Week 7 focused on the UDL framework and steps for making learning accessible for a diverse population of learners. As someone who has been designing learning materials for a long time, I thought I had a good understanding of UDL principles and try to apply them when creating multimedia learning tools. This includes the basics such as using captions when audio is present, making considered design choices with regards to colour, font, layout of materials, providing alt text for images etc.
This week’s discussion, however, made me realize that these steps, although important, are just the first step towards making learning experiences accessible for students. Accessibility needs to be inherent in not just the physical design choices of course materials, but the design of the learning experience, assessments tools, and of the entire curriculum should take into consideration the diversity of learners.
Providing multiple means of engagement and instruction is one of the key principles of UDL (Meyer et. al., 2014, p. 7). In this week’s discussion, we discussed a systematic approach to releasing different materials to students based on certain logic or criteria. I suggested that this differentiation be student driven rather than determined by the instructor, but that the instructor’s role would be to provide guidance on which materials could best support learning for each individual.
Multiple ways of assessment was another interesting topic in the discussion this week. This is something I’m not sure I have a satisfactory grasp of how to balance equity and integrity in assessment design, but Poore-Pariseau provides an interesting model for UDL in assessment where she allows students to choose the format of their assessment as long as they demonstrate three significant pieces of learning (2013). As ever, I am torn as to whether this fluidity of assessment could be applied in all disciplines. For example, in Medical Education, could foundational knowledge be successfully demonstrated through a video recording or a phone call? And would these assessments models stand up under the scrutiny of an accrediting body?
One major implication that Universal Design principles should have on my own design practices is the tools I use for learning design. For example, I adopted the use of a Learner Persona as a way of understanding and making generalizations about a learner population (click for more information). This is a common tool in corporate instructional design, but I haven’t seen it being used in Higher Education. My hope is to create a set of Learner Personas at the institutional level as a curriculum and instructional design tool. I don’t think that this design tool is necessarily contrary to UDL, but I think that to make it a powerful tool for UDL, a lot more empathy work needs to be done to consider multiple perspectives and make sure that the learner personas are comprehensive and truly universal.
- Burgstahler, S. E. (2015). Universal design in higher education from principles to practice. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.
- Meyer, A., Rose, D. H., & Gordon, D. T. (2014). Universal design for learning: theory and practice. Wakefield, MA: CAST Professional Publishing.
- Poore-Pariseau, Cindy. (2013). Universal design in assessments. In S. Burgstahler (Ed.), Universal design in higher education: Promising practices. Seattle: DO-IT, University of Washington. Retrieved from www.uw.edu/doit/ UDHE-promising-practices/ud_assessments.html.