Another excellent perspective on why UDL is so important for an inclusive learning environment is that of Kevin Kelly’s “Fostering Inclusion with Universal Design for Learning.” Kevin Kelly is an instructor at San Francisco State University, and the article was published in the Association for American Colleges & Universities’ Diversity and Democracy quarterly publication. It provides a faculty perspective on the need for UDL in inclusive teaching and offers a few practical suggestions in a narrative format.
What is UDL?
After that video introduction, we recommend you explore two helpful websites:
CAST’s UDL Guidelines
CAST’s UDL Guidelines website is homebase for learning about the UDL guidelines, including more specific suggestions for strategies and checkpoints. If you click on the graphic organizer, you can navigate to specific details within the framework to increase your understanding and your implementation.
CAST’s UDL on Campus
For a stronger focus on higher ed in the UDL context, CAST’s UDL on Campus provides some great advice and information. The site provides strategies for a UDL-infused syllabus, for more accessible media/course materials, for executive functioning in fully online learning environments, and for many more topics.
If you’d like to learn more about UDL, you can check out our UDL annotated bibliography for further resources.
Like UDL, Culturally Responsive Teaching (CRT) works toward creating a more inclusive space for diverse learners. CRT focuses more specifically on cultural diversity: race, ethnicity, language, etc. Some educators and educational researchers refer to these practices as Culturally Relevant Pedagogy (CRP) rather than CRT, but they refer to the same principles and issues. To explore the importance of CRT, check out these two articles:
- “How Culturally Responsive Lessons Teach Critical Thinking,” by Clint Smith (2020), discovers the importance of CRT not just for the broad social good but also for students’ critical thinking skills.
- “In Defense of Caring About Difference,” by Cory Collins (2019), explores the importance of not erasing difference in an attempt to be in some way beyond racism and bias. The tagline of the article states, “Many educators profess, as a virtue, that they treat all students the same. But when a student’s specific needs and story are erased, it’s not equitable—it’s damaging.”
What is CRT?
“Culturally Responsive Teaching: Four Misconceptions” by Jennifer Gonzalez and Zaretta Hammond, from Gonzalez’s blog, Cult of Pedagogy, in 2017. Knowing what CRT isn’t can help us better understand what it is — remember that using non-examples is a UDL strategy!
How to Implement CRT
If you’d like to learn more about CRT, you can check out our CRT annotated bibliography for further resources.
What do we mean by “accessible”? Making a course more accessible means that you use tools and strategies to make the course content available to a diverse set of learners with different needs. These accessibility strategies are part of the fabric of a Messiah University worldview because they reduce barriers so that everyone can participate. When we only design for one type of learner others are disadvantaged and not only does engagement suffer, but students overall miss out on the richness of hearing different perspectives.
What is Accessibility?
How to Ensure Accessibility
“ADA Compliance for Online Course Design” by Sheryl Burgstahler, an Educause Review article in 2017, explains more about why it’s important and how making a course accessible helps all students.
Here are the key takeaways from the article:
- Lessons learned from campuses nationwide have informed an approach to compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act during the process of online course design.
- Providing multiple ways for students to gain knowledge, demonstrate knowledge, and interact goes a long way toward making a course accessible to all students, including those with disabilities.
- Accessibility efforts benefit not only students with disabilities but also students who are English language learners and those working in noisy or quiet environments.
The author provides ideas for how to make a course more accessible. Using descriptive text for hyperlinks and dividing information with headers allows a screenreader to skim the webpage for specific content. It also helps students visually chunk content for better recall.
If you’d like to learn more about digital accessibility, you can check out our annotated bibliography on accessibility for further resources.