How UDL will improve your courses

There are very good reasons why UDL will improve your course. Going through the process can be an enlightening experience in which you evaluate present methods against goals set viewing your course, students and field through the lens of UDL.

  • A universally designed course will increase the rates at which students will successfully complete the course
  • A universally designed course will limit the number of formal accommodations that are necessary
  • Increase satisfaction with the course
  • Increase commitment to the community of practice represented by the course content
  • Hold greater appeal to students of all types
  • Contribute to your growth as a teacher

You are probably asking yourself, Okay, so where do I begin? The first step seems obvious, but, that’s the right place to start.

Implementing UDL

  • Step 1: Identify the course

    • Describe the essential goals, objectives, and content 
    • Align the content to the field, its larger objectives, methods, and practices. Further, it is important at the university level to establish the course within a community of practice defined by the field. This is needed so that students understand how taking this course brings them from the periphery closer to the center of that area of study.
  • Step 2: Define the universe

    • Describe who will potentially take the course, their demographics, educational plans, and instructional needs. Remember to keep all potential students in mind.
    • Take into account that potential students may be part of previously underrepresented populations in the class, have characteristics different from traditional undergraduates, or have different abilities.
  • Step 3: Involve students

    • Find ways to involve students in the course development
    • Test detailed descriptions of student interests and characteristics affecting the course content, environment, presentation and products by asking a group of students who have taken the course to critique these three areas.
    • Student evaluation is vital to credibility and is more useful if it is formative or measured at several points, not only with the standard university evaluation survey at the end of the course.
  • Step 4: Adopt instructional strategies

    • Identify particular pedagogical methods appropriate to subject and conventions of the field.
    • Be sensitive to student needs and find creative ways to satisfy the requirements of the field by offering a rich array of potential means of engaging students, including varying presentation methods, refining one’s delivery and classroom/lab presence, and potentially adjusting assessment style.
  • Step 5: Apply instructional strategies

    • Try implementing the selected strategies.
    • The application of any method requires the understanding it is provisional in light of gathering evidence of its effectiveness. A match between the characteristics of the target audience from step 2 is vital to integrating the methods identified in step 4. The test of the efficacy of the course will be in this interaction. How will the strategies be evaluated?
  • Step 6: Build in accommodations

    • Assume the need for evaluating usability and plan accordingly.
    • Plan scaffolds for accessible physical spaces, access, time, durations, and methods of instruction in order to meet the course objectives vis-à-vis every student’s needs and characteristics.
  • Step 7: Evaluate

    • Build evaluation of the course environment, presentation and products at all levels and points.
    • Assume the need to ask and also assume that the quality of the feedback is directly related to how you appear to your students. The standard university end-of-course evaluation is delayed, often lacking relevance or is too generic, and is insufficient for feedback to improve your performance as an instructor.
    • Ask students to describe what they learned, whether the ways in which it was learned was useful and meaningful (relevant), and what work they had to do to move closer to the center of the field’s community of practice. This can be written by hand or keyboarded, printed and submitted through internal mail so as to preserve anonymity. The second part is asking students to evaluate the instructor. This may be discomfiting to an instructor but cannot be ignored. The instructor is well served by preparing students for this at the beginning of the course. The responses are anonymous and sent to an independent third party. These evaluations are NOT read until after grades are posted.
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