Universal Design for Learning (UDL): The Benefits of Implementation
By Lisa Porter, Senior Lecturer and Admissions Tutor – FdSc; School of Allied Health and Community
This case study demonstrates innovative and excellent practice: UDL was applied to a module, resulting in significantly increased student satisfaction, achievement and engagement.
UDL is a framework which reduces barriers to learning, recognises the diversity of individual learning styles and provides equality of opportunity for all learners (Capp, 2017). It provides a ‘buffet’ of learning rather than a single ‘fixed menu’ approach and contains three core principles: ‘Flexible methods of learning’; ‘Flexible resources to support learning’; ‘Flexible assessments’ (DeMontfort University, 2019).
I applied the ‘UDL Self-Assessment and Development Tool’ (DeMontfort University, 2019) to review how ‘universal’ my module was and how to improve its accessibility (A4; V1-3; K3). The subsequent UDL actions I implemented included a new ‘authentic’ written assessment, based on ‘real-world’ health and social care from my own practice (A1; K1; K2; V4). Student’s employability skills were developed by creating a quality improvement action plan unique to their individual placement settings. Students were able to identify themselves, their practice and the relevance to their future careers within this assessment. Student feedback in class was positive, with students discussing the action plan with their practice mentors, and some being asked to implement the action plans in real life (K1; K2; V4). This increased the student’s confidence in the quality of their work, underpinned their practice identity and supported the authenticity of the assessment.
I developed Blackboard to maximise the benefits of Technology Enhanced Learning (HEA, 2019; A1; V1; K4), providing resources in multiple formats (PDFs’, modifiable Word documents, videos, images and info-graphic); creating short online learning capsules of self-directed learning activities to support students learning and facilitating the use of the ‘flipped’ classroom and blended learning; developed self-help guides of information supporting assessments; created an embedded platform (using ‘Padlet’) to host anonymous summative assignment Q and A’s which was accessible from any location ’24-7’, and from which all students benefited from seeing other students questions and tutors answers (A1; A3; K3; V1; V2). In order to keep the TEL resources present, I regularly used and demonstrated the resources in class (K3; V2).
The impact of this initiative has been significant. Average student engagement with the Blackboard resources increased from two hours (2016/17) to 11.5 hours (2018/19) per student. The Module Evaluation achieved 94% overall satisfaction (2018/19), compared to 75% (2017/18). Specifically, the question relating to Blackboard achieved 92% satisfaction (2018/19) compared to 73% (2017/18). Module Evaluation comments from students praised Blackboard with accessibility being acknowledged. Finally, comparison of module grades for the same period demonstrated an improvement in student grades. In 2016/17 most students achieved lower grades of C/D’s, however in more recent iterations of the module the higher grades (A/B’s) have increased (notably in the B’s) and the lower grades (C/D’s) have decreased I will involve student’s in the next UDL reviewing process to include their perspectives on further improvements. This project will also be disseminated to partner colleges and I hope to undertake research in UDL, presenting at the Learning and Teaching conference next year.
Capp J. (2017) The effectiveness of universal design for learning: a meta-analysis of literature between 2013 and 2016. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 21:8, 791-807, DOI: 10.1080/13603116.2017.1325074.
Demontfort University (2019) Universal Design for Learning. Accessed 20th August 2019. Available at: https://www.dmu.ac.uk/academic/udl.aspx.
Higher Education Academy (2019) Technology Enhanced Learning. Accessed 1st September 2019. Available at: https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/individuals/strategic- priorities/technology-enhanced-learning.