Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles and framework to design for learner variation through intentional curriculum development are now internationally recognized for their potential to address inclusive educational challenges. As described by McKenzie and Dalton (2020), “The [UNESCO] Global Education Monitoring report on inclusion and education promotes the UDL framework as being particularly relevant to a broad understanding of inclusive education as addressing barriers to learning, noting “the Universal Design for Learning concept encapsulates approaches to maximize accessibility and minimize barriers to learning” (p.3). The need to maximize accessibility in learning environments and minimize instructional barriers for students and teachers is realized in classrooms, schools, and universities around the world. The rapid growth of online learning, especially in this time of COVID restrictions, offers new and dynamic opportunities for collaborations in teacher education, professional development, UDL and inclusive practices. We will share the experience of one such professional learning project – a collaboration between resource professionals in the United States and educators in India and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
In the summer of 2019, during an educational visit to Mumbai, India, Dr. Elizabeth Dalton met with Dr. Sujata Bhan, on the invitation of Dr. Radhike Khanna, Executive Director of OM Creations Trust, an education and vocational training center for adults with developmental disabilities. At this meeting, UDL was identified as a shared interest for potential future professional development (PD) work together. Over the next year, several online planning meetings occurred, and the collaboration grew to include Dr. Susie Gronseth of the University of Houston, a colleague of Dr. Dalton and co-editor of their recent edited text, Universal Access Through Inclusive Instructional Design: International Perspectives on UDL (Routledge, 2020). Dr. Bhan desired expanding training for educators in India in the principles and practices of UDL. Together, these three educators developed and offered a 1-hour online webinar in July 2020 entitled “Education Through UDL”, which was an introduction to the principles of UDL, their relevance to classroom practice, and many UDL implementation resources. Interest in and response to the webinar was very high, and the three educators began to discuss potential next steps for PD in UDL for both university faculty and teachers in India. Following an earlier successful model for online professional development in UDL known as a “SOOC”, standing for short open online course (Dalton, Grant & Perez, 2017), a 10-hour Master Course on UDL was conceived, developed, and offered online in January 2021. The remainder of this blog will outline the design of this course and the outcomes to date. Data from participants continues to be gathered and analyzed.
The Master Course “UDL Implementation from Access to Build to Internalize” focused on the preparation of educators to teach both aboutUDL and to teach usingthe UDL framework. The ten-hour class was offered in four, 2½ hour sessions held via Zoom and was planned for up to 50 students, to ensure adequate opportunity for interactive participation. Ultimately, 45 participants registered and took part in the full course curriculum, which began with foundations of the inclusive instructional design framework but primarily focused on how it applied to curricular and lesson planning. Course organization focused on core UDL principles, UDL guidelines, and the progressive development of UDL implementation from Access to Build to Internalize. Students took part in practical activities, experienced examples of UDL in classrooms, and shared conversations around how UDL can be brought into a wide range of teaching settings, including primary, secondary, and higher education levels. The course emphasized inclusive education strategies, how to build courses and trainings for UDL implementation, and best UDL instructional practices. Every participant received a copy of the book Universal Access Through Inclusive Instructional Design: International Perspectives on UDL (Gronseth & Dalton, 2020), which was used as the key text for the course. This text describes programs, policies, courses, and lessons in its chapters written by educators around the world, who approach instructional design and delivery through a UDL lens and articulate how the UDL principles and the UDL framework relate to their own experiences in education. In sum, the primary goal of the master UDL course was to expand participant understanding of how to plan for instruction that effectively integrates UDL into teaching and learning.
Prior to the start of the course, participants were invited to join a WhatsApp group in which updates were shared and community building among the learners was begun. A Pre-Course Survey was distributed via email to the participants, which included closed-response items related to UDL conceptual knowledge. The survey also prompted participants to articulate goal statements about what they intended to gain through their completion of the course.
The master course was organized to include the following activities:
Presentations by Gronseth and Dalton. Slides were made available in a “Learner Materials” folder on Google Drive.
Readings from Universal Access. In each session, a chapter from the book was designated for all participants to read. Participants were also encouraged to read one additional chapter of their choosing for each session. After completing a reading, participants were asked to submit a brief reading reflection response using Google Forms in which they shared their thoughts about the readings.
Breakout and Full Group Discussions and Activities. The discussions provided opportunities for participants to discuss the UDL concepts and ideas in small group and whole group formats. The breakout group features in Zoom were utilized for small group discussion with the same assigned groups of 4-5 participants throughout the course. Scaffolds such as real-time online note-taking sheets (see Figure 1) were provided to structure conversations around areas of focus and to facilitate sharing out of small group work to the whole group.
Exit Tickets and Homework. At the conclusion of each session, brief activities were assigned. The activities prepared participants for the next session and provided formative assessment data to the instructors that was used to inform the material covered in the sessions that followed.
Overall, the master course aimed to directly engage participants in UDL practices through an array of interactive teaching, discussion, and hands-on activities, as shown in the table below.
UDL Master Course Agenda
Introduction and Workshop Goals (presentation); UDL Foundation (presentation); Barriers to Learning and Planning Lessons with UDL (presentation); Vertical Orientation of UDL (presentation); Structure of Access to Build to Internalize (presentation); Learning Activity #1: Access Considerations (breakout activity); Session Recap Exit Ticket #1: Reflect on the vertical orientation of UDL and describe a few different ways that this Access-Build-Internalize structure can help with curriculum and lesson planning (Padlet); Homework #1: Bring an example to Session 2 of Access challenge/barrier and potential solution (before and after). Read Chapter 26. (Google Form reading reflection).
Welcome and Sharing of Homework Access Examples (discussion); Accessible Educational Materials (presentation); Universal Access Readings (discussion); Educational and Assistive Technology Continuum (presentation); Tools and Resources for Lessons and Curriculum Planning (exploration); Learning Activity #2: Build Considerations (breakout activity); Session Recap Exit Ticket #2: Describe in text one key idea learned from Session 2 and represent this idea in another way, such as audio, drawing, symbol, video, etc. (Padlet); Homework #2: Bring an example to Session 3 of Build. Review UDL resources, tools, and lesson examples handouts. Read Chapter 37 and one additional. (Google Form reading reflection).
Building Capacity through UDL Apps and Materials (presentation); Learning Activity #3: Internalize Considerations (breakout activity); Instructional Planning with UDL – Tools and Strategies (Part 1) (presentation); Lesson Planning Activity #1: Reviewing and Analyzing Examples (breakout activity); Session Recap Homework #3a: Lesson Planning Activity #2: Practicing with the Tools – Select an instructional planning level to work at (lesson, unit, or course) and develop a lesson grounded in UDL (Google Form submission); Homework #3b: Read Chapter 40 (Google Form reading reflection).
Welcome and Overview of Session 4 (presentation); Feedback on Your UDL Lessons in Progress (presentation); Instructional Planning with UDL – Tools and Strategies (Part 2) (presentation); Internalizing Through UDL (presentation); Explanation of Lesson Planning Activity #3 as a Follow-up (presentation); Questions and Response (discussion); Community of Practice for UDL Implementation (presentation); Workshop Recap; Exit Ticket #3: Complete Post-Survey Celebration!
Data gathered prior to, during, and after the course was completed is in the process of being reviewed, organized, and analyzed. We look forward to sharing some of the outcomes from the course in the upcoming webinar to be offered through INCLUDE that focuses on this work. Webinar date: March 12 @ 9:30 am EST (14:30 GMT). Details here.
Dalton, E., Grant, K. & Perez, L. (2017). Modeling Universal Design for Learning in Online Instruction An Open and Interactive Course Model: SOOC. In P. Resta & S. Smith (Eds.), Proceedings of Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference (pp. 153-158). Austin, TX, United States: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE). Available at https://www.learntechlib.org/p/177849/.
Gronseth, S. L., & Dalton, E. M., Eds. (2020). Universal Access Through Inclusive Instructional Design: International Perspectives on UDL. New York: Routledge.
McKenzie, J.A. & Dalton, E.M., 2020, ‘Universal design for learning in inclusive education policy in South Africa’, African Journal of Disability 9(0), a776. https://doi. org/10.4102/ajod.v9i0.776