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Thursday, December 07, 2017

Reaching All Learners by Leveraging Universal Design for Learning in Online Courses | EDUCAUSE Review

Key Takeaways
  • An instructional design team at the University of Memphis focused on helping faculty create inclusive online classrooms, become aware of the diversity of their students' learning needs, and adapt their instruction to reach all learners.
  • They did this by helping faculty employ the principles and guidelines of the Universal Design for Learning framework, which consists of three principles: Multiple Means of Engagement, Multiple Means of Representation, and Multiple Means of Action and Expression.
  • After two years, the UDL Implementation Plan, with its emphasis on experimentation, exploration, and inclusive instruction, yielded significant benefits for instructional effectiveness at the University of Memphis.

Check out this interesting article from EDUCAUSE Review, published by Roy Bowery and Leonia Houston below. 

Photo: The Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning
"The Universal Design for Learning Implementation Plan, with its emphasis on experimentation, exploration, and inclusive instruction, yielded significant benefits for instructional effectiveness at the University of Memphis. Learn how they did it."   

An asynchronous online learning environment invariably includes learners who simply do not connect with the instruction. This method of learning can seem confusing and often isolating for those electing to obtain their degrees completely online. In the past five years, such learners at the University of Memphis have typically been adult students between the ages of 25 and 65 (post-traditional students), working full-time and returning to school to complete their first or second degree. Our institution's success rates for fully online program courses have historically been 8–10 percent lower than face-to-face, traditional format courses. Here we define "success" as the course final grade average exceeding 70 percent. When reviewing the factors affecting learners in this category, we perceived that some challenged learners who experienced difficulty in their online courses were more likely to fall behind without requesting support, while other learners found ways to excel in the same environment. To address the needs of students in the challenged demographic, our unit — the UM3D Instructional Impact team — focused on helping faculty create inclusive online classrooms, become aware of the diversity of their students' learning needs, and adapt their instruction to reach all learners.

In an effort to bridge the success gap, our team focused on helping faculty employ the principles and guidelines of the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework. According to the National Center on Universal Design for Learning, the UDL framework consists of three principles: Multiple Means of Engagement, Multiple Means of Representation, and Multiple Means of Action and Expression.1 The principles within the framework focus on the what, how, and why of learning. Each of these key principles helped our faculty address learner variability and include guidelines for encouraging their learners to become more motivated, resourceful, and goal-directed. By incorporating the UDL principles and guidelines into their online program courses, faculty created inclusive learning environments and addressed learner variability. With their newfound skills, most could use the strategies within the framework to design and develop online courses with flexible goals, instructional methods, materials, and assessments.

To assist faculty, we created a UDL Implementation Plan designed to teach them how to gradually incorporate UDL principles into their online classrooms, address learner variability, and create inclusive online instruction. We could customize the framework to meet every course, faculty, or instructional need, and they did not have to follow the principles and guidelines within the framework in a specific order. Instead, faculty could identify instructional methods or assignments affecting success in their course(s) and use specific UDL principles or guidelines to solve their pedagogical issues.
 

UDL Implementation Plan
In the fall semester of 2015, our unit set out to complete a campus-wide implementation of the UDL framework for all online courses and programs. Our institution has approximately 65 fully online programs that include more than 600 fully online asynchronous offerings. To serve the faculty responsible for designing, developing, and delivering our online programs and courses, we focused on determining paths and plans for support that meet instructional needs and move us toward scaling and optimizing a full UDL implementation...


Roy Bowery and Leonia Houston writes in the conclusion, "The UDL Implementation Plan process, with its emphasis on experimentation, exploration, and inclusive instruction, yielded significant benefits for instructional effectiveness at the University of Memphis. After two years, we can encourage faculty to resist formulaic instruction and move to make learning accessible to all. Because of this, the university administration has encouraged our team to pursue the integration process with the remainder of our online programs and courses. As we continue the integration of UDL, we will work on the next phase of the process and determine how to scale this implementation to other methods of course delivery."
Read more...  

Source: EDUCAUSE Review


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