On February 4th and 5th, Matt Deeprose and I took part in UDLHE Digicon. This was an online conference about Universal Design for Learning (UDL) in Higher Education. It was our first time attending this event. The conference was wholly online, so we didn’t have to allow for significant travel time or the cost of flights and hotels, however, we did need to work on North American hours.
There was a packed schedule for two days, alongside opportunities for networking. Unsurprisingly, most of the presenters and participants were from the USA and Canada, but there was also a small contingent of Irish delegates, mostly from AHEAD.
At some point in the near future, fully accessible recordings from the event, alongside additional resources, will become available on the UDLHE webpages, so I’m not going to try to replicate that here. Instead, I thought I’d share some of my insights from the event as well as links to useful resources that others shared.
There are a number of podcasts about Universal Design for Learning that may be of interest to you:
- Think UDL podcast. Lillian Nave, the keynote speaker at UDLHE Digicon, hosts this podcast. It focuses on post-secondary education.
- UDL in 15 min. Hosted by Loui Lord Nelson. Many of the guests on this podcast work in primary or secondary education. As it’s only 15 minutes, it’s easy to listen to and there are often useful links or tips shared.
Books and journal articles
- Armstrong, B. (2020). To Spark Discussion in a Zoom Class, Try a “Silent Meeting.” [online] Chronicle.com. Available at: https://www.chronicle.com/article/to-spark-discussion-in-a-zoom-class-try-a-silent-meeting [Accessed 22 Feb. 2021]. (If you’re unable to access this article, you might want to read 5 best practices for silent meetings, instead).
- Baker, R., Dee, T., Evans, B. and John, J. (2018). Bias in Online Classes: Evidence from a Field Experiment CEPA Working Paper No. 18-03. [online] . Available at: https://cepa.stanford.edu/content/bias-online-classes-evidence-field-experiment
- Burgstahler, S. (2020). Creating inclusive learning opportunities in Higher Education: a Universal Design toolkit. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard Education Press.
- Edyburn, D. L. (2010) ‘Would You Recognize Universal Design for Learning if You Saw it? Ten Propositions for New Directions for the Second Decade of UDL’, Learning Disability Quarterly, 33(1), pp. 33–41. doi: 10.1177/073194871003300103.
- Fritzgerald, A. and Rice, S. (2020). Antiracism and universal design for learning: building expressways to success. Wakefield, Massachusetts, USA: CAST Professional Publishing, An Imprint Of CAST, Inc.
- Kelly, K. and Zakrajsek, T. (2021). Advancing Online Teaching: Creating Equity-Based Digital Learning environments. Sterling, Virginia: Stylus.
- Sumeracki, M. (2019). Dual Coding and Learning Styles. [online] The Learning Scientists. Available at: https://www.learningscientists.org/blog/2019/6/6-1 [Accessed 22 Feb. 2021].
- Zelazo, P.D., Blair, C.B. and Willoughby, M.T. (2016). Executive Function: Implications for Education (NCER 2017-2000). [online] Institute of Education Sciences – National Center for Education Research. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Research, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. Available at: https://ies.ed.gov/ncer/pubs/20172000/ [Accessed 22 Feb. 2021].
Delegates at UDLHRE Digicon shared a range of digital tools that they have been using to support students with a range of different needs. Please note that iSolutions does not support these tools. They may not be fully accessible or GDPR compliant.
- AT Hive is an Assistive Technology resource created by ahead (an independent non-profit organisation working to create inclusive environments in education and employment for people with disabilities).
- Freedom is an app and website blocker for Mac, Windows, Android, iOS and Chrome.
- GoodNotes is an iOS/iPad app for searchable handwritten notes. It can be used for annotating PDFs and other files. This app costs ~£8.
- myHomework is a student planner app.
- Note.ly visual workspace – this is a similar tool to Padlet.
- Random.org is a random generator website that offers a range of free services and information about how you might use them.
- SensusAccess convert a file is similar to the Ally file transformer as it can convert a range of documents into alternative accessible file formats.
- TomatoTimer is a 25-minute timer for anyone who uses the ‘Pomodoro technique‘.
- Tricider is a free social voting tool that does not require registration. If you choose to register, there are further features available.
Other online resources
Resources relating to pedagogical approaches
- Dual coding and graphic organisers. This site on visual teaching strategies was created by Oliver Caviglioli, who writes about dual coding or the use of visuals and text for teaching.
- IXL contains resources for use with children aged 4-18. These can be tailored to match the area you are in. (The resources match education in 15 countries or regions, including the USA, UK and ‘Latin America’).
- Project Zero’s Thinking Routine Toolbox. Project Zero is a research project at Harvard Graduate School of Education. Thinking routines are a short series of steps to guide someone’s thought process. The toolbox includes a range of resources to accompany each of the thinking routines that have been identified by the research group. This resource is useful for anyone who is planning lessons and wants to consider alternative teaching techniques.
- 20 tips for teaching an accessible online course by Sheryl Burgstahler.
Resources that can be downloaded or printed
- Houghton Mifflin Harcourt offer a number of free printable graphic organizer templates.
- The noun project – icons for everything.
Other resources shared in UDLHE Digicon presentations
- UDLers Unite – Shared resources. This is a Padlet wall where conference delegates shared resources that they had found helpful. The resources are divided into categories.
- Center for Universal Design in Education (CUDE). This Centre is directed by the DO-IT Center at the University of Washington. They have a lot of useful resources and links on their website.
- What is Executive Function? by The Understood team. This is a well-written page with summaries and short videos.
- Supporting Executive Function Skills in Online Learning through UDL Principles. This is a helpful introduction to Executive Functioning skills. It includes links to a range of tools and tool-types that you may want to consider using with your students.
- Promoting Faculty uptake of UDL Learning resources: a roundtable discussion. This Padlet wall includes suggestions that were crowdsourced from participants at UDLHE Digicon. It is divided into case studies, such as how to promote UDL to educators, how to promote UDL of videos and the role of students in promoting accessibility.
- Accurate captions: The Ninja YouTube method. In this video, Eric J. Moore explains how to edit captions more efficiently.
There are various credentials that demonstrate someone’s knowledge of UDL as well as a range of in-house badges that have been designed.
- CAST (formerly Center for Applied Special Technology) has worked with Learning Designed to create two credentials: UDL Associate Level 1 and UDL Core Level 2.
- Ravinder Brar and Jessica Patterson presented about George Brown University’s (internal) UDL certificate. They shared their model for UDL implementation, which others may want to adapt as well as an extensive list of resources for anyone looking to develop their own certificate course. The George Brown University website has further information about how UDL is implemented there: Leveraging a UDL mindset to guide alternate delivery course development.
- As part of the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching & Learning’s open-access digital badge initiative, AHEAD and UCD Access & Lifelong Learning teamed up to create the digital badge for Universal Design in Teaching & Learning. Although the badge is only available to people in the Republic of Ireland, the resources have a Creative Commons licence and can be downloaded from the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning’s website.
- UDLHE Network (A Universal Design for Learning Implementation & Research Network Special Interest Group). This network sends out a regular newsletter and holds quarterly Zoom meetings.
Other relevant conferences/events
- 2021 Summit on demand. The UDL Implementation and Research Network (UDL-IRN) is hosting the 8th Annual International Summit virtually April 12th-14th, 2021. Presenters from around the globe will be joining online to participate both synchronously and asynchronously to deliver content to colleagues in the UDL field.
- 7th Annual CAST symposium: The Future Designed. This event will take place on 28-30/07/21. This event promises to “highlight promising work taking place in the field and will also serve as a forum to think about how we can begin to intentionally design for a better future right now.”
Overall, UDLHE Digicon was an inspirational conference with a wide range of applicable presentations from presenters in the USA, Canada, Norway and the Republic of Ireland. I’ve made contact with a number of presenters and delegates since the event to share ideas. I’m also looking forward to the official website being made available so that I can catch up on the parallel sessions that I was unable to attend.