An Introduction to Universal Design for Learning

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FIU Online Insider is excited to announce the upcoming development of an in-depth series dedicated to all things UDL in Online Education, but first, this article will introduce the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework.

What is the Universal Design for Learning? 

The Universal Design for Learning framework was developed in 1984. The founders, Dr. David Rose and Dr. Ann Meyer, from the Harvard School of Graduation Education, worked on developing a framework that would support the needs of all learners.   

From the UDL Framework, the UDL Guidelines were created in order to assist faculty in developing equitable courses. The Universal Design for Learning Guidelines are organized in three overarching networks within the brain: affective, recognition, and strategic network. These guidelines offer suggestions to create multiple means of engagement, representation, and action and expression:

Engagement: The Why of Learning 

The area of student engagement and motivation allows faculty to recognize different approaches for improving student interest. It demonstrates different strategies that can improve student self-regulation and persistence.  

Representation: The What of Learning 

The representation of content within the course is crucial in student learning. UDL recognizes the need to have content that is not dependent on a single sense. It also recognizes the need for clear communication, and the generation of flexible content for all students.

Action and Expression: The How of Learning  

The area of action and expression focuses on the opportunities for students to demonstrate understanding and mastery of objectives. Having multiple means of action in which students can demonstrate content comprehension gives students an opportunity to express themselves without obstacles.  

Why is Universal Design for Learning so important? 

Learners have different preferences, needs, and abilities. Naturally, this affects the student’s academic performance and overall learning experience. The UDL Framework is a powerful approach that provides support in building courses that are equitable to all learners. It allows instructors to remove barriers and provide flexibility for learning.  Online courses can be challenging to develop, but the UDL framework allows professors to create an immersive and supportive environment for students to thrive.  

The mini-series will go into more depth with instructional strategies, resources, and concrete suggestions that will assist you in developing an inclusive online course with a UDL framework in mind. 

Stay tuned! In the meantime, you can start reviewing the UDL Guidelines and check out the UDL professional development opportunities on FIU Develop.  

FIU instructors may request more information by opening case ticket through FIU Canvas Help.

Cora Fernandez is an Instructional Designer with FIU Online at Florida International University. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education in 2015, and a Master of Science in Curriculum and Instruction in 2018 from FIU. Previous to working at FIU Online, she was employed as the Undergraduate Office Specialist in the English Department and later as the Writing and Rhetoric Office Specialist. Also, she has taught First Year Experience, SLS1501. Teaching this course allowed her to gain experience as a facilitator in a hybrid setting. Currently as an Instructional Designer at FIU Online, she assists faculty in developing courses and earning Quality Matters certification.

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