Diversity and Inclusion

Day 5: Coffee and Wrap up

Final thoughts on UDL in higher education

A cup of tea sits in a saucer.
Photo by Allison Giguere.

Thank you for joining us in this coffee course over the past week and for your many contributions, conversations and the ideas and thoughts that you have shared. Today we are going to reflect on the three Universal Design Principles and also look at some tools and resources that you can use to help in the development of your courses and assessment activities.

For those that can make it we will be meeting for coffee at the ‘Inclusive teaching: Making it happen’ event that is on today during the morning tea break. This is being held in the 3rd floor teaching room of the Science and Teaching Building, 136.


Image source: Pixabay

As we have seen over the last few days the UDL principles provide a framework for making courses more accessible. One of the difficulties in working within online environments, particularly fully online, is that those accessing our courses are often invisible to us. We cannot see or may not have met our students so that makes it harder for us to develop courses for them in a specific way that addresses any accessibility issues they may have. The idea of building in ‘structures’ as outlined in Day 1 of the course that ultimately benefits the needs of all participants, such as building a bridge over a river, is something we need to keep in mind.  Thinking about the type of bridge to build, a bridge that can take as many types of users as possible, from pedestrians and bikes up to semitrailers requires us to have  a knowledge of the tools and technologies available that will help achieve this. The goal of UDL is to allow learners to move through a process where they become more  “resourceful, knowledgeable, strategic, goal-directed, purposeful and motivated learners”

The following video ‘UDL in Higher Education ‘ gives a quick overview of why UDL is important within this context. This video is from the site UDL on Campus: Universal Design for Learning in Higher Education’ and is worth looking through the many resources located within it.

Tools for building bridges

Image source: Pixabay

Today we are going to look at and provide some links to practical resources for implementing UDL. There are plenty of ideas and resources out there to help you find tools and technologies that can be used. The National Center on UDL has a page on UDL Guidelines: Examples and Resources which provides an extensive list of tools that can be used for each guideline and checkpoint and how they work in relation to UDL as well as this list of free learning  tools that can be used.

‘From Theory to Practice: UDL Quick Tips’, developed by Colorado State University is a brief guide that covers each of the three guidelines and provides suggestions for benchmarks, instructional materials , teaching methods and assessment.

The ‘UDL Strategies’ website has ideas that can be implemented for each guideline and checkpoint. Not all of these are relevant to the higher education context but it is a great interactive site with many ideas that could be used and applied to the tools within Moodle and the adult education context.

Many of you are using Moodle as your LMS platform, and this is the case for ANU participants, and you may be  thinking about the tools available within Moodle that could be used and how you could use them. The article Universal Instructional Design Principles for Moodle’ looks at some of the UDL principles and examines how Moodle accommodates these.

UDL Four Critical Elements

“Universal Design for Learning (UDL) represents a paradigm shift in education that has the potential to improve outcomes for a broad range of students. MITS, with collaborative partners, has identified four critical elements intended to serve as a foundation for implementation and further research.  Instruction aligned with the framework of UDL must minimally include each of the four critical elements shown below”  (“UDL Critical Elements”, 2017).

Clear Goals

·         Goals and desired outcomes of the lesson/unit are aligned to the established content standards

·         Teachers have a clear understanding of the goal(s) of the lesson and specific student outcomes

·         Goals are communicated in ways that are understandable by every student in the classroom, and can be expressed by them

Inclusive, Intentional Planning

·         Intentional proactive planning addressing distinct student needs

·         Addresses individual differences in background knowledge, affect, strategies, etc. (Consider what students know, strengths and weaknesses, and what engages them).

·         Recognizes that every student is unique and plans accordingly, paying attention to students in the margins (i.e., struggling and advanced) in anticipation that a broader range of students will benefit

·         Addresses the instructional demands including goals, methods, materials, and assessments while considering available resources including personnel

·         Maintaining rigor of the lesson while providing necessary supports

·         Reducing the barriers in the curriculum by embedding supports during initial planning

Flexible methods and materials

·         Teacher uses a variety of media and methods to present information and content

·         A variety of methods are used to engage students (e.g., provide choice, address student interest) and promote their ability to monitor their own learning (e.g., goal setting, self-assessment, and reflection)

·         Students use a variety of media and methods to demonstrate their knowledge

Timely progress monitoring

·         Formative assessments are frequent and timely enough to plan/redirect instruction and support

·         A variety of formative and summative assessments (e.g., projects, oral tests, written tests) are used to assess the learning in the classroom

Developed in Collaboration with Boyne City Middle School, Charlevoix-Emmet ISD, Harbor Springs Middle School, Reese Middle School, and the Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST)

MITS UDL Critical Elements by MITS is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License


I thought today’s session we could have a hands on activity getting ‘crafty’ and making the ‘UDL Wheel’ that has been developed by by CAST. It is a handy resource for working out ways to incorporate the UDL guidelines into your courses. Download the wheel and print it off to make so that you will have it as a handy resource.

In the forum today discuss how you found the coffee course and any questions that may have been raised for you in implementing UDL.


Thank you for participating in this Coffee course we hope you have enjoyed it and learnt a lot about UDL. We would appreciate your feedback on the course so that we can continue to improve our courses.

Please fill in our short feedback survey.


The following links go to a number of articles and further resources that you can access and use.

28 thoughts on “Day 5: Coffee and Wrap up

  1. I thought the course was great! Really good ideas without being too didactic, really good opportunity for all participants to share strategies, and a really good format — it’s so much easier to fit this sort of training in to my schedule, and I definitely enjoy getting my pedagogy in bite-sized chunks rather than one long workshop. Thanks so much to Janene, Katherine and Katie for all their hard work!

    1. Thanks so much Chris! That’s such a lovely thing to say! We are always looking for topic suggestions so let us know if there is anything else you’d like to do a coffee course on in the future. Good luck with your teaching!

    2. Thank you Chris. We enjoyed doing the course and learned a lot from all the discussions and sharings as well. Good luck with your teaching 🙂

    3. Thanks Chris! We enjoyed putting it together and are pleased to hear people have found it useful and enjoyable. 🙂

  2. A very useful course that surpassed my expectations and I agree with Chris’s positive comments about the course structure.

    I hadn’t previously considered many of the UDL guidelines and checkpoints in my teaching, but this has provided a very useful checklist as I go forward and redesign my course.

    A difficulty is conceiving practical strategies that address the UDL checkpoints. The online discussion and suggestions from others in the course have been particularly useful in this regard. And the https://goalbookapp.com/toolkit/strategies link also appears to offer up some great practical strategies, so I know I’ll be referring to this (and the other links) extensively over the coming months.

    Thanks for the course and thanks to all participants for the interesting and useful posts.

    1. Thanks for this great link, Tim! As I mention below, practical and specific tool suggestions were what I found particularly helpful.

  3. Thanks all for a great course- the format of ten minutes a day over a week was very manageable and kept me thinking about the topic throughout the week, rather than cramming it all into one session. Learning about the principles of UDL and why they are important was very valuable, but I especially enjoyed today’s post and its specific suggestions of tools and strategies for implementing UDL within and beyond the classroom. The colour wheel in particular is a great little tool!

    1. Thanks Gemma! I thought the UDL wheel was great also and was hoping we could all get together and make it for our final session. Thank you also for your great contributions throughout the course.

  4. I agree with all the above comments that this is a great course and handy and innovative format. I was hooked by the format of ten minutes a day but actually I spent more time on that. What I’ve learned from this course will keep me working and thinking more on my future teaching strategies. Thanks so much to Janene, Katherine and Katie for your useful feedback! Thanks to all participants for your interesting and useful posts!
    Do we still have the access to the course and all the posted comments after its completion? I think I might come back to have a review.

    1. Hi Jade,
      The course will stay up indefinitely so please feel free to look at it whenever you like 🙂 Anyone else is welcome to go through and comment in the future as well. Do you think we should adjust the description to say 15-20 minutes a day, or was the time you spent more about you exploring more things on your own?

      Thanks for joining us!

      1. Hi Katie,
        I agree with the general vibe of the comments, this coffee course was really interesting and I liked the format. Thanks for putting it all together! However, I also spent more time on this than 10 min. Reading through the material and watching the videos can probably be done within 10 min but reflecting, reading comments from other participants and writing a comment yourself takes a significant amount of time so I would actually think 20-30 min is more accurate.

  5. I really appreciate the bite-sized format, although I would agree that it took me 15-30 minutes to actually go through things and reflect. Still manageable though! The best – and most useful – part was hearing actual ideas about how to implement these ideas from the other participants. In the future, it might be helpful to provide more concrete examples (‘building a bridge over water’ doesn’t actually give any hints as to what we need to do to accomodate barriers people face… but ‘include a transcript for videos/clips you post’ is very concrete and helpful).

    On a related note: at the Inclusive Learning Colloquium today, it was really only the last speaker who actually gave real advice about question design. That is the actual stuff we need to be learning – not just “be sure your questions cater to a variety of students” but actual “we found a difference in success between genders with word vs. diagram questions” is very tangible and do-able. That stuff is always appreciated; the people who volunteer their time to go to a ‘diversity’ or ‘inclusivity’ workshop don’t need to be told ‘we need to cater to diversity’ and ‘we need to be inclusive’ – they need to be told how. I loved that in this coffee course there was a chance for the learners to communicate and share these ideas.

    Thank you for all your hard work in putting this together!

  6. I liked the course structure – 10 minutes a day is about right for a busy academic, and the requirement to post something (anything at all!) demanded my reflective participation. I’ve printed out the CAST one-pager on the UDL guidelines and stuck it on my wall, which I hope will serve as an occasional reminder as I’m designing course material.
    Like Rebecca, I found today’s presentation by Kate Wilson (on gender differences in physics assessments) really interesting. As a result of this I plan to perform a gender-disaggregated analysis on past exams to see if similar patterns appear in our students’ results.

  7. I found this course really interesting, and it was great to hear other people’s ideas and experiences. I particularly appreciated the practical advice on how applying the UDL principles might look in a university class. This is the second “coffee course” I’ve done and I really enjoy this format. I like the opportunity to process and reflect on each small topic – much easier than if it was done in one longer session. Thanks!

  8. Thank you, this was really interesting.You presented the information really clearly and modeled a lot of the concepts you were talking about. I don’t teach but I work with teachers and I will try to get these concepts on their radar if they’re not already.

  9. I set aside time this afternoon to devote to completing this course, and found it really useful! As some of the others have said, I found it particularly useful whenever real tips and tools were given. I like the wheel and I also really like the UDL-Aligned Strategies site. I’ve bookmarked both to review when I next prepare for a bout of teaching.
    I think it’s always useful to reflect upon one’s teaching and whether or not we’re catering to the needs of our students. Just like the other coffee courses I’ve completed, I hope that some of what I’ve learned sticks and contributes towards making me a better teacher! Thanks 🙂

  10. This coffee course definitely provided plenty of practical tools to enhance my teaching. Meanwhile, as a PhD student, this course also helps me to better understand the interactions between me and my supervisor, who appears to be an expert in the art of UDL (how lucky I am). I feel more motivated in both research and teaching after this training session.

  11. I assembled the CAST ‘UDL Wheel’ using a tie pin I found in my office drawer as the pivot (I can’t remember the last time I saw one of those round safety pin things). However, printed on A4 paper the text on the wheel is too small to read comfortably. The colored text on a similarly colored background was even harder to read.

    Even when I could read the text I couldn’t see the point of the wheel. You turn it to a specific option and it shows you suggested actions. How it more useful than table on one sheet of paper? As it is, this seems to be an example of what *not* to do for UDL. I suggest it could have some pictographs and a few phrases instead of all that tiny text.

    Apart from that I found the coffee course useful. Perhaps you could do some “dog-fooding” in the course: point out how UDL can be applied in a course on UDL.

  12. Thank you for this course. It has been a great introduction to UDL. A question I still have is how do time-poor academics implement UDL consistently? Even this course has used resources which do not satisfy the UDL Principles or Guidelines. Similarly, other Coffee Courses offer even fewer UDL opportunities (at least this course offers transcripts for some of the video content).

    1. Hi Bhavani, how to successfully offer a “universally designed” course in the face of time restraints is an issue I personally struggle with, and time constraints are why I suspect there are some aspects of this very course which do not meet UDL principles. Offering multiple means of representation, engagement, and expression require additional time from teaching staff which is not always available. I wonder how institutions with large numbers of students such as universities could feasibly approach more universal design in their own offerings – as with most things, I suspect it would require a significant investment in resources, training, and staff to make it happen.

  13. This has been a really interesting course for me, as it’s something I have been thinking about and wanting to learn more about for a long time. I think I will have to do a few more iterations of teaching before I really understand how I can incorporate these ideas into my own teaching practice. I am very lucky in that the courses I tutor for, I have been given a lot of freedom to make changes and present materials as works well for me, but I need more experience to be able to do this well. This course has given me some confidence to try though. (Although I do note that all the activities involve posting responses to questions, even though this last one had an additional component to it).

  14. Thank you for this module! The learning materials helped me greatly in getting my head around a difficult assignment specification. I think as an outcome, I now have more confidence in me and less fears about how my students are going to cope with this assignment. I was quite concerned about the likely performance anxiety related to working in a group and presenting orally. In particular, the comprehensive catalog of a. https://youtu.be/s-EsS6Cbkj4 was one of my favourites.

  15. This course really opened my eyes and made me more aware of the variety of ways that students can struggle, while simultaneously arming myself with a new range of methods that I can use to connect with my students and develop methods to clear or circumvent any barriers they may have. I’ve collated all the checklists into a document for myself and in the future will endeavor to follow them. This is my 10th coffee course and I still absolutely love the format! Thank you all for the hard work you put into making this accessible to us time-poor academics!

  16. I thought p[people who had followed this Coffee Course on UDL might be interested in this webinar on Friday 24 January 2020 12:00pm (AEDT time)
    Navigating UDL Implementation in Higher Education
    You don’t want to miss this webinar on UDL in Higher Education! Join panelists Eric Moore, Danny Smith, Joanna Hodge, Denia Guadalupe Bradshaw, and Darla Benton Kearney for an evening of discussion surrounding best practices in the higher education setting.
    Jan 24, 2020 12:00 PM in Canberra, Melbourne, Sydney
    Free registration here:

  17. I thoroughly enjoyed this course—it gave me a lot of food for thought about how I can make my courses more accessible. I realised that previous courses I have taught did not provide sufficient alternatives for auditory information. While I use PPT and multimedia in my lectures, I usually explain concepts in much greater detail in my spoken comments than is included on the accompanying slides. One simple thing that I am planning on implementing to help rectify this is to provide an option to view the lecture transcript. As we have been presenting many lectures online during COVID-19 as pre-recorded video lectures, to cater for students in differing timezones, I am also interested in exploring what options there are for providing closed captioning.

    I also found the discussion on Day 3 regarding ways to provide options for executive functions particularly interesting. A lack of effective time management and planning seem to be common issues for many students, both in relation to major assessments and weekly tasks. The suggestion to include checklists for course activities seems promising as a very simple way that could help students with organisation, especially when there are multiple tasks that need to be per week (e.g. lectures, readings and quizzes) as well as major assignments. An individualised checklist of weekly tasks on Wattle that allowed students to mark off their progress as they go might be one good option to help students stay on track.

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