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  • Writer's pictureSusan Spencer

What I've Learned About Universal Design

Updated: Sep 29, 2020

Prior to this term, the phrase Universal Design for Learning, or UDL, was a bit of a black

box for me. I understood that the general meaning of the term referred to learning content that can be accessed by all, but did not understand that UDL not only applies to those with defined disabilities, but to the general learner population as well. The CAST reading material from last week’s module was very interesting to me; it allowed me to realize that UDL can apply to many contexts in learning. Moreover, I am now choosing to focus on UDL for my Master's project, as I believe it is an extraordinarily important concept for today’s online learner and instructional designer alike.

The organization CAST developed the concept of Universal Design for Learning with the

intention of providing “A framework that recognizes learner variability and is a blueprint for

creating instructional goals, methods, materials, and assessments that work for everyone–not a single, one-size-fits-all solution but rather flexible approaches to teaching and learning” (CAST, 2020). Nowhere is this more important than in my current position as an instructor at a

design-oriented college teaching mostly online courses. The challenges I face on a daily basis with teaching creative concepts in an asynchronous, online course environment are vast. Some of these challenges include: low student engagement and motivation, difficulty in following written instructions, technology challenges, lack of experience with online instruction, and cognitive and emotional learning disabilities. That said, reading about UDL gave me great hope surrounding how I can change my own instructional design practices using UDL principles. As my institution does not currently fully implement and/or fully understand the importance of integrating UDL into online instruction, it seems to me that this is the perfect opportunity and time to implement the three major UDL principles - 1) Providing Multiple Means of Representation, 2) Providing Multiple Means of Action and Expression, and 3) Providing Multiple Means of Engagement into my online courses.

As online student motivation and engagement is a primary area of concern for my

students, I’ve chosen this area as a secondary topic to explore for my project with the hope that after the implementation of UDL principles into online course modules, my students will be more engaged and intrinsically motivated to both participate and enjoy their learning.

I am excited to learn more about UDL, its principles, and the different online tools that

allow instructional designers to successfully implement its principles. Moreover, I am

considering myself extraordinarily lucky that during this time I am enrolled in the MSIDT

program, and more specifically, in this course that focuses in-part on UDL. I am excited to

research, implement, and share UDL as my capstone project and with my institution. After all,

who wouldn’t want to be part of an instructional design process that promises to yield

resourceful, strategic, and purposeful learners?

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