The Universal Design for Learning Project: Phase 1 (2018/2019) was made possible by funding from the Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills & Training. Phase 1 of the UDL Project focused on the intersection between technical accessibility standards & UDL’s “Multiple forms of Representation”. Outcomes from Phase 1 included the first version of this website, the Accessible Print Materials brochure, and additions to the Student Personas collection and activities.
The UDL Project | Phase 1 (2018/2019): Tools that support inclusive design in education
During Phase 1 of this project, we launched this website: “Practical Applications of Universal Design for Learning (UDL): Inclusion is not a checklist“ because:
“The homogenous class made up of students of similar abilities, backgrounds, ethnicities, interests, learning styles, languages and expectations is long gone – if it ever existed.” 1
In February 2019, Camosun College finalized, approved, and adopted its first Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion Policy. This was followed by our annual Conversations Day, where this year the college community gathered to participate in discussions about Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. In round-table discussions and breakout sessions, recurring questions from that day included:
- “What do we do to create inclusive environments and learning opportunities?”, and
- “What can we be doing better when it comes to building and sustaining inclusive teaching & learning environments?”
These are highly practical questions and deserve practical suggestions and guidelines in response. From a teaching & learning perspective, when we make design choices that enable access to learning for our more marginalized students, we create more resilient and flexible learning environments for all students.
For starters, we need to acknowledge that achieving inclusive design in our teaching & learning approaches and practices is going to be more complex than following something like a static or rigid how-to checklist. The very diversity of our community means that what makes something inclusive will vary from one individual to the next and a checklist alone will just never be flexible enough.
To support our ability to make inclusive design choices in our teaching & learning practices, we need to engage in meaningful collaborations and build a toolkit of inclusive design frameworks, principles and guidelines we can draw from.
“If you aren’t using an inclusive process or inclusive tools, you are fundamentally saying: ‘We’re comfortable with a certain population of people not being involved in this‘.” 2
Among the ecosystem of tools3 in our toolkit of inclusive education design approaches are the proactive strategies found in the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) guidelines.
“UDL [Universal Design for Learning] is based upon the belief that learner variability is the norm… Change occurs when a learning environment is designed proactively to facilitate access to all course materials, instruction, engagement activities, and evaluations, regardless of learner variability.” 4
1 Gorham, Jody & Roberts, Barbara. “You need to know about universal design for learning”. UA/AU University Affairs. August 6, 2014.
2 Jess Mitchell, excerpted from BCcampus Inclusive Design Webinar Series, Part 1 (Feb.5, 2019) with Jess Mitchell from the IDRC.
3 Examples of tools that support inclusive design in education: UDL; Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1; Open Education Practices; Applied Learning Principles; First People’s Learning Principles; Dr. Martin Brokenleg’s “Circle of Courage”.
4 Excerpted from allUDL.ca (September 2018).