Friday, April 17, 2015

Universal Design for Learning

Universal Design for Learning is a framework for the design of materials and instructional methods that are us- able by a wide range of students. The term was adapted from the concept of universal design in architecture, where considerations of physical access for individuals with dis- abilities are incorporated into the original design rather than added later. Based on research in neuroscience and other disciplines, UDL recognizes that individual learning patterns differ and that learning systems should accommo- date variability among learners from the outset. The ap- proach encourages flexible conditions that ensure access and participation by all students, without lowering expecta- tions or standards. One aim of this approach is to provide full access to students with special needs, particularly through the provision of supportive technologies such as captioned video or text-to-speech options. But UDL offers significant affordances for all students, allowing them to benefit from learning presented through multiple sensory avenues and a variety of conceptual frameworks . . .

Adoption of UDL can help an institution commit to a broader range of students, cultures, abilities, and backgrounds. For faculty, the prospect of teaching effectively to all learners is rewarding, particularly when it is visibly demonstrated that more students are able to succeed. Although the principles of UDL apply to all learning environments, blended and on- line contexts might especially benefit from UDL because of the range of options available in technology-enhanced edu- cation. Unlike programs that target specific disabilities or learning needs, which tend to separate such students from the rest of the class, UDL provides an approach with many paths to learning that benefits all students without forcing them to self-identify as needing unique support. While the approach can involve some rethinking and investment, it has been effective in addressing such troubling issues such as stu- dent apathy, sinking enrollment, and rising dropout rates. It does this by ensuring that students across the campus have equal access to learning and equal opportunity to participate in their own education.

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