universal Design For Learning instructors will improve their students overall
educational experience. This approach is a way to become a more effective
and inclusive educator.

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