Educational Development Digest: January 2023

What is Universal Design for Learning?

Pedagogy in Practice | By Elizabeth Harsma, Ph.D.  Instructional Designer/Technologist, Minnesota State University, Mankato

If you enrolled in the short course Equity and Technology this past November, you may have been introduced to the term Universal Design for Learning (UDL). As many of use prepare for the start of our spring term courses, we thought it might be helpful to share some background on UDL.

UDL was originally inspired by the Universal Design movement in architecture – this movement aimed to design buildings that are accessible and usable by as many people as possible. UDL applies this same goal to learning design (CAST, 2018). 

The UDL framework is a tool to help educators optimize learning experiences for everyone. Although UDL focuses on classrooms – we think this framework can also be applied in a variety of situations where learning and teaching occur – including many work settings!

The UDL guidelines are based on the science of how people learn – especially the variability in the ways students engage, process, and express their learning:

Guideline Goal 
Multiple Means of EngagementExpert learners who are purposeful and motivated.
Multiple Means of RepresentationExpert learners who are resourceful and knowledgeable.
Multiple Means of Action and ExpressionExpert learners who are strategic and goal-directed.

To learn more about UDL, watch this playlist of six captioned videos that covers these topics:

  • Definition and Explanation (5:01 minutes)
  • UDL Guidelines (4:41 minutes)
  • Engagement Strategies (5:27 minutes)
  • Representation Strategies (4:33 minutes)
  • Action and Expression Strategies (5:07 minutes)
  • Culturally Diverse Learners (5:08 minutes) (Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning at Oakland University, 2017)

As your spring term unfolds, we encourage you to consider how you might apply UDL principles to student learning experiences.

While UDL alone provides significant value in supporting access and accessibility – it isn’t the whole picture in equitable learning. When we intentionally connect to culturally responsive and antiracist teaching and apply these methodologies through the UDL framework, it becomes a tool to support equitable learning (more on this in next month’s digest!).

Using whiteboards with accessibility in mind

Academic Technology Tips | Brock Behling, Program Director for Instructional Technology

Zoom released new enhancements to their whiteboard tool which allows for potentially more engaging experiences for some users but if this tool isn’t facilitated and used effectively, it can prevent full participation. When facilitating any activity, it is important to consider core principles of accessibility.  

Some major accessibility categories can be remembered through the acronym P.O.U.R.

P – Perceive

O – Operate

U – Understand

R – Robust

The success criteria for accessible web content are categorized in each of the four areas associated with this acronym.

Ensuring that content is Perceivable is foundational.  

Whiteboards rely on visual depictions of ideas and not everyone perceives visual cues the same way. Assistive technology is only able to interpret properly indexed content but is not able to infer meaning or order from non-conforming content. Relying solely on assistive technology is not practical for dynamic content without human narration and clear support from a moderator, as excessive notifications of changes can be overwhelming and unidentified visual patterns can be suppressed from outputs.    

As a best practice in a real-time session, the moderator should describe new visual elements as they appear on screen.  This information should be live captioned and interpreted if needed with access to the full transcript of what is being vocalized. 

Ensuring that the tool can be Operated by all participants is another key element for inclusive learning.  

Some of the whiteboard enhancements can only be used with a pointing device as they rely on paths and endless canvas positioning.   Keyboard access is limited so offering opportunities to engage with the tool through other methods should be allowed.  

As a best practice when using a whiteboard, moderators should include time for additional input by actively soliciting feedback from all users to ensuring that individuals can contribute to the collaborative opportunity through multiple means as it is possible that their device or input method does not have full access to operate within the tool or that they need additional time to use the tool through alternative inputs to contribute. 

Ensuring that the information being shared is Understood is essential for education. 

Clear communication with whiteboards can be a challenge. Similarly, when more than one person speaks at a time and crosstalk can impede the ability to understand the content, simultaneous collaboration can lead to an agglomerate of ideas with overlapping content that becomes undecipherable after the fact.   

As a best practice, taking time to provide regular summaries, reorganizing material, and removing clutter can lead to a fuller understanding of the content.  Speaking slowly and articulating can allow assistive technology or interpreters enough time to accurately present the information shared.  

Ensuring that information is presented through a Robust tool allows individuals to react to, engage with, and participate through an equitable experience.  

In summary, the moderator can help remove any accessible barrier by ensuring that the content is perceivable for sensory and cognitive differences, that the participants are given sufficient resources and time to operate the tools, that they narrate any changes and explain the meaning of the content in multiple ways to help individuals fully understand the content, and finally that they pause to allow for additional collaboration and they should acknowledge all reactions and contributions to the content even if it isn’t added through the actual tool. 

Enjoy the new tool’s capability and applying inclusive teaching principles in your upcoming sessions!

A NED Year In Review

Did You Know? | By Megan Babel, Communications Coordinator, Academic and Student Affairs

The numbers are in! Review the image below to view just a few the Network for Educational Development’s 2022 accomplishments. The NED is thankful to all Minnesota State faculty and staff who helped develop, facilitate, promote, and participated in the NED events offered in 2022. We are excited for what 2023 has in store and encourage you to continue to grow with your Minnesota State community personally and professionally.

The theme of Creating Equity Through Connection continues! The new Spring 2023 Short Courses and Faculty Learning Communities are open for registration now! Check back often as webinars will continue to be added throughout the term. Receive a weekly Upcoming Events email by becoming a member of the NED Resource Site.


Educational Development and Technology, Minnesota State.

View past editions of the Educational Development Digest.

Visit the NED Events Calendar to view upcoming educational development opportunities. Visit the NED Resource Site for recordings of previous webinars and additional resources.

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