Topic 6: Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

The appropriate model to address the needs of students with different abilities is Universal Design for Learning (UDL) which is a model of inclusive practice that is also suitable for HEIs and its students, including students with different abilities and “a set of principles and guidelines that aim to develop expert learners by using a variety of teaching methods in order to lower barriers to learning and give all learners equal opportunities to succeed”*.

In pedagogical practice, this means that:

  • learning materials are presented in different formats;
  • that students are provided with different ways of representing their knowledge;
  • that educators use different methods to motivate students.

*Heelan, A. and Tobin, T. J. (2021a). UDL for FET Practitioners: Guidance for Implementing Universal Design for Learning in Irish Further Education and Training. SOLAS. Available at: https://www.solas.ie/f/70398/x/6154fce37c/udl-for-fet-practitioners.pdf 

Key positive outcomes of this model are:

  1. inclusive learning environment in which all students benefit (not only students with different abilities);
  2. more independent students;
  3. less need for support*.

→  The survey of Irish FET and HE students with disabilities learning through COVID-19 pointed out that students with disabilities are very diverse, but there are some prevalent priorities of most of the students. Respondents (students with different abilities) would prefer:

  • Recording or capturing lectures (88 %);
  • More flexibility and/or choice regarding assessment (78 %);
  • More disability awareness training for the staff (77 %)**.

**Healy, R. (2021). Learning from home 2021 A Survey of Irish FET and HE Students with Disabilities Learning through Covid-19 Learning from home 2021: A Survey of Irish FET and HE Students with Disabilities Learning through Covid-19. Dublin: AHEAD Educational Press. Available at: https://www.ahead.ie/userfiles/files/Learning%20from%20home%20report_digital.pdf
*Heelan, A. & Tobin, T. J. (2021). UDL for FET Practitioners: Guidance for Implementing Universal Design for Learning in Irish Further Education and Training. https://www.solas.ie/f/70398/x/6154fce37c/udl-for-fet-practitioners.pdf
Heelan, A. & Tobin, T. J. (2021). UDL for FET Practitioners: Summary version. https://www.solas.ie/f/70398/x/0dc582f3c2/udl-for-fet-practitioners-summary.pdf

CASE STUDY: a manifesto for distance learning at University of Dundee

A Distance Learning Forum exists at the University of Dundee where teachers and students, in partnership, learn and share experiences about online distance learning, as well as developments and good practice.