Getting started with Universal Design for Learning

How can you get started using UDL? You might be tempted to start completely redesigning your courses to incorporate UDL but the easiest way is by starting small, using the Plus One Approach. UDL is an evolving and iterative process so by making small incremental changes you can increase the inclusiveness of your course. A list of a few UDL strategies to start with is also available.

Watch this video by UDL on Campus “Getting Started” (1:44) for some tips on beginning to use UDL: 

The Plus One Approach

The UDL "Plus One” approach (Behling and Tobin, 2018) is a way to think of how you are teaching, the materials you supply your students, the ways students can interact with you and each other, and the assignments you ask them to do, and to add one more option.

1. Identify a “pinch point” in your teaching (read some examples)

  • Where do my students always have questions?   
  • Where do they always get things wrong on tests or assignments?   
  • Where do they always ask for explanations in a different way than you provide?   

2. Brainstorm just “one more thing” you could add to assist students in their learning  

  • Provide one more way students can access or view materials.   
  • Devise one more way you can engage them in the learning.   
  • Give them one more option to demonstrate what they have learned  
  • Provide one more way students can communicate with you and each other. 

By gradually adding in ‘Plus Ones’ in UDL you can see what works for you and your students and build up more inclusive practices as you go.  

Plus One examples: 

  • If your students often have difficulties with a particular process or skill, create or post a video or screencast of the process so they can review it themselves. 
  • If you set an assignment which asks only for a written response, consider offering more options for students to submit their response, such as through video, audio, or annotated PowerPoints. 
  • If your office hours are on campus only, provide an online option so that students who cannot make it to campus can reach you. 
  • Read more Plus One examples in our UDL strategies
  • Read case studies of how UL staff incorporated UDL

Once you have tried and tested your Plus One change, you might consider using The UDL Reporting Criteria (Rao et al, 2018) to record your findings. 

Key questions to ask:

  • What flexible ways have I used to engage my learners?
  • What flexible ways have I used to present the learning content?
  • What flexible ways have I provided for learners to demonstrate their knowledge?
  • How much have I involved the learners in the process of teaching and learning?
  • What barriers exist in my course (either through my observation or learners’ requests to be accommodated)?

References  

Behling, K.T. and Tobin, T.J., (2018). Reach Everyone, Teach Everyone: Universal Design for Learning in Higher Education. West Virginia University Press.  

Rao, K., Smith, S.J., Edyburn, D., Grima-Farrell, C., Van Horn, G., Yalom-Chamowitz, S. (2018). UDL Reporting Criteria. Developed by a working group of the Universal Design for Learning Implementation and Research (UDL-IRN) Research Committee. Retrieved from https://udl-irn.org/udl-reporting-criteria/  

UDL on Campus. (2015, Oct 8). Getting Started [Video]. YouTube. https://youtu.be/_HHvRzemuHA