Improve your inclusive teaching practices with Universal Design for Learning

Published: Monday 15th August 2016

A Message from Office of Student Success (Disability Services): Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is an approach to teaching that consists of designing course instruction, materials and content to benefit a broad range of learners, including students with disabilities.

Incorporation of UDL across the University will allow the emphasis to shift from compliance, adjustments and non-discrimination to an emphasis on teaching and learning.

Clearly however, learning environments can never be entirely accessible to all students’ needs so there will continue to be a need for provision of individual adjustments for particular students. But all learning environments can be made more accessible and inclusive.

Disability Services encourages academic staff to adopt the principles of UDL. There are four simple practices we recommend you implement:

1. The confirmation of reading lists and other written resources before semester commences

Students who require their readings to be modified (alternate format) so that they can access the learning available in them require their reading lists six weeks before semester to ensure they will have access to them at the same time as all students. It can take six weeks to co-ordinate the provision of alternate format texts to students who require them.

2. The provision of lecture materials prior to the lecture

For many of our students, having the opportunity to review the lecture material and familiarise themselves with the content prior to the lecture is vital to support their learning. Students with specific learning disorders, hearing and vision impaired students, students with mental health issues and many more, find the extra time to read and digest content aids their comprehension and retention of lecture material.

3. Recording your lectures

Recording your lectures is a great way of including students who may have a disability as well as making your content accessible for learners who find that listening to lectures assists with comprehension and retention of information more effectively than the traditional practice of capturing the lecture through writing notes and revising those written notes. By offering students alternative modes of learning, you can better cater to a multitude of learning styles.

4. Providing all written content and videos in accessible format

With the development of technology and the shift towards UDL, making content accessible has become much easier. One of the barriers faced by our vision impaired and hearing impaired students is that it can often take time to have inaccessible content made accessible and this can seriously impact their learning. It’s also important to note that a number of students with other disabilities (dyslexia, attention deficit disorder, fatigue, mental health conditions, etc.) use screen reading technology which requires online content to be in accessible formats.

If you would like to learn more about using universal design in digital environments, The University of South Australia’s Teaching Innovation Unit is presenting a webinar:

Topic: Using Universal Design in digital learning environments

Presenter: Dr Sheryl E. Burgstahler (University of Washington) – Via webcam and virtual classroom

Date: Friday, 26 August 2016

Time: 8am-9am ACST (Australian Central Standard Time)

Please register here.

Additional information about Universal Design for Learning is available on the Disability Services staff site and at ADCET Australian Disability Clearing House on Education and Teaching.