Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a set of principles for curriculum development that give all individuals equal opportunities to learn. UDL provides a blueprint for creating instructional goals, methods, materials, and assessments that work for everyone–not a single, one-size-fits-all solution, but flexible approaches that can be customized and adjusted for individual needs.
As a designer, I recommend the use of UDL as the optimal approach to learning; UDL appears to include valuable methodologies, but it does not require they be applied with the same type of narrow focus we use in the classroom. Making it accessible to every learner. In fact, the inclusion of UDL for technology-supported learning offers the prospect of reaching a broader segment of any group of learners, regardless of whether you group them by a specific learning style.
UDL assumes that there are three networks for learning:
- Recognition Network or how the learner gathers facts.
- Strategic Network or how the learner organizes
- Affective Network or how learners get engaged and motivated.
Today’s blog post is not designed to fully explore UDL, but it is intended to present the key principles (backed by research) that should be applied for inclusion of all learners and efficient execution of Instructional Design.
In light of that and per the graphic above, the application of Universal Design for Learning serves as a key guideline for Instructional Designers in the field:
- Provide Multiple Means of Representation
The information we are trying to relay to the learner must be represented and displayed in multiple forms – to appeal to numerous senses, offer clarifications where necessary, and guide the processing of information and comprehension in ways that stimulate bigger ideas and critical features.
- Provide Multiple Means of Action and Expression
The material should be designed to engage the learner through numerous outlets – from physical action to internal and external dialogue. It should convey multiple communication channels, opportunities for composition and construction and assistive tools and technology. This guideline is key to the effective use of technology-supported learning.
- Provide Multiple Means of Engagement
It is the job of the Instructional Designer to recruit the interest of the learner. Material and its delivery should be relevant, valuable and authentic. Collaboration and community should be fostered. Opportunities for feedback are essential. Self-assessment and reflection – the learner’s engagement with the self – are paramount.
When Instructional Designers follow these guidelines for UDL, they are set up to successfully create and deliver customized learning experiences for diverse audiences with unique learning styles.
It is from this framework that TCP Learning approaches every project: discovering the learner’s needs and designing the technology-supported solutions that meet them.