For many educators, summertime is time to redesign, retool and recharge. To support success for diverse learners, nothing beats Universal Design for Learning (#UDL). This page includes a few quick tips, but to learn more, register for one of our upcoming workshops.
What is UDL?: Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a framework designed to meet the diverse learning needs of all learners. Specifically, it approaches learning from the aspect of addressing barriers keeping students from becoming expert learners.
The Center for Applied Special Technology (or CAST for short) created the UDL framework and guidelines most use today. The framework itself has three primary principles: Representation, expression, and engagement.
Our instructional design team incorporates UDL guidelines in each course we design. We believe it makes the learning experience better for everyone because it is more thoughtful about giving learners different and effective ways to engage with the content. No one is left out. Below are a few our favorite tips that we encourage you to consider as you work to enhance your courses.
Be proactive, not reactive. Think proactively about teaching and learning to build ways to make instructional materials usable by any/all learners from the start – rather than retrofitting later.
Use sans-serif text formats. A few examples include Arial, Calibri, and Helvetica. These text formats are easier to read for individuals who are visually impaired. Also, be sure that all font sizes are at least 12points.
The Center for Excellence in Universal Design provides a number of great resources related to document design and digital and web based communication.
Use built-in styles in MS Word or Google Docs. Screen readers - as well as the human brain - use these formatting style markers (e.g. Title, Heading 1, normal text) to understand how information is organized. When you use built-in styles consistently, it helps your learners find information on a page faster. In addition, you can quickly generate a table of contents from a heading structure.
Make use of the MS Office Accessibility Checkers. You can access the accessibility checker from the Microsoft Office app ribbon. Once you have started the checker, the system will provide you with a list of issues, along with instructions on ways to address them.
If converting to a PDF, use "save as" not "print to PDF". After running the accessibility checker, use the "save as PDF" feature to more accurately copy the actions of the original document (including the tags needed for accessibility) into a PDF format. Then use the options feature to make sure the document structure tags for accessibility is selected.
For step by step instructions, check out the Create Accessible PDFs resource provided by Microsoft.