Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a method of teaching that gives students the flexibility to engage with the course material in a way that best suits them (Morin, n.d.). Instructional designer Flower Darby describes UDL as a ramp alongside a set of stairs. Both lead up to the same entrance, but the ramp was specifically created with wheelchair users in mind. Though the ramp was created for this purpose, it also benefits people using walkers, strollers, luggage on wheels, or cargo dollies. Because this ramp was factored into the design of the building, a variety of different groups were able to benefit (2020).
UDL offers choices to support student learning. An easy way to incorporate this method into your class is to provide captioning on your videos for students who have hearing impairments or to allow students to complete an assignment in multiple ways. For example in Ron's tip for increasing student expression, you can allow students to complete an assignment by writing a paper or recording a video.
Accessibility appears to be a buzzword in education environment but should it? It is an integral part of course design and teaching practices be it online, on campus, or remote. Accessibility breaks down barriers to learning, increases student engagement and enables teachers to build strong learning communities. The challenge lies in choosing the best practices for your course and understanding why these practices are beneficial to your learners.
Here are Five Best Practices you can do immediately to make your course more accessible.
Education tends to be taught through the lenses of groups that are not marginalized and as a result, students can often feel excluded in class due to race, language, religion, gender, poverty, or a disability, (Open Society Foundations, 2019). It is difficult for students to be in an environment where they constantly feel overlooked and unaccounted. I have met students who believed that higher education wasn’t for them because of the disadvantages they would face. How do we help to combat this? Through building inclusive class environments.
The goal of inclusive classrooms is to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to learn and that all feel welcome during the process, regardless of circumstances or identities. The very design of the course should support learners so that no one feels left behind (Darby, 2020). We can implement inclusive environments not only through Universal Design for Learning, but Culturally Sensitive Pedagogy and Accessibility.
Stanford's award-winning podcast explores current issues in education
Professional Development Series
An accessible and ADA-compliant, inclusive course is paramount to students' academic success and advancement.
Join the Division of Continuing and International Education’s Distance Learning Institute (DLI) at the virtual EdTech Café session.
Event attendees will:
Review their online course content for accessibility
Discover doable ways to accommodate students' learning needs
Work in a course using one of the best accessibility checker tools on the market, ALLY, to start improving accessibility issues
When: March 16, 2021, and March 18, 2021, at 12 p.m. Where: Virtual Topic: ImprovingAccessibility in Online Courses and Ally Hosts: April Macadangdang and Cate Dowman
This virtual event is a part of the DLI’s series to help the University of Miami faculty create successful and engaging online courses. The EdTech Café online course development events are held every third week each month.