One core concept of Universal Design includes anticipating and planning for the diverse needs of potential users which results in a product better suited to the needs of all users. When applying the concept of Universal Design to instruction, the desired outcomes should be designed to benefit all students. This thoughtful pre-planning results in a better learning experience for all students. Utilizing Universal Design principles can save time for instructors, reduce possible stigma associated with asking for special accommodations, and provide a greater sense of equity and fairness for students in your course.
Below is a framework to assist in creating a course design that is aligned with these principles:
- Identify the learning objectives for the course and the contribution the course makes to the broader curriculum.
- State explicitly the generic skills your course will foster (e.g., research skills, written and oral communication, leadership skills, computational skills, etc.).
- Identify the intended depth of each learning objective (i.e., is the objective to be introduced, reinforced, or mastered?).
- Create a guiding framework or conceptual model (e.g., concept map, graphic syllabus) that visually links all of the major learning objectives of the course.
- Use a guiding framework for planning the sequencing and integration of course components and for explaining the intent of the course (and each section) to students. Refer back to this framework throughout the course.
- Ensure congruence among learning objectives, learning activities, and methods of assessment.
- Develop learning and assessment activities that 1) require students to acquire essential building blocks or core concepts and then focus on their application and extension and/or 2) expose students to broad concepts and then require them to explore the various sub-components of the concept.
- Include weekly activities (e.g., readings, quizzes, postings, etc) in the course design to help students keep pace with the material.
- Consider how instructors of pre- or post-requisite courses organize and present their course material (e.g., websites, manuals, course outlines) so presentation is reasonably consistent from one course to the next.
- Talk to a colleague and ask for feedback on the clarity of your framework, learning objectives, activities, and assessments.