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Considering Universal Design Principles in Your Course Build

This section offers suggestions to help you meet the needs of a variety of diverse student learners through Universal Design for Learning (UDL) practices.

How Can I Apply Universal Design Principles to Make My Course Content More Meaningful for All Learners?

Including Information in Formats that Can Be Easily Adjusted by Students

Providing students with content in Word or PDF format allows them to adjust the size of the document to improve its legibility. Even when you have created a narrated PowerPoint recording, also providing students with a link to the original PowerPoint file means that they can change colours and font sizes in ways that support their learning or vision needs. Ensuring that images, charts, and graphs are high-resolution so that they don’t pixelate when blown up is also helpful.


Offer a Variety of Formats

Where possible, make an effort to provide your content to students in multiple formats so they can rely on the formats that work best for them. For instance, if you make a video for your course, ensuring that the video is captioned and is accompanied by a text transcript will allow students to engage with the content through a variety of means. Zoom can be leveraged to record asynchronous course material with automated transcripts and captions. Whether you’re delivering course content, providing a demonstration or technical instruction, or interviewing a guest speaker, anything you record can be quickly published to students in that course and be fully accessible with an automatic transcript and captions.

Microsoft introduced automated live captioning functionality to PowerPoint shows, which you can turn on while you’re lecturing synchronously to automatically live caption your classes. Look for the “Subtitle” options in the Slide Show settings, and find more information in this guide from Microsoft

To set up a Panopto space to use to record vidoes: Laurier instructors can record right in their browser and get their videos captioned and share with students using Panopto in MyLS. Look for access in your MyLS course or visit Laurier's SSO Panopto portal to get started. 

To set up a Zoom space to use to record vidoes: Schedule the meeting you’ll use to create the recording through the Zoom Meetings tab in MyLS, but make it a private meeting with no one in it so you can record on your own. You’ll be able to be seen, heard, share your screen, annotate content, and draw on the digital whiteboard and everything will be captured in the Zoom recording. When you’re finished recording, simply stop the recording and Zoom will start automatically transcribing your video. So long as your Recording settings in Zoom on the web are set to create “audio transcript”, everything you record in Zoom will be transcribed.

Include Multiple Ways to Access Information

If there are different opportunities for students to access the same information, providing multiple options reinforces what’s important and allows students to choose what works best for them. For instance, you might offer students an article, video, and infographic as different approaches to understanding the same concept.


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How Can I apply Universal Design Principles to Make My Assessment More Meaningful for All Learners?

Give Students Some Control Over the Format of their Work

We often default to particular assignment types in our classes and expect that all students will show what they know in the same way. Allowing students more options to show what they know allows them to demonstrate their knowledge in a way that works well for them. For instance, if the focus is to have students plan a process, allow them the flexibility to choose to write a paper, develop a presentation, make a video, create a poster, or design an infographic to deliver their process, so they can demonstrate what they know in a format that works for them. The fundamental focus on developing a process is the same, but students have choice in how they demonstrate it.


Give Students Some Control Over the Topic of their Work

When possible, allow students to choose how they focus their work to help them build a sense of ownership and increase their interest and engagement. If the focus of an assignment is on a particular kind of output (such as writing a report or creating a business plan), allowing students to choose a topic of interest for the report or a kind of business they might want to start one day can give them more control while still demonstrating that they can do the necessary work.


Give Students Some Control Over the Timing of their Work

When possible, allowing students to choose the timing of their work can help them to build effective plans around the timing of their various courses and develop skills around time management. If the focus of your assessment is a large project or piece of writing you could offer a few potential hand-in dates based on different content points through the term. With smaller pieces of work, like quizzes or discussion posts, you can use the strategy of “best 5-of-7,” for example, to build some flexibility for your students so that they can manage their course load around other commitments.

Use UDL Rubrics for Grading

Assignments that offer multiple ways of completing the work can be graded using UDL rubrics. These rubrics focus on assessment points that apply to a variety of assignments, such as:

  • The quality and innovativeness of the idea;
  • Clarity of expression or presentation;
  • Relevance to course concepts; and
  • Depth of evaluation or application.

This section was modified from Niagara College’s Centre for Academic Excellence, Design, Develop and Deliver: A Guide to Effective Online Teaching, which is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 4.0 International License.

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