Educators strive to balance individual learning differences against institutional curriculum objectives. Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a set of guidelines that help designers create learning experiences that give all students opportunities to learn. Curricula based on this framework are focused more on the learning results and less on the methods used to reach them (CAST, 2020).
When building learning materials or experiences, I need to prioritize making them engage to a variety of learners. I believe engagement can be developed by giving learners opportunities to customize their environments. Something as simple as allowing students to select an avatar or work on modules in a different order can be helpful.
Making a video course with handouts seems like a standard way of designing a course. Doing this excludes a significant number of students from accessing the material. A student who is blind will miss nonverbal portions of the video and be unable to read the handout. A deaf student will not benefit from the audio. A student with attention issues may not be able to focus on a lengthy video.
An example of this is a “standard” vocabulary quiz. The definitions are written on a handout and students fill in the correct word in the target language. The goal is to demonstrate that the students know the definitions of the words. This provides only one path to demonstrate learning and excludes many students.
To make the test more inclusive, visually impaired students can have the definitions read to them and respond orally or with a keyboard. A deaf student can sign their responses. Non-English-speaking students can have an interpreter read the definition in their native language and provide answers in the target language.
CAST. (2020). The UDL Guidelines. Retrieved from http://udlguidelines.cast.org/?utm_medium=web&utm_campaign=none&utm_source=cast-about-udl