UNIVERSAL DESIGN FOR LEARNING (UDL) SUGGESTIONS

Sherrie Borowsky, Director of Haverford’s Access and Disability Services shared the following tips for incorporating UDL in your courses.

Lecture/Discussion

  • At the beginning of the term, encourage students to tell you about any accessibility concerns. Include an accessibility statement on your syllabus and announce this during class early in the semester. Remind students that such conversations are confidential and are strictly for the purpose of facilitating any learning needs or accommodations that may be in place.
  • Make your lecture notes, slides, or other handouts accessible and available electronically to students before class. If you can’t post the notes before class, post them after class.
  • Have students take turns posting their class notes to a Moodle discussion forum or on your course website.
  • Think about the content of course readings, videos, and images and provide a warning to students if any of the content could be upsetting, traumatic, or triggering.
  • Make audio or video of your lectures available when possible. IITS provides several tools, including Panopto, to facilitate this.
  • Use different instructional methods to meet the needs of the greatest number of learners. 
  • If you make an important verbal announcement in class, such as a change in venue or time, send it via e-mail or post it on the course website as well. The Moodle Announcement is a great tool for this.
  • Allow breaks during class – for students to move around, talk with one another, or just to relax quietly. Creating breaks also allows students to catch up on and digest what has been discussed.
  • Circulate note cards for students to write questions or comments, or to answer your questions, perhaps anonymously, and collect and address them.
  • Give students chances to comment on the lecture or presentation and thus to help revise it for next time—ask students how the class might accommodate them, but also create venues for all students to negotiate for change. One option is to set up an anonymous Google Form where students can submit comments or suggestions.

Evaluation/Assignments

  • Allow self-paced assignments and assessments, whenever possible. Students learn at different speeds. If taking an in-class assignment home and completing it more slowly might increase student learning and performance, then offer this option to students. 
  • Allow students to express understanding of essential course content in multiple ways. Diversify assignments or offer students performative options; Could an essay turn into a podcast?  Allow students to demonstrate their specific talents (e.g. oral presentations, poster presentations, written assignments).
  • Consider flexible deadlines and scaffold large assignments into smaller tasks, with flexible intermediate deadlines. Provide guidelines for when particular stages or parts of the assignment should be completed, so that students can see what the different steps in a process might be.
  • Allow students to share draft work with you and with their peers, and then to revise.
  • Provide enough time between assignments for students to receive and implement feedback. Think about how much time your students need to complete assignments, and how much time you and your teaching assistants need to mark and return them. The most accessible and useful feedback is frequent, timely, and specific.
  • Help students form study groups or set up an accessible online forum where students can collaborate, share and evaluate each other’s work, either formally or informally.
  • Communicate about assignments as early as possible in a semester, and help students schedule and plan for them.
  • Clearly communicate your goals for each assignment to students. It helps students when they have the specific pedagogical purpose of the assignment so they can appreciate the reason you have given them that work. Have a discussion about your goals and desired outcomes, and help students understand how specific aspects of the assignment fit these goals.

Course Materials

  • Provide an organized, well-written and complete syllabus including required readings, assignments, due dates and defined expectations. Access and Disability Services has a  suggested syllabus statement on its faculty resource page.
  • If possible, choose accessible electronic versions of course readings. This will allow students the ability to convert the reading into the format required, whether they use a screen reader, an enlarger or other technology. The Libraries can help you find electronic versions of the materials you need.  Please submit your request to the course reserves form.” If you need to scan a document, use the department’s current MFPs, which should be set up to automatically OCR documents. 
  • When digital formats are not available, provide print material sufficiently far in advance to ensure that transcription requirements (for example, into audio-digital or other e-format, enlarged format or Braille) can be met in time. Be as precise as you can with regards to the texts and pages that will be used.
  • Make sure field trips and transportation are accessible to students in your course. Contact ADS to discuss any potential considerations and to seek advice on changes you may need to make; plan activities at accessible locations so that all students can participate, or, as a last resort, substitute an alternative activity with the same learning outcomes; Provide additional time for the activity and for transportation

Learn more

This post was adapted from an article by Jay Dolmage, “Universal Design: Places to Start,” Disability Studies Quarterly, 35 (2), 2015 (Appendix: PDF listing specific ideas).

For more information see the above article, as well these resources: