We asked our faculty and staff at the University of Limerick to give us examples of how they have implemented Universal Design for Learning (UDL). In this example, Dr Pauline Boland, School of Allied Health, discusses how she incorporated a flipped classroom model and different activities to help her students understand theories they had previously struggled to engage with.


I redesigned a three-hour online lecture about theories of ageing in relation to occupational therapy for students in their first semester of a post graduate professional qualification in occupational therapy.  


Author: Dr Pauline Boland
Department: School of Allied Health
Faculty: Education and Health Sciences
Discipline: Occupational Therapy
Class size: 30 
Cohort: Students in MSc OT Professional Programme
Tools used: Online break out rooms in BBB, Padlet (for pre-lecture activity)   
Tags: #UDL #FlippedClassroom

UDL principles used

✓ Multiple means of engagement
✓ Multiple means of representation

What motivated the change?

I had delivered this lecture a number of times but always felt it was heavy on theory and that students seemed more exhausted than enthused about the area of working with older adults. I felt there was more that could be done to engage students and inspire interest in this area of working in clinical practice.  

Which UDL principles I met

Multiple means of engagement

  • By providing options for comprehension: As theory is difficult for students based on their feedback from other years, I pulled out the most relevant, theory-heavy, information and provided that 5 days in advance, recommending that they read this and come with questions ready so the time online could be prioritised for addressing queries and applying the theory. 

Multiple means of representation

  • Use multiple tools for communication: Given students had mentioned that they wanted more interaction with each other during online learning, and to engage them in what they already know/are exposed to when it comes to the role of older people in society, I asked them to find images/webpages/video clips about how older people are portrayed and to post these to an online board which was reviewed during the class. This activity also primed them and engaged their interest in societal views of older people. 
  • Optimise relevance, value and authenticity of the learning experience: this was enhanced by including a quiz about what age students in the room are likely to live to and asking them to consider what they would like their life to look like – this activity was designed to encourage empathy with the lived experience of older people, a challenge for those many decades from that stage of life. 
  • Provide options for sustaining effort and persistence by encouraging collaboration and group-work: For the final part of the lecture students were allocated to break-out rooms to design an occupational therapy intervention using one of the theories relevant for this module, and then give each other feedback on the idea. This activity helped them to identify with the theories in relation to the particular professional role they are all hoping to achieve at the completion of this course while taking learning to a deeper level regarding the theories, through application. 

What was the result?

Students gave feedback at the end of the module that they appreciated the activities where they could interact with each other and particularly having theory information (for reading) provided in advance so that their time together was more focused on engaging with the concepts through discussion and in-class activities.