I wanted to provide a quick update on my restart of The UDL Project: Phase 2, Part 2. I have been reading and sorting and pondering the data we collected in our February 2020 Sharing Circles and Online Survey, and I am in the early days of organizing this data against UDL Principles and a range of accessibility-related challenges experienced by students.
Notable Quotes from Students’ Stories
As I parse the stories that students (and faculty and staff) shared with us before the pandemic, I have been collecting some noteworthy and representative quotes along the way.
One of the questions we asked students in our Sharing Circles and Online Survey was:
What does “Accessibility” mean for you in your life?
Here are some of the responses we received for that question. They are worth ruminating on and considering how you would finish a sentence that begins with “Accessibility means…”
- “creating the space where students can achieve fullest potential”;
- “not feeling self-conscious about how I need to access information”;
- “being on the same playing field as other students who don’t have a disability”;
- “being able to access the college as a whole; the services also affect your college experience and ability to succeed”;
- “all people have the same opportunity to show their contribution to society”;
- “course availability and no financial barriers; and knowing that resources are available to assist you when you need it”;
- “Feeling like this place is for me, was designed for me too”.
It’s now been a year since I posted an update on this project. The past 16-months of remote learning at the college have required the full focus of everyone in eLearning, and all special projects and professional development plans have been on pause for over a year. Thankfully, we are in a much better place now and this has allowed me – at long last! – to return The UDL Project and pick up Phase 2 from where we left off in March of 2020.
Current state & next steps.
In March 2020, our Phase 2 project team had just wrapped the last of our Sharing Circles with students and closed the online survey option for anonymous contributions. We collected many stories, experiences, and suggestions from students in the Circles and from the survey, but had not begun to analyze and organize this data before all the disruptions of 2020.
The mass move to remote learning in 2020 served to highlight some of the very barriers that students shared with us in Circle. Not least among these was that post-secondary systems became vividly aware that students don’t have equal access to technology or the internet. My feeling is that if nothing else, 2020 validated stories about barriers to access that students shared with us before the pandemic hit.
This month, I have begun to review the data we collected last year. I am currently in the early stages of organizing everything we collected into 4 accessibility-related themes: Physical, Cognitive & Comprehension, Financial, and Infrastructure. I will then begin to explore the connections between these accessibility-related barriers to inclusion, and where the pro-active application of Universal Design for Learning guidelines could assist. In addition to UDL, I will also be drawing on the principles of Universal Design, and the technical accessibility standards of WCAG 2.1.
Beginning this fall, I will get to work on the Learning Tool we had planned to create during Phase 2 last year.
2020 & Disruptions to our 2019/2020 UDL Project
[JULY 21, 2020]
It’s taken me a long time to get back to this project. We wrapped our last Sharing Circle discussion with students on March 11; just a few days after that, COVID-19 had disrupted everything for everybody. All of us in the eLearning unit moved into emergency-response mode as we supported the institutional scramble to finish the term online.
For all the students – and college faculty & staff – who participated in our project and the students who generously and bravely shared their stories with the 2019/2020 UDL Project Team, thank you. I speak for myself and on behalf of this year’s project team when I say we were grateful for your contributions and honoured by your trust in us.
When this current period of all-consuming focus on preparing for Fall 2020 eases off enough to allow it, I will pick up the project where our team had to leave it in March. Some of our planned project outcomes may take longer to achieve now and may look a bit different than we’d originally intended, but your stories will be honoured, and the experiences and needs you shared with us will still inform the development of a valuable learning tool for our college community.
Thank you again, and wishing you all the best.
Instructional Designer in eLearning, Centre for Excellence in Teaching & Learning;
Principle Investigator for the UDL Project, Phase 2 at Camosun College.