Program 1: Introduction


When we started the Universal Access Project, where we were looking at implementing Universal Design for Learning Principles at a post-secondary level, we quickly realized that not many instructors know what Universal Design for Learning is, or how easy it is to implement in a classroom setting.

So to see Universal Design in action, we created a series of short videos that's going to follow an instructor looking to implement Universal Design for Learning in his class for the first time.

I'm Jim Stachowiak, the coordinator of ICATER and I'll be your guide through this inside look at implementing Universal Design for Learning. Along the way we're also going to hear from a professor and from students as to their thoughts and feelings about how Universal Design for Learning has impacted the classroom.

This is Dr. Noel Estrada-Hernandez, assistant professor in Rehabilitation Counseling, and he has allowed us unprecedented access to follow his entire preparation and implementation of Universal Design for Learning in his class.

Noel, can you explain the class that we are going to be looking at?

Sure. The class that we are going to be working with is Theories of Counseling and Human Development, and this is a master's level course with 14 students. And the purpose of this course is to introduce rehabilitation counseling students to the theories, foundations and technique of the counseling process.

Now, you're not an expert per se in Universal Design for Learning. Why did you decide to implement that in this class?

Well Jim, I realized that there are students that have different learning styles. And I wanted to eliminate as many barriers to learning that I could. Also I wanted to shift the classroom environment from a teacher centered to a student centered. And I think this will actually benefit my students.

Could you expand for us a little bit what we mean when we say Universal Design for Learning?

Sure. First the concept of Universal Design originated in architecture. The idea behind it is that in the development of environments, barriers are eliminated in a way that everybody can participate in those environments.

Take for example curb cuts, where an individual using a wheelchair will be able to cross the street from one side to another fairly easy. Same way will be by an individual who is riding a bike or pushing a stroller. That same concept can be applied to a classroom, where an instructor will design and implement different classroom environment techniques or instructional strategies and tools that can be used by all students.

Do you have an example of a Universally Designed tool that you're going to be using in this class?

Sure. In this class what we're going to do is, I'm going to have class notes and readings available in a digital accessible format. What that means is that my students will be able to download those materials and manipulate them in a way that will match their learning style.

For example, if a student has a visual disability, they will be able to enlarge the font size for those readings. Or if it is an auditory learning they will be able to have their computer read out loud to them as many times as they need the document so they can study.

So you say that Universal Design for Learning reduces barriers. Does that mean you're not going to have to provide accommodations anymore?

No, not at all. If a student needs an academic accommodation, they should ask for them and there are processes for it. What it means is that Universal Design for Learning will make easier for those accommodations and the student to navigate the classroom environment and activities in a more inclusive way. Also it will create a more student centered and friendly environment for those students who have special needs.

Have you implemented these ideas in a class before?

Not specifically as Universal Design for Learning, but I know there are many professors who are doing these things already. Like having their course materials available online, or using different media to meet the different student needs. I'm actually looking forward to see how the process of UDI applies to my classroom.

Well, we're really looking forward to following you and thank you for giving this access. I think this is going to be a very educational experience.

Thank you

Implementing UDL