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Universal Design for Learning

Original Content Publication Date: 09/01/2018


In his keynote address from the 2018 ETE Conference, Dr. Tom Tobin introduced five strategies to reach more students and make your teaching more accessible. 

1. Start with text - When using video or audio or any other form of instruction, also provide a text file that can be accessed by those for whom video or audio is not accessible. 
2. Make some alternatives - Think of other ways to present information such as saving powerpoint presentations as pdf files that can be read by pdf reader software to the student. Alternatively, consider making videos using screen capturing software when going through things such as study guides and notes. 
3. Let them do it their way - Where possible, allow for multiple ways to complete or submit an assignment. Some students will prefer to make a video, while other students would rather turn in a paper or an audio file. 
4. Go step by step - Give instruction for 10 minutes, then ask students to do a task for 2 minutes. This allows for things to move into long term memory. It does not matter what you ask them to do. For example, have them watch a 10-minute video then allow them to discuss for 2 minutes. 
5. Set content free - Provide ways for students to do things on their own time. Additionally, don't use software that cannot be accessed easily from any device (powerpoint or excel can be difficult to use on a phone. Instead make a video going through an example on one of those programs). 

Dr. Tobin suggests a strategy of +1 thinking to keep it from becoming too much work and overwhelming. This strategy is to take each assignment or piece of content and find one more way to make it accessible. 

In his second address at the conference, he also provided some valuable examples and suggestions that could be adapted or built upon as necessary. For example, Dr. Tobin suggested that we give more options to practice that will not be graded, and in general to grade less. He also suggested explaining instructions repeatedly and clearly in various ways. Another suggestion was to give a choice between two or more problems on tests and assignments as some students may have difficulty understanding what is being asked of them if only one problem is available. 

In another workshop, Kimberly Snow and Christopher Phillips highlighted tools and tips to make more accessible canvas content, such as the video captioning service offered by the university. Their suggestions and resources can be found at this site.

Key Points

  • +1 thinking (find one more way to make each assignment accessible)
  • Be mindful of limited time and technology that students may have

Links to Videos

Link to full keynote address
Link to second address
Link to Kimberly Snow and Christopher Phillips address


 Link to original article


Strategies & Methods

Assessments & Feedback