Implementing Universal Design for Learning in the Virtual Learning Environment

Implementing Universal Design for Learning in the Virtual Learning Environment

Andrea Harkins Parrish (Johns Hopkins University, USA), Jennifer Lee Kouo (Towson University, USA), Lisa Beth Carey (Kennedy Krieger Institute, USA) and Christopher Swanson (Johns Hopkins University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-7222-1.ch003
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Abstract

This chapter presents an overview of learner variability and addresses how the Universal Design for Learning framework can be applied to meet the diverse needs of all students in a virtual learning environment. Emphasis is placed on how educational professionals at multiple levels can apply their current knowledge to design and implement effective and universally designed instruction through multiple means of engagement, representation, and action and expression. It also addresses the importance of providing specialized instruction, including how educators can provide federally protected educational supports in virtual learning environments. The authors provide directions for further examination of virtual learning and the implications of this instructional delivery model for meeting the needs of all learners in light of recent trends.
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Knowledge Levels

The teaching profession includes all levels of professionals – from the first-year teacher to the 30-year veteran. These individuals are often given the same fundamental job duties and expected to perform at the same level. Ironically, when it comes to comfort in VLEs, the ladder of professional experience may be inverted as the degree of familiarity rests with those who have less applied experience in accommodating a wide range of students’ abilities, needs, and backgrounds. Overall, this situation makes for both an exciting and sometimes daunting period for those in the educational field. What helps is identifying one’s own comfort and knowledge level with virtual learning in general, and then the constructs for instructional planning, to know the types of supports and experience needed for each individual’s professional learning journey.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Universal Design for Learning: A framework based on scientific research that addresses the variability of all learners and optimizes the teaching and learning experience by providing multiple means of engagement, representation, and action and expression.

Accommodation: A practice or procedure that provides a student with equitable access to content and is intended to reduce or eliminate the effects of a disability, without lowering academic or behavioral expectations.

Self-Regulation: An individual’s ability to purposefully monitor and regulate their emotional state.

Learner Variability: The recognition that there is no average or “typical” learner. Rather, those in a learning environment bring a dynamic mix of strengths, challenges, preferences, interests, and experiences.

Executive Function: A set of cognitive control skills that individuals use to engage in tasks that are not automatic or rehearsed.

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