Universal Design for Learning: Strategies for Blended and Online Learning

Section 2.1: Understanding Barriers in a Digital Age

Another important aspect of Universal Design for Learning is to anticipate barriers and design for those barriers in advance, but barriers vary not only according to the learner but also according to the learning environments.

Tony Bates (2018), in his continuum of teaching, suggests that there are primarily three type of delivery mode: face-to-face, blended, and fully online. For this guide, we adapted the continuum into the following categories and definitions:

  1. Face-to-Face Learning
    • Classroom teaching with no technology at all, which is very rare nowadays.
    • Classroom teaching with some aids, e.g. presentation slides.
  2. Blended Learning
    • Technology-Enabled: use of learning management system to assist teaching, such as uploading course materials, submitting assignments, or grading.
    • Flipped Classrooms: carefully designed pre-class activities to assist students to learn key concepts in a self-pace manner and engage them in discussions and problem-solving during class that lead to the synthesis and application of the key concepts (University of Adelaide).
    • Hybrid: the majority of learning occurs online and only specific activities is in person. For example, an online course (80%) with consistent live office hours and some in-person simulation exercises (20%) would be a hybrid course.
  3. Fully Online Learning
    • Also known as distance learning which has no face-to-face components. Depending on the design, instructors and learners may communicate through online conferencing tools.

As you see, learning in a digital age has created new contexts, which requires students to re-strategize their learning process and procedure. Instructors also need to adapt to different delivery modes and design proactively to remove barriers that are posed by digital learning environments.

Remember, effective learning (especially in a new environment) often means slowing down our nearly automatized process and considering carefully some alternate strategies.

In the following sections, we will provide some examples in blended and fully online learning environments.


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A Comprehensive Guide to Applying Universal Design for Learning Copyright © 2022 by Dr. Seanna Takacs; Junsong Zhang; Helen Lee; Lynn Truong; and David Smulders is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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