Even though we use regular, planned ways to train, each learner perceives the information differently. We can plan and design numerous pathways for involvement, representation, and expression when we accept the diversity of experience among our learners and acknowledge that what works for some may not work for others. This allows more learners to succeed.
Universal design for learning is a learning paradigm that assists instructors in supporting their learners throughout the learning experience. It is all-encompassing in that it can be used by any learner or learning strategy, including research-based learning methodologies, hands-on participation, and assessments.
Applying basic concepts of universal design for learning (UDL) can be especially beneficial for instructors who switch between in-person, remote, and hybrid settings. In this article, we will discuss the concept of universal design for learning, its key principles, advantages, and how it is relevant to blended learning.
What Is Universal Design For Learning?
The Universal Design for Learning (UDL) approach to learning and instruction ensures that all learners have an equal chance of succeeding. To understand what UDL is, it is necessary to first understand what it is not. The term “universal” may confuse you. UDL seems to be all about developing a single method of instruction for all learners. But UDL adopts the opposite strategy. By utilizing a wide range of instructional strategies, UDL aims to remove any barriers to learning. It’s about incorporating adaptability that may be tailored to each individual’s skills and needs. That is how UDL helps all learners.
This method of instruction and workplace training does not specifically target individuals with diverse learning styles and modes of thought. It can be quite beneficial for English-language learners. It enables instructors to plan multiple flexible strategies for engaging learners in learning; material representation; and possibilities for action and expression of what learners have learned.
Three Key Principles Of UDL
UDL is a framework for creating course plans and assessments based on three key principles:
UDL advises providing information in several formats. For example, course manuals are primarily visual. However, integrating text, audio, video, and hands-on learning allows all learners to access the content in the method that best suits their learning abilities.
2. Expression and action:
UDL supports providing learners with multiple opportunities to interact with the material and demonstrate what they’ve learned. For instance, learners may be given the option of taking an assessment test, giving an oral presentation, or working on a group project.
UDL enables instructors to think about several methods of engaging learners. Allowing learners to make choices and providing them with activities that are relevant to their work and life are examples of how instructors can keep their learners engaged. Other frequent methods include making skill development seem like an activity, including gamification, and allowing all learners to take part.
Advantages Of UDL
UDL has advantages for both learners and instructors. UDL has the potential to make learning and training more inclusive and accessible to all learners. Instructors who use UDL frequently report a reduction in the requirement for, and time spent on, individual learning and assessment modifications.
Here are a few methods for providing equal learning opportunities to all learners:
Maintains high standards while expanding how goals can be achieved, for example – using different techniques, different media, and different methods. Providing many ways for learners to achieve high standards, rather than decreasing them, is aligned with both standards-based transformation and UDL.
Information is offered in a variety of formats, and all learners learn the most effectively. When concepts are conveyed visually as well as orally and are linked to existing information, the learning process will be more effective than if only one of these methods is used.
Supports the implementation of more evidence-based approaches by guiding the development of high-quality courses that contain research-based techniques for all learners, including those with disabilities.
Provides learners the option of taking an exam or presenting an oral presentation. Providing ongoing evaluation that is essential in any course, and giving learners options for how they will be graded can allow learners to feel successful, decrease barriers, and minimize anxiety.
Provides a wide range of modifications and adaptations. Instructors can more effectively assess both learner performance and the processes that support that achievement when evaluations include a full range of modifications and adaptations for learners.
Enhances accountability by leading the development of assessments that provide accurate, timely, and regular means of measuring progress and improving instruction for all learners.
Provides learners with a variety of methods to interact with the course information. Allowing learners to actively participate, analyze, and reflect on their learning experience individually or in groups is one way to accomplish this. Setting personal learning objectives for learners and allowing them to reflect on their achievements is one method to set high standards while also assisting learners in developing their talents in the course. Giving learners numerous modes of engagement and encouraging them to develop learning goals might boost their motivation.
Why Is UDL Relevant to Blended Learning?
Through design considerations, UDL and blended learning seek to maximize training and learning. The flexibility and variety at the core of UDL play extremely well into the requirement for blended learning techniques to accommodate differences in access to devices and connectivity that various learners have. As a result, UDL would emphasize the need for asynchronous learning because some learners may be unable to watch a livestream due to timing, internet availability, and the capacity to focus on a lecture via a video conference. Furthermore, some learners have difficulty absorbing information when it is only provided verbally.
A UDL approach is to ensure that any live video instruction is captured for learners to access and analyze later, and to support the use of software to generate a transcript from any audio. It’s critical to provide learners with a variety of alternatives, from how they interact with the material to the structure of the work they produce, and even whether cameras are turned on and off during live training. The creation of online sessions utilizing universal design for learning can be done using additional strategies and recommendations.
Any blended learning materials you generate should be accessible to everyone by default, thereby enabling the whole learning environment. This could be accomplished by creating short text captions for images and videos and avoiding the use of image-based PDFs for presentations and other digital resources. Use Word, Docs, or a different screen reader-compatible format that can recognize characters optically as an alternative.
However, remember to consider the individual and the context. Although PDFs with images are frequently unavailable in some contexts and lack many accessibility features, in others, particularly when using mobile technology, these may end up being much more accessible in terms of basic delivery than, say, a Word document, which may necessitate the installation of an application to view on a phone. Of course, these are all important strategies for both remote and in-person learning.
UDL offers a strong platform for course development and delivery that has digitalization at its core. Blended learning offers a route for instructors who want to create and implement learning activities that adhere to UDL principles. Instructors can use the time, space, and flexibility provided by blended learning to boost learner engagement by providing self-regulation skills, encouraging communication and cooperation within a community of learners, and emphasizing learner autonomy.