Designing Engaging Online Environments: Universal Design for Learning Principles

Designing Engaging Online Environments: Universal Design for Learning Principles

Aleksandra Hollingshead (University of Idaho, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-3120-3.ch014

Abstract

Engagement in learning is critical to students' achievement of meaningful learning outcomes. Educators often describe engagement as a multi component concept that involves emotional, cognitive, and behavioral domains. In an online environment, student engagement is challenging to achieve. Both synchronous and asynchronous instruction needs to be thoughtfully designed to engage students at a meaningful level. Moreover, within an online environment, some of the differences between the students from diverse backgrounds may be more challenging for the instructors to address and thus require an intentional and systematic approach. Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is an instructional design framework that is based on a notion that all students are varied in their learning needs and therefore instruction needs to be flexible to ensure learning of all. This chapter will examine the construct of engagement, focus on learner variability, and offer practical instructional design solutions based in the framework of UDL.
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Background

Online learning is becoming an increasingly popular option for delivering post-secondary education. In fact, Allen and Seaman (2010) reported a 21% increase in enrollments in online courses between 2008 and 2009. This increase corresponds to an overall increase in institutions of higher education offering online learning options which progressed from 34% in 1997 (see Rao & Tanners, 2011; Wirt et al., 2004) to 66% by 2007 (see Parsad & Lewis, 2008; Rao & Tanners, 2011). Online learning is defined as “teacher-led education that takes place over the Internet, with the teacher and student separated geographically” (Watson, Murin, Vashaw, Gemin, & Rapp, 2011, p. 12). Online instruction can be delivered synchronously, asynchronously, or via a hybrid model (Coy, Marino, & Serianni, 2014). A synchronous delivery usually means that an instructor and the students meet online at the same time utilizing video conferencing software. Asynchronous instruction consists of posted reading materials and assignments, pre-recorded lectures, and access to additional resources, like video and audio recordings (Coy et al., 2014). In a hybrid model, both asynchronous and synchronous methods are combined (Allen & Seaman, 2010). In post-secondary settings, the asynchronous method for delivery of online instruction is the most commonly utilized (Setzer & Lewis, 2005).

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