Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a scientifically valid framework to create and improve a learning environment for the widest range of learners. As defined in the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008, such an environment reduces barriers to instruction, including for students with disabilities and those with limited English proficiency.
In traditional teaching and learning, course curricula were print-based and designed for an "average student". This one-size-fits-all model was uniform and had limited representations for presenting concepts. When these curricula became more interactive by implementing digital functions (narration, page turning, larger text, etc.), the learners who were considered “disabled” performed equally well.
UDL was emphasized in the National Education Technology Plan 2010, which called for revolutionary transformation. Rather than helping students overcome barriers, this design helps schools and educators lower or eliminate the barriers.
While UDL may leverage technologies, creating interactive learning environment is all about pedagogy. The National Center on UDL defined three principles for curriculum development that will give everyone equal opportunities to learn:
- Provide multiple means of representation (as in “what” to learn)
- Provide multiple means of action/expression (as in “how” to learn)
- Provide multiple means of engagement (as in “why” to learn)
Learning by Design
- Zach Petrea, Professor of English, Heartland Community College