IT Teaching Resources

Nicole Ofiesh and Kathryn Payne

Lunch-n-Learn: Universal Design for Learning

A Lunch-n-Learn panel presented by Nicole Ofiesh and Kathryn Gray on how Universal Design for Learning (UDL) fosters better learning outcomes

Promoting student engagement

Presentation: Universal Design for Learning
Panelists: Nicole Ofiesh and Kathryn Payne-Gray
Moderator: Karin Forssell, Director of Learning, Design, and Technology program at GSE
Recordings of the session:

Central questions: 

  • What is Universal Design for Learning (UDL)?
  • How does UDL address many variations in learning and foster better outcomes?

What is Universal Design for Learning?

  1. Historical background
    • Architecture and accessibility
    • Promote the design of products and environments to appeal to people
      • Provides access for individuals with disabilities through Design Thinking
      • All learners can benefit
  2. UDL supports variability
    • Need for some types of legally mandated test accommodations can be minimized 
      • Instructional design and assessment is well thought out in the beginning
      • A way to access and reach the widest range of learners
    • Early thinking for content design
      • Moves the current learning environment to a UDL environment
      • Will never totally eliminate the need for accommodation
      • Broaden access to foster students who are expert learners

Key elements: UDL Transforms Learning and Teaching for All

  1. Allows for flexibility in use across the domains
    • Based on the latest research on how people learn
    • Start with learning goals, outcomes, and objectives
      • All instruction and assessment is designed from this basis
      • Allows for different choices and paths
      • Different ways to reach goals
  2. Importance of formative assessments
    • Where students are in their learning, growing, and development
      • Non-threatening way to assess students
    • Engagement, representation, action, and expression
      • Providing opportunities of reflection to deepen understanding
        • Provide chat rooms 
        • Share information
        • Feedback rubrics and Check-ins 
  3. Importance of rubrics
    • Allows faculty to be objective about expectations
    • Allows one assessment rubric to be used across multiple kinds of projects
      • Essential components
      • Learning components displayed
    • Rubric provided early in the assignment 
      • Provides clarity on goals and objectives
        • Goals drive the nervous system
        • Supports how a student can meet them
        • Peer mentors to evaluate methods
        • Allows for self-assessment

Things to consider when planning lessons

  1. Flexible presentation of course content
    • Assigned readings, videos, audio, 
    • Flexible presentations and activities
    • Understand the symbols and expression
      • Perceive what needs to be learned
      • Provide a screen reading
      • The background for vision purposes 
    • Choice and limits in classroom environments
      • Wide-range of choices in reason
  2. Negatives of UDL
    • UDL Guidelines can appear to be overwhelming to faculty
    • Some faculty misunderstand UDL to be a “disability” framework
      • It is about instructional clarity and ability to meet course goals and foster expertise
      • It is based on neuroscience and includes research on stereotype threat, academic capital, self-efficacy, and emotional learning.
      • Only learning framework that employs brain science, design thinking, universal inclusivity and technology
    • Some faculty misunderstand UDL to be a K-12-only framework
      • Examples of UDL in higher ed across the world can be found here.
  3. UDL always leads to new developments
    • Speech to text and text to speech
    • Help to struggle with online lectures
      • App called “”
        • To have voice recordings into text
        • Helps students with focusing