Diversity and Inclusion

Day 1: Introduction to Universal Design for Learning

What is Universal Design for Learning, and why does it matter?

Student cohorts are increasingly diverse, and technology and online learning have a significant role to play in providing widening access and participation in education (Stone 2017). Sometimes, often unknown to us, students bring a number of barriers with them into the learning environment: these could be cultural, language, physical, emotional and social, for example. How we design or develop online courses and integrate technologies in these designs will either assist students with these barriers or make it more difficult for them to engage in the courses and with the content. The Oxford Reference Dictionary defines Barriers to Learning “as events and conditions in pupils’ lives which make it difficult or less likely that they will be able to learn effectively” (Bowen,T.,Ellis, L. ,2017, Oxford Reference).

In order to meet the needs of all students equally, it’s important for courses to be designed with diversity in mind. In this Coffee Course we will be looking at Universal Design for Learning (UDL) as a method for teachers to purposefully design and build courses that meet the needs of all students.

We would like to acknowledge the fantastic work of CAST and the Center for Universal Design and Learning from which you can access many great resources and detailed information about UDL.

The following video shows the application of UDL principles within a variety of situations and how different technologies have been adapted Ā and used to overcome barriers that may be faced.


Activity: Let’s think about barriers!

As outlined in the video UDL aims to assist in overcoming the different barriers that many face. We often do not think of those obstacles that prevent people from going through their everyday lives.

This is just a very simple exercise to get you thinking about barriers: Imagine that you are driving or walking through never before explored terrain or countryside. Make a list of the types of barriers might you encounter on your trip. What kind of technologies might you be able to use to overcome these barriers?

Post some of these barriers in the forum. You might like to take a photo of the barriers and post it in the forum. Have a look at some of the barriers others have encountered and suggest some technologies that could be implemented to overcome these.

We often limit our thinking of barriers to learning to physical disabilities, such as vision or audio impairment. The following video outlines some of the barriers often faced by adult learners in particular that we often do not take into consideration or recognise as barriers. (Note that this video has no audio.)

This issue of barriers faced by students and the importance of understanding students within online courses is discussed in the very recent ‘Opportunity throughĀ online learning Ā – Equity Fellowship Final Report (PDF)‘ by Dr Cathy Stone:

“Only by having comprehensive knowledge and understanding of the diversity of the online student cohort within an institution can the studentsā€™ needs be met in the most appropriate and effective ways. The external, online cohort is generally quite different demographically from the on-campus cohort, yet many universities do not routinely analyse or distribute data that is specific to this cohort. Gaining an accurate institutional understanding of who these students are, means that decisions about and interactions with these students can be better informed. This understanding assists the development of appropriate support, teaching and communication strategies, including flexibility of approach to reduce barriers wherever possible.”

Definition of UDL

Universal Design for Learning is defined by the U.S. Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 (HEOA) as:

“The term UNIVERSAL DESIGN FOR LEARNING means a scientifically valid framework for guiding educational practice that:

(A) provides flexibility in the ways information is presented, in the ways students respond or demonstrate knowledge and skills, and in the ways students are engaged; and
(B) reduces barriers in instruction, provides appropriate accommodations, supports, andĀ  challenges, and maintains high achievement expectations for all students, including students with disabilities and students who are limited English proficient.” Ā (“UDL in the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 | National Center On Universal Design for Learning”, 2017)

Applying and implementing UDL design principles within course development assists all students. As with our activity above, integrating technologies such as bridges to overcome creeks or rivers benefits all of those trying to cross the creek or river. Implementing technologies to reduce barriers to learning benefits all students not just the ones we are trying to target. When designing courses we need to look at what technologies or tools we can use or implement to help overcome barriers to learning and how we can make learning environments more flexible?

The three principles and checkpoints of UDL

There is already a great deal of information and resources out there about UDL. The National Center on Universal Design for Learning and the CAST website are great places to go to for more information and resources.Ā The following diagram, from the National Center on Universal Design for Learning website, outlines the Ā guidelines and checkpointsĀ that can be implemented in catering for the three principlesĀ Ā as we seek to move learners through the learning process.

Click on the image below to access the PDF of the guidelines

CAST (2018).Ā Universal Design for Learning Guidelines version 2.2. Retrieved from http://udlguidelines.cast.org

Activity: UDL and you!

In looking at the three UDL design principles and their guidelines, are there any that standĀ for you as aspects you already implement in your courses or teaching? Discuss these in the forum and how you do this.

Striving to make our courses as ‘barrier free’ as possible and implementing technologies that can assist in that will be a part of this coffee course.Ā Throughout this coffee course we will be using the three UDL principles and checkpoints as a basis for applying practical solutions to course development. Ā As you look at these, have a think about them in relation to a specific course that you might be convening or involved in as we examineĀ the three guidelinesĀ in detail and apply them to our individual contextĀ andĀ together share practical ways that we can create courses with fewer barriers to student learning and engagement.Ā 



36 thoughts on “Day 1: Introduction to Universal Design for Learning

  1. I guess all of us in my workplace work across most of these principles because of the nature of our work, especially section 1 (Multiple Means of Representation) ā€” options for comprehension is the foundation of university teaching, after all. I like the principles of Multiple Means of Action and Expression, and Multiple Means of Engagement though, and I think that I could do more of this. I sometimes feel limited in the first (Action and Expression) by shortcomings in my physical environment (AV not working or not available, on-line options not developed, teaching spaces not easily re-arrangable), and in the second (Engagement) by the demands of assessment (esp. in regards to self-regulation). But I can see that there are more options available to me than I am presently using. Something for me to think about.

    1. Iā€™m glad that you are able to connect with the UDL principles Chris. And I agree with you 100 percent that we should be providing multiple means of representation to aid in comprehension. We will be focusing on each of the principles in the coming days and I hope you can get more ideas and options not only from the course content but from the other participants as well.

  2. Hi Janene & Kat, thanks for this post. I’m really excited to learn more about UDL and how to apply it to my work in ed design and teaching. I wanted to respond to Activity 2 on what principles of UDL I already implement. I have a general understanding of accessibility principles, but this list helps me realise that addressing the needs of students with visual or auditory impairments is only a very small part of UDL. I think I generally do some things to provide captions or alt-text for students who require them (Principles 1.2, 1.3), but I’d like to do a better job of supporting students who speak English as a second language in particular (Principle 2.4). Exploring how to provide individual choices (7.1) and enhancing capacity for monitoring progress (6.4) also seem really important in the ed design area as well – how can participants in our training better understand and reflect on their own knowledge?

    Looking forward to learning more on how to apply the principles in the upcoming days of the course.

    1. Hi Katie. Yes, support for visual and auditory impairments are the most common topics when we talk about accessibility. But as we can see from the UDL Guidelines, (and later as we discuss more about learner variability), the goal is to ā€œprovide all individuals with fair and equal opportunities to learnā€. So we must think about supporting learners with different abilities, backgrounds and motivations.

      You are off to a good start by providing captions or alt-text to your materials. Some implementation examples on specific checkpoints that you mentioned:

      2.4 Promote understanding across languages
      You can provide online translation tools or links to online multilingual glossaries.

      6.4 Enhance capacity for monitoring progress
      Show concrete representations of progress by using before and after photos or process portfolios

      71. Optimize individual choice and autonomy
      Make it a point to nvolve your students in setting their own academic goals

      You will have the opportunity to learn more about what these principles look like in the classroom in the coming days. And hopefully the other participants of the course will share examples as well.

  3. I had not heard of UDL before and am relieved someone is raising consciousness about the need to level the playing field, not only for people of differing capabilities but also for people with different learning styles – and to this end I would like to inject the words ‘dyslexia’ and ‘ADD’/’ADHD’, two differences the higher education system needs to factor in rather than ignore in its course design. The ‘what’ (multiple means of representation), ‘how’ (multiple means of action & expression) and ‘why’ (multiple means of engagement) is a very useful way of organising one’s thoughts about how to apply UDL to teaching and learning practices. The piece by Cathy Stone incorporates crucial complementary findings, notably that student retention is maximised by a mix of online and face-to-face teaching and learning practices, significantly higher than either on its own.

    1. Hi Chris! I found the Cathy Stone report to be really excellent in providing the evidence to support some of the things I had previously assumed around student engagement when studying online. It’s interesting to consider how UDL can be very different for F2F and online students. I think a lot about the tension between technology improving accessibility for some students, and being a barrier for others. There is a certain level now of expected online engagement for students, which not all of our student body can necessarily meet. Interesting to think about over the next few days of the course. Your point on dyslexia and ADD/ADHD being factors that need to be considered is right on – there is a wide range of diversity among students that is often “invisible” to teachers!

    2. I could not agree with you more. Levelling the playing field for everyone the same time is really tricky, but I find that the online contents in Wattle make serving a diverse range of needs and preferences serves these individualisation or tailoring of the unit content pretty well. Also my students tend to really appreciate providing them with contents early so they can choose their preferred medium and learning schedule. However, I find it really hard to take everyone’s needs into account; for example, I am first and foremost a visual learner myself and hence, I use a lot of pictures and videos. Some people are complete opposites to this and resolving these conflicting preferences and needs can be very time consuming and difficult, given the time constraints we educators have.

  4. Thanks for this post, Janene. As a language teacher, I think I will find learning more about UDL principles particularly helpful in my classroom. In the past, I have taught both vision and hearing-impaired students, who were able to get a lot out of class thanks to their own digital tools (voice to text apps, braille keyboards), but I felt I didn’t have enough flexibility with available technology and course design to adequately accommodate their needs on my end. This is an area of pedagogy that deserves a great deal of attention and I’m looking forward to the course.

    1. Hi Gemma. Iā€™m sure the UDL Principles will help you create a more inclusive learning environment as a language teacher. Technology has been a great enabler as exemplified by your vision and hearing-impaired students. But as I always say we must remember that for their tools and assistive technologies to work, the content and the learning environment must be accessible in the first place. Screen readers for example will not be useful if the website is not accessible. And as a teacher, I understand that sometimes we do not have control over these resources.

      As you have initially seen in the UDL guidelines there are so many ways that we can design our courses to be inclusive. Hopefully weā€™ll have other techniques and practical examples that are specifically helpful to language teachers. Looking forward to hearing more from you in the coming days.

  5. Hi Janene and Kat, and thanks for establishing this course. Iā€™ve found your first post and the associated resources already very informative so Iā€™m pleased that Iā€™ve signed up! Like the other posters so far, I incorporate some UDL strategies in my teaching already, but Iā€™m very aware that what I have been doing is far too little.

    I lecture large classes (160+ students) in very quantitative material and for the past 10+ years have relied on the traditional lecture format and the ā€˜authoritativeā€™ style of teaching, which ā€“ in my case at least – is a one-way conversation devoid of interaction. I typically give 3 one hour lectures each week in this format, and interaction is restricted to a weekly 1 hour tutorial (where students are split into groups of 20-25) or office hours to help individual students.

    I think my current approach matches roughly with the following UDL strategies and guidelines:
    – Options for perception. I prepare course notes and associated lecture slides, both of which are available on Wattle. I run through the slides in each lecture class, and audio and video record each lecture. The audio/video recording means that students can spend their time listening while in class, rather than writing, and it also allows students with other commitments (such as part-time jobs) to not attend and catch up later. A downside to this is that I tend to only get attendance of ~30% of students in lectures. Since everything that is conveyed in lectures is available after the lecture online, the majority of students donā€™t bother attending!
    – Options for comprehension. The course notes provide detailed background knowledge, whereas the slides and the lectures highlight the key issues and theory, including worked examples.
    – Options for physical action, expression and communication / Options for recruiting interest. I demonstrate some of the concepts through the use of software in class (eg, Excel, and the statistical software ā€˜Rā€™), and I make the files and code available online. I encourage students to practice with these tools to help their understanding of the theory and application of theory, and to develop their interest in the subject matter. I also try to link the theory and purpose of the learning back to practical application through discussion of how the techniques are used in government and industry work.
    – For the main course that I teach, I have recently incorporated additional assignments, the purpose being to provide motivation to study early and often! I suppose to an extent this might fall under ā€˜options for sustaining effort and persistenceā€™.

    Although I get positive student feedback, the sample responding is small and may be biased. Regardless, Iā€™m increasingly unhappy with my reliance on the ā€˜authoritativeā€™ style of teaching and look forward to redesigning the courses that I teach to improve the learning experience for my students. Your course is very timely and Iā€™m looking forward to the upcoming posts.

    1. Hi Tim,
      Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment! I am very glad that the course is timely for you. I had a similar growing dissatisfaction with the traditional lecture style of delivery, which has changed a lot about how I think about teaching. It sounds like you are already embodying a lot of the UDL principles in your practice which is fantastic. There are some great suggestions and ideas coming up in the next few days of the course so I look forward to learning about them with you!

      (Also we are planning a future course on active learning in lectures which might be of interest for you – stay tuned!)

    2. Iā€™m happy that you find the UDL course very timely Tim. Your examples show that you have been applying the UDL principles in your teaching already. Your post also shows that you have been reflecting about your teaching very thoroughly!

      We will be looking at each UDL principle in the coming days. That will help you look at your course in greater detail and hopefully bring out more practical examples from other participants which you can use in redesigning your course.

    3. Tim, attendance of a quarter to a third of students at lectures is not unusual. I gave up giving lectures in 2008 and this has not harmed the student’s learning. You can disguise your ā€˜authoritativeā€™ style in the fabric of the course: give the student options and different paths, but use the course design and in particular the assessment, to see that each student ends up at the intended destination. Having been a student (of education) for the last five years, one of the things I like to do is make sure there is a clear default path through the material for a student who is having difficulty coping (I spent five years having difficulty coping).

    4. Hi Tim,

      It’s great that you are able to see how your current teaching practices are aligning to the UDL strategies. Sometimes we are limited by the structures and tools we have available to us so thinking about how we can apply UDL within these frameworks can be a challenge, especially when working with 160+ students.
      With those numbers of students it can be guaranteed that that there will be many and multiple types of barriers being faced by these students and seeking ways to assist students in overcoming these requires some thought and planning. It is great to see that you have been seeking to address these in the structure you are currently working within.

  6. Barriers and technologies to overcome these:

    * Limited bandwidth: I have only limited bandwidth on my home wireless modem. As a result I tend to read the text alternatives to videos, where there is one. Where there isn’t I simply ignore the video and move on: reasoning that if this is really important the course designer will have included the same information somewhere in the text. The legal precedent which said this applies to the web was set in the Sydney Olympics 2000 case: https://www.w3.org/WAI/bcase/socog-case-study

    * Implementing UDL design principles: I take a minimalist approach to the design of materials and courses. The idea is to remove barriers for the student by reducing the clutter and allowing assistive technology built into the student’s devices to work unimpeded. As an example, I provide course notes in the form of web pages which use default formatting, so they can easily be resized, converted to speech, or Braille. I avoid the use of PDF, PowerPoint and Microsoft Word documents, due the the problems they can cause with access. More on this in “Accessible Web Based E-Books for Education”: http://www.tomw.net.au/technology/it/accessible_ebooks/index.shtml

    ps: CAPTCHA Codes can cause access problems. For each of these postings I have to make three to four attempts at the CAPTCHA Code. In this case after four attempts I got “Hmmm, your comment seems a bit spammy. We’re not real big on spam around here.”. I then had to spend more time editing the post to attempt to remove the spamminess, than it took took write it in the first place.

    1. Hi Tom,

      Thank you for your comments and for raising these issues. The limited bandwidth or slow internet issue is often something we do not take into consideration, especially when we use video or images. I experienced this first hand recently when I was on a remote property in western NSW , I think the grass was growing faster than the internet was working!! Providing the information in text form as an alternative is great way to assist students in these situations.

    2. Thanks Tom. You’ve raised some interesting points and suggestions here – food for thought as I redesign my courses!

  7. To make goals and objectives salient I undertake top-down course design: starting with the external skills required for professional accreditation, then course objectives, assessment items and lastly the educational tasks to support those assessment items. The student can then see explicitly see how what they are being asked to do and being assessed on relates to getting a job. To provide authenticity, I have students undertake real-world projects and answer questions from the point of view of their own experience. More on this in “A Green Computing Professional Education Course Online”: http://www.tomw.net.au/technology/it/green_computing_professional/

    ps: I had the pleasure of meeting Dr Cathy Stone last year in Canberra, when she was talking about student retention. What struck was that much (or all) of what she was saying was as applicable to on-campus as on-line students: http://blog.highereducationwhisperer.com/search?q=cathy+stone

  8. Thanks Janene – there was a lot to think about here – it too me far longer than a 10-minute coffee! šŸ™‚

    Regarding the second activity (UDL and you!), I realize that for the course I’m currently convening, we do pretty badly on most of the guidelines. We do OK on comprehension (s.3) and executive functions (s.6), however, we often only provide a single option for perception (s.1) or action (s.4). We probably do worst on sustaining effort and persistence (s.8) – there are no streamed or graduated activities, meaning that there is a “one size fits all” approach to assessment, despite that our students have varied backgrounds and levels of ability. This means that some of them find the assessment far too difficult and sink into despair, whereas others would probably relish an additional challenge.

    Cathy Stone’s report is very interesting, and like Tom I think most of the recommendations apply to on-campus teaching methods as well as online. The quote you gave is very interesting, as I’m pretty sure that information about the diversity of the student cohort is not available to me as a lecturer. It would be really useful in trying to tailor my teaching approaches to the audience!

    Was the purpose of including the “Common Barriers to Adult Learning” to have us critique this video from a UDL point of view? If so: this video is appallingly designed for accessibility. The fundamental issue is that it is a slide presentation, but it’s presented as a video instead of simply providing the slides. This defeats simple techniques for accessibility like screen readers, text zooming, contrast enhancement, etc.. In addition, the content is presented much too fast, which means the video must be repeatedly paused for the viewer to be able to take in any of the content. I tried to watch this while eating my lunch, and it was a nightmare! I needed to keep one hand free to constantly pause and resume the video.

    1. Hi Josh,

      Thank you for your great comments. I do apologise that this session did go a bit longer than the ten minutes. There was a lot to cover and introduce in this first session.

      I agree with you about the video. I had a lot of trouble finding something that highlighted some of the barriers adult learners face that was not to long. I’m glad you could use it as a critique and of what not to do. In the the light of UDL principles it is often not until we are made aware of the barriers that we can start critically analysing them within content and hopefully improve on and eliminate anything that may be a barrier.

      1. Hi Josh and Janene,

        Yes, I also had some problems with the speed in that video but I worked out that after I slowed the video down in the settings it was just perfect. I guess uploading a video rather than the slides has the advantage that it’s less likely that someone will steal the slides… But I agree, it wasn’t really a good teaching tool.

  9. Sorry for my belated post, resulted from my preoccupation with marking. Although not related to UDL, any suggestions as how to increase the efficiency in marking essays would be greatly appreciated.
    Ok, back to the topic. I am from a non-English background and I still have the memory of one of the major barriers in my early days studying at ANU that was the participation in classroom discussion because of lack of confidence in the appropriate English expression and comprehension. Due to my awareness of this and notice of increasing non-English-background students coming here to study, in my teaching, I often think hard as how I can facilitate these students to participate to share their learning and understanding of the subject matters. (However, I have also realized that this may not be caused by language barrier, but could relate to personality, inadequate preparation, lack of background knowledge 3.1, or insufficient motivation 9.1.) Whilst I have employed various methods, e.g. written, visual and verbal, in my teaching, I think it is highly important to get some updates particularly in terms of using new technologies to facilitate studentā€™s learning. This is why I am here to learn more about how to create a more inclusive learning environment in this increasingly culturally diverse environment.

    1. Hi Jade. I too come from a non-English background so I can relate to your student experience at ANU. I think your observation is correct. Language barrier might not be the major reason why students from non-English background don’t participate in class. And you have pointed them out as UDL checkpoints – well done. As we go thru each UDL principle, Janene and I will try to encourage participants to share different educational tools and technologies that they use as there seems to be an interest for such discussion. And using the appropriate technology is one way of removing the barriers to learning.

      1. Hi Jade and Katherine,
        I totally agree that a language-barrier is not the only reason why some students are a bit “shy” during a course. We will always have to work with diversity amongst our students and a possible language-barrier is only one of the things we have to keep in mind. However, coming from a non-English background myself, I think that the language-barrier really is one of the big problems for non-English students and we need to find ways how to address it. This is particularly true for ANU with it’s large proportion of overseas students. I have to admit that I’m somewhat sceptical when it comes to all the hype around online learning, flipped classrooms and so on. I’m shocked when I read about lecturers who have given up “traditional lectures” completely and only do online lectures. I think that face to face teaching can be very powerful (if it’s done properly) and I totally agree that the best way forward is a healthy mix of both. One advantage of online teaching/flipped classrooms is, however, undeniable and that is the advantage for non-English students. If a students struggles with understanding the content of a lecture purely because of the language then an online lecture that can be worked through at a slow pace will certainly be the better option for that student.
        Also, small changes to the language you are using as a teacher can make a big difference, for example eliminating slang.

  10. I’m new to teaching, and have not had many opportunities to use the techniques provided here – I have not designed a course, nor have I used online learning extensively. However, I realise this is the path that universities are heading down, and I’d like to learn how to reach and engage students online (as well as in person, obviously). I’m not sure if I missed something, but it seems that this module is suggesting providing multiple modes of delivery (visual, auditory); isn’t visual and auditory delivery the basis for recorded lectures? So does that mean that we need to write out a transcript of the lecture? I’m not sure how else to apply the lessons learnt in this module to online course delivery? I’m assuming we’re just talking about lectures – other forms of learning seem to fall more under general teaching techniques, rather than adapting content for those with special needs. Or is that part of this coffee course?
    One thing I noticed from this module is that a lot of the accommodations suggested all depend on the student having access to technology. I personally do not have a smartphone, and I find it frustrating when every ‘overcoming of barriers’ involves apps, microphones, expensive equipment, etc. I suppose, however, that we have to expect students have this equipment if they are asking for accommodations in the class?

  11. I’m quite new to teaching and haven’t been involved in designing a course. I taught on one course – a two-week intensive field course – last year, and I think that quite a few of the UDL principles were implemented (though not in the context of online learning). There were four lectures on the course; because it was a field course, all of the students attended the lectures and we didn’t record them, but we did provide the slides online – I guess we didn’t really have alternatives for visual information though. I hadn’t thought about problems with providing pdfs before, but Tom’s suggestion of providing course notes in the form of web pages is a great idea and something I will try to implement in the future.
    Because it was a small course, I had lots of opportunities to work one-on-one with students to clarify terminologogy or concepts (2.1), and ran workshops targetting skills like how to structure a scientific report (this kind of fits with 5.3). Writing a report was the major assignment for the course, and I think that having these workshops were particularly useful for students who had backgrounds in other disciplines and/or had never written a report like this before. The reports also provided an opportunity for choice and autonomy (7.1) because the students could choose one of four projects to write up.
    To help students monitor their own progress, and to help the teaching group gauge their learning, we had a short quiz in the middle of the course and also provided feedback on field notebooks that they were required to keep throughout the course (6.4).
    One important barrier for taking the course is financial, but I think the university now provides some financial aid scholarships to assist with this.
    I agree with Rebecca’s comment that many accomodation suggestions rely on access to technology. In some cases, access to technology could be the barrier (this was a problem for me) and so I think we need to be careful about designing online content and content that requires access to specific technologies – which I guess in many ways goes back to using multiple media for communication (5.1) and offering alternatives for displaying information (1.1-1.3).

    1. I have to say I agree with you Gemma and Rebecca about the role of technology as both a helper to and a barrier to inclusion in teaching. Obviously there are a range of tools and apps to help students with visual, auditory, or other accessbility issues which have been of huge benefit. But by requiring the use of technology in certain ways we can exclude students who don’t have access. The “digital divide” between the technology “haves” and “have-nots” is getting deeper in Australia (https://theconversation.com/australias-digital-divide-is-narrowing-but-getting-deeper-55232). It’s something to keep in mind (particularly in my role supporting & designing online learning!).

  12. Hello everyone,
    Thanks for the excellent discussion here. I’m quite excited about this course, although I am running a few days late!
    For me, the biggest challenge I have with UDL is thinking about the aspects of engagement (in the UDL model) and assessment. Trying to make sure that assessment items give students the opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge and skills in an equitable way is quite difficult I think. I find that making accommodations or designing for accessible content delivery is more straightforward. I’d be very interested to hear more about other people’s experiences with this.

    1. No worries Amelia – happy to have you join us whenever you can! I have found the same thing about more accessible content being easier than more accessible assessment. I struggle with how to make reasonable accommodation for students who struggle to meet certain types of requirements. I had a student a few years ago who suffered from anxiety, and the requirement to do a in-class presentation was very difficult for her. I was only a tutor at the time and the course convenor insisted that she do the presentation anyway, as it was a communications course and he felt it was an essential requirement to meet the learning outcomes for the course. To this day I’m not sure how I feel about that. I saw the convenor’s point, and he felt it would be unfair to make changes for this student, but I also thought we maybe could have handled it a different way. It was a tough situation with no easy answer though.

  13. Make a list of the types of barriers might you encounter on your trip. What kind of technologies might you be able to use to overcome these barriers?
    Potholes, rivers, uneven ground –> 4WD vehicles, bridges etc.!

    In looking at the three UDL design principles and their guidelines, are there any that stand for you as aspects you already implement in your courses or teaching? Discuss these in the forum and how you do this.
    I actually don’t think I use many of these design principles right now, although once I see more of the detail in later days, perhaps I will be surprised. I think the main thing I have used so far is 1 and 5 (multiple options for perception, expression, and communication) – I have used a combination of lecturing, discussion, and computer practicals (with live coding) in a course I taught into this year, for which the assessments involved written reports, lab reports and oral presentations. I think the diversity of methods kept the material interesting and exposed the students to a lot of new experiences; however, I also think some of the students have struggled, especially with some of the computer practical components. It has been difficult to address issues around these struggles though, because I have offered many forms of help but the students do not seem to find it easy to accept those offers! I am hoping to learn strategies here that will help me with next years implementation of the course.

  14. I think I use various principles, particularly in teaching students whose first language isn’t English. I try to include multiple modes of representation – e.g. have content written on slides as well as explain it in both simple and more complex terminology. I am constantly ‘activating background knowledge’ in an effort to remind students where we’re up to so we can move on. However, I suspect that my efforts might sometimes actually discourage engagement from students who think that reading lecture slides will be sufficient and then don’t come to class or listen online. Where I can I supply ‘graduated levels of support’. This is obviously easier with 5 students than 50, but I do try to work to the students’ levels in my feedback. I don’t do much ‘facilitation of personal coping strategies’, although I do encourage their planning. I suspect many could do with time management strategies, but I’m not sure how that would go down. It would be interesting to ask them where they felt the boundaries of their teachers’ facilitation efforts lie.

  15. This post is really informative and inspiring. I have never heard about the terminology “UDL” before. But I have already tried to incorporate some principles in my teaching practices, mostly in section I. The reason is that I could not estimate how much I benefit from all these eminent educators I have encountered in various aspects. I am so grateful. So I would like to teach and treat my students in a similar way.

  16. Some barriers I might encounter on my trip might be rivers – sorry, I can’t think of anything else. I would then think of bridges, a four wheel drive, telephone to call for help. I am just starting to develop materials for an online course and I have never heard of UDL until now. It is timely and I can see that it offers a wide range of options which is making me think more about how I could incorporate some of its inclusive principles into my course.

  17. I still have a lot to learn about UDL, and look forward to incorporating better universal design principles moving forward. However, I was pleasantly surprised to realise that UDL is something I am conscious of (despite not knowing the term), and am already implementing some of the principles.

    Regarding representation, I provide my students with multiple options for comprehension by linking themes and relationships across the course, and cross-referencing readings and topics. This also helps to activate background knowledge, by showing that everything in the course is related and relevant. In terms of language, expression, and symbols, I often end up running research and writing workshops for my students. These workshops not only help clarify syntax and structure, but by drawing on various language structures, they promote understanding across languages. (On a separate note, I have been pushing my department to make this a compulsory course, and while they have noted the improvements in students’ comprehension and expression, they have not been particularly supportive). I am also a fan of encouraging students to explore stipulative definitions as a means of clarifying vocabulary. This is particularly important in my field, where many concepts are still ill-defined or constantly evolving.

    One of the highlights of my interactions with students (for both me and them) is providing various methods for response and navigation. My lectures, tutorials, and workshops encompass diverse styles of teaching, learning, and assessment. For example, opportunities to apply theoretical knowledge to real-world situations requires a completely different skill set from traditional lectures and essays. This enables students who struggle in the mainstream setting to thrive in alternative learning and assessment environments.

    Through all of these methods, I believe my teaching provides multiple methods of engagement by optimising relevance and authenticity and heightening the salience of goals and objectives. It also fosters collaboration and community by helping students to identify with the discipline, as they can see where the degree can take them, fostering a positive sense of identity.

  18. I am really excited about taking this course. UDL is something I have thought about for a long time but not known how to search for it or talk about it. It is so important to be able to provide equality of education regardless of barriers, and I think this is something that could definitely be done better across the tertiary sector generally.

    In my own teaching, I think I do reasonably well at providing multiple means of representation. I give students audio, text, and visual versions of similar information, plus the practical aspects to the course. The lectures are recorded which provides the audio, but I also supplement this with lecture notes which I provide ā€” in addition to the slides. I ensure that these are all linked together clearly and that the titles are informative enough to be read by a text-to-voice program ā€” rather than having the titles in an image for example. I also try hard to build support for emotional and financial barriers, through giving links to university resources for study/financial options on course sites; having free-to-access readings for students; being explicitly open about being able to accommodate work and family commitments. I do this because these two barriers are two of mine when it comes to study, and I try to provide the resources and support I would have appreciated when I was in that situation.

  19. One of the key things that I have learned in my 3 yrs demonstrating is that every student is different. Each student I have taught has come from a different educational/socio-economic/cultural background or any combination of the three. A domestic student who went through school in Canberra will have a different background and be in a different situation compared to an international student from Shanghai participating and completing their assessment in a second language while being away from home. Not only are their personal situations different, but there is often a variation in the type of physics education they have been exposed to. For example, there was an international student who had a great grasp of the theory and a strong physics and mathematical base but was weaker in conveying that knowledge through writing and structuring their logbook. It takes careful management to assist in the continued development of the studentsā€™ strengths while building upon and working to improve their weaknesses. UDL is an extremely interesting concept and the definition particularly resonated with my own teaching practices, of trying to provide flexibility in presenting the information and reducing barriers to students learning experience. Iā€™m excited to learn more about the ways in which technology can supplement UDL.

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