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By SSA Innovations May 30, 2024

Integrating Universal Design for Learning to Online Learning

In one of our blogs, we explored the Universal Design for Learning framework, which aims to address learner variability through representation, engagement, and action & expression, ensuring that all learners, regardless of skills or limitations, have equal access and opportunities to succeed. 

If this framework can provide inclusive learning environments for all learners, can it also assist in delivering accessible education for online learning?

According to research, online learning that uses digital tools as a means for delivery and instruction presents many opportunities for incorporating UDL. The multifunctional nature of digital technologies makes it easier to incorporate various formats and flexible alternatives into the learning experience. Using these tools, instructors can also include elements that allow students to choose how they absorb knowledge and encourage them to express themselves in a variety of ways. Additionally, technology-based experiences can be engaging, allowing educators to provide real and relevant learning opportunities and possibilities for interaction and collaboration.

Therefore, in this blog, we look at how the Universal Design for Learning paradigm can be used in online learning to enable learners to engage in meaningful learning experiences. We will apply its three principles, which are then broken down into three guidelines with particular course design recommendations.

Principle 1: Representation – The “What” of Learning

Representation is the process of presenting and conveying knowledge to learners using multiple types of media, graphics, and animation in order for them to grasp and comprehend the topic. This can be accomplished in online learning through:

  1. Providing opportunities for perception

Ensure that all courses are flexible and that doesn’t depend on a single sense like sight, hearing, or touch. When using a learning management system (LMS) or any platform, make sure to include alternatives for auditory and visual information like subtitles, closed captions, text-to-speech, and alt texts.

  1. Providing opportunities for language and symbols

Online learning content must be provided in an understandable manner to a wide range of learners, including the use of simple words, the avoidance of idioms and jargons, the availability of multilingual content versions, and the use of symbols to enhance clarity.

When utilising buzzwords or symbols that cannot be avoided, make sure to clarify and explain briefly. 

  1. Providing opportunities for comprehension

Show learners how to transform information into practical skills by incorporating virtual and augmented reality into their training programmes, giving them gamified experiences without putting them at risk. At the same time, instructors must use visualisation techniques such as infographics, charts, and interactive videos to make complex topics digestible and memorable. 

Principle 2: Engagement – The “Why” of Learning

Engagement addresses the question, “Why should I learn this?” and seeks to provide learners with learning experiences that keep them engaged and sustain their interest throughout time. This can be accomplished in online learning through:

  1. Providing opportunities for sustaining effort and persistence

In the beginning of an online class, instructors must prompt learners to focus on learning goals by providing clear objectives and expectations about what they want to see learners demonstrate. To create collaboration and a sense of community, instructors and administrators should use a learning system that provides instant feedback to ensure that learners are on the same page with their goals.

  1. Providing opportunities for recruiting interest

Involve learners in the learning process. If they prefer videos and gamified lessons, tap into their interest. Provide personalised training that allows learners to define their own goals, work toward them, and reflect on their progress. 

  1. Providing opportunities for self-regulation

Using leaderboards, charts, and tracking systems, provide learners options and encourage reflection to assist them in regulating their own emotions and motivations so that they can cope and interact with their surroundings more effectively.

Principle 3: Action & Expression – The “How” of Learning

Each learner has unique skills and limitations when it comes to communicating what they know. For that reason, Action & Expression enables educators to present students with a range of ways to communicate their knowledge and skills. This can be accomplished in online learning through:

  1. Providing opportunities for physical action

To ensure that all students have equitable access to learning resources, instructors and administrators must create user-friendly platforms with different navigation and control options. This means providing alternatives and adjustments in the requirements for rate, timing, and speed to interact with the content, and offering access to assistive technologies like braille displays and screen reader software.

  1. Providing opportunities for expression and communication

Incorporate different forms of media into an LMS to help students communicate successfully, such as discussion boards, forums, and video conferencing. Moreover, provide various assessment strategies, such as interactive quizzes, virtual oral presentation, and case studies, and give learners freedom to choose on how to demonstrate mastery of the course learning outcomes. 

  1. Providing opportunities for executive functions

Executive Functions are educators’ responsibility to help students discover their strengths and areas for improvement, as well as teach them how to advocate for their own needs in the classroom and beyond. 

Instructors in an online learning environment can support learners with their personal goals and development by taking advantage of reporting and analytical features in a system. These tools provide accurate data about the learner’s progress and insights into learner behaviour, identifying opportunities for growth and improvement. Using this strategy, educators can provide formative feedback on a student’s progress and help the learner use that information to guide and enhance their own effort and practice.

The purpose of UDL is to make learning accessible in any environment. This framework, when applied to online learning, optimises digital technology for the purpose of fostering inclusive behaviours that improve accessibility by removing some of the learners’ physical and cognitive barriers. If all schools and institutions adopt UDL to develop online programmes, it won’t be long before everyone has access to equal education and nobody gets left behind 

Interested in integrating UDL into your online learning initiatives? 

SSA Group provides sustainable technological learning solutions to supercharge every stage of your training and development. From ideation to course rollout and iteration, we design personalised, interactive courses and curricula to create compelling and meaningful learning outcomes. If you want to easily track your learners’ progress, manage your learners’ data, and reap the benefits of collaborative learning, we develop learning management systems to help you enhance your training delivery and management. Get a quote today and experience seamless interactive learning! 

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