Using Digital Tools to Foster Student Engagement Within the Universal Design for Learning Framework

Using Digital Tools to Foster Student Engagement Within the Universal Design for Learning Framework

Lisa Harris (Winthrop University, USA), Lindsay Yearta (Winthrop University, USA) and Allison Paolini (Winthrop University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-0119-1.ch022

Abstract

Students are diverse. They vary widely in their background knowledge, interests, languages, academic strengths, and learning needs. In order to retain these students, higher education institutions must create flexible and engaging learning environments. Universal design for learning (UDL) is a research-based framework used to guide the development of instructional goals, teaching methods, materials, and assessments to meet the needs of all learners. The three overarching UDL principles and corresponding guidelines are discussed as a framework for making decisions about integrating digital tools into teaching and learning environments. Examples of how the authors have used technology to meet the guidelines in higher education classrooms are provided.
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The Universal Design For Learning Framework

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a framework “to improve and optimize teaching and learning for all people based on scientific insights into how humans learn” (CAST, 2019, para. 2). UDL offers a guide for educators to follow in the development of instructional goals, teaching methods, materials, and assessments that meet the needs of all learners. Goals are defined as learning expectations that reflect the skills students need to master. Methods are the instructional strategies and techniques used to support student learning. Materials are the actual resources used to present content in an understandable and interactive way, and assessments are used to gather information about students’ knowledge and skills. The focus of the UDL framework is creating a curriculum that is responsive, student-centered, and relevant, and which allows students to demonstrate knowledge and skills in a flexible manner.

Using UDL to develop curriculum stems from the idea of universal design in architecture. The concept, created by architect Ron Mace, is defined as “the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design” (Center for Universal Design, 2008, para. 2). When using universal design to design buildings, architects consider all possible users before the construction of a building and make design decisions accordingly. Rather than having to retrofit a building after it has been constructed, accessibility features such as wide doorways, elevators, curb cuts and access ramps are present from the beginning. Just as curb cuts and elevators are beneficial to people with or without disabilities, a well-designed curriculum, accessible to all types of learners, enhances the learning environment for all students. Building flexible features into curriculum beforehand increases accessibility for all students.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Live Interactive Audience Response: Software used to collect and display audience responses to survey questions during a live presentation.

Graphic Organizers: A visual display of information used to show relationships between facts, concepts, ideas, or thoughts.

Digital Storytelling: Using digital media tools to combine audio, still images, and text to tell a story.

Microblogging: Sharing short messages with an online audience.

Digital Scavenger Hunts: Using a digital camera to document an item on a scavenger hunt has been found.

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