Universal Design in Tertiary Education

Universal Design for Learning in Tertiary Education

Dr Erin Leif

How I Use the Principles of UDL in Online Tertiary Education

By Dr Erin Leif, Senior Lecturer at Monash University

My teaching is underpinned by the notion that optimal learning outcomes can be achieved when students are:

  • (a) provided with a clear unit structure and learning objectives,
  • (b) given frequent opportunities to actively respond,
  • (c) provided with frequent feedback, and
  • (d) assessed on practical skills that mimic the activities commonly performed by professionals working in the field.

To achieve this, I have adopted the Universal Design for Learning Framework (UDL) to guide the design and delivery of my online units.

The graphic below illustrates my iterative process of unit design and delivery:

iterative process of unit design and delivery

Asynchronous Online Interactive Lessons

When designing online activities, I provide students with a set of asynchronous online interactive lessons that are directly aligned to the weekly learning objectives.

Lessons consist of a series of video recorded lectures interspersed with active learning activities designed to meet the learning objectives and provide multiple representations of concepts, including:

  • Text descriptions of a concept
  • Mini video lectures to supplement the readings or provide real world examples
  • Video bytes (which are typically short clips illustrating various concepts in action)
  • Links to websites, blogs, or podcasts, where students can find out more
  • Images or graphics illustrating key concepts
  • Interactive formative knowledge checks (e.g., multi-choice, true/false, matching, fill-ins, drag and drop text, etc.), which provide immediate embedded feedback for correct and incorrect responses
  • Post-class timed quizzes, designed to build fluency with basic concepts and principles
  • Moderated post-class discussion forums, which allow students to apply what they have learnt to a case scenario, ethical challenge, or professional practice question

I collect data on student engagement and evidence of learning early and often throughout the delivery of the unit (formative assessment).

This includes:

  • Weekly synchronous tutorials, in which we use polling and group discussion to provide students with the opportunity to actively respond and the teaching team with the opportunity to (a) gauge student understanding of the material and (b) present additional instruction if needed
  • Post-class discussion forums, which (a) allow the teaching team to gauge understanding in students who may not have otherwise indicated that they were confused, (b) gives students the opportunity to teach material to each other, which requires that they define, synthesise, and relate the material that is being discussed, and (c) gives students the opportunity to prepare for the assessment tasks
  • Moodle analytics and completion settings on Moodle.
  • We teach students how to use their Moodle ‘progress trackers’ to self-monitor their completion of the online learning activities on Moodle. We review the progress trackers at specific points throughout the semester, and check in on students who appear to be falling behind or who are not showing evidence of active engagement with the unit content

My approach embraces the diversity of learners by providing students with clear and measurable learning objectives, flexible methods of engagement and assessment, and accessible learning materials and technologies.

Through my use of the UDL framework, I can model a variety of inclusive, evidence-based instructional strategies to my students, which students can then replicate and adapt for use in their own professional practice.

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