Universal Design for Learning: Strategies for Blended and Online Learning
Section 2.2: Addressing Barriers in Blended and Online Learning
There are some keys points to keep in mind in supporting blended and online learning based on UDL framework.
- Look at accessibility as a fundamental starting point. It is critical to inquire specifically about the accessibility of course content, layout, expectations, and communication in online and blended learning environments. Asking explicit questions and gathering feedback on accessibility from students at the beginning and throughout the course will afford students the opportunity to engage with each other and enable troubleshooting at all points.
- Employ clear communication. Clear communication through multiple channels supports students in a number of ways. Clear commutation includes the establishment of routines, a means of contacting the instructor, and a means of collaborating both formally and informally. It means that students feel welcome to express confusion, to ask questions, and to have a voice in some of the decisions in the course.
- Create clear structure and guidelines. Describe the guidelines, create a summary of the guidelines and quick references. Describe what the expectation of the course are and give both positive and negative examples. Remember that your design has to target clear, elaborate representations of content and expectations. Examples, samples, pictures, and videos are key in reducing barriers.
- Offer students (limited) choice. A key aspect of the UDL framework is offering choices to students about how they engage, how they learn content, and how they demonstrate what they have learned. For example, students may present information through a paper, a blog post, or a storyboard; or help shape a writing project by choosing a meaningful topic. Offering choices does not mean letting students do what they want. Rather, it means you can identify several pedagogically sound options for engaging, learning, and assessment.
- Encourage personal and social connections. Your enthusiasm, openness, and willingness to take risks, get excited, and communicate your love of your field of study are key to getting students on board. Actively encourage connection, excitement, play, and joy. Alongside your content-related questions, create a space where students can be frivolous, where they can share memes, photos, stories, and make connections with content that might feel too risky in discussions.
- Create small groupings. Organizing students into pods or small groups decreases the threat of participating a whole class where student reactions cannot be guaranteed. Humans work the best in small collaborative groups where they can readily develop communication systems, swap ideas, and resolve complaints. Smaller groups tend to be less of a barrier to learning since students can enter a space where they are more likely to feel known and understood.