UDL Design Hacks For Online Courses and Programs

Concurrent Session 2 & 3 (combined)
Streamed Session

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Session Materials

Brief Abstract

How many of your students come into your online learning environments fully prepared, having done all of the reading and eager to take an active part in the course? Yeah, mine never used to, either.

The reasons for this lack of student engagement and preparation can seem obvious: students' laziness, their lack of discipline, or their desire to do the minimum possible. But these reasoned hunches are just plain wrong.

In this workshop, you'll learn the real reason why learners aren’t as engaged as we'd like them to be (spoiler alert: it’s time management), and then you will learn, practice, and apply the principles of universal design for learning (UDL) with one of your own lessons or units. We’ll do this work together in order to lower barriers to fuller engagement, study, and participation for your students. This workshop is highly interactive. Please bring or have access to your lecture notes, a lesson plan, or a syllabus for one of your online courses or learning interactions, and we will address real challenges together through small teaching and design changes.

UDL is work that pays you (and all of your students) back many times over, so come spend some time breaking down barriers with the author of Reach Everyone, Teach Everyone: UDL in Higher Education.


Thomas J. Tobin, PhD, MSLS, PMP, MOT, CPACC is the Program Area Director for Distance Teaching & Learning on the Learning Design, Development, & Innovation (LDDI) team at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, as well as an internationally-recognized speaker and author on quality in technology-enhanced education. His books include • Evaluating Online Teaching: Implementing Best Practices (2015). • The Copyright Ninja: Rise of the Ninja (2017). • Reach Everyone, Teach Everyone: Universal Design for Learning in Higher Education (2018). • Going Alt-Ac: A Guide to Alternative Academic Careers (2020).

Extended Abstract

Learning Outcomes Participants in this workshop will be able to:

  • identify current learning interactions that often go differently than planned;
  • map the principles of universal design for learning (UDL) onto course- or unit-level learning outcomes;
  • apply the principles of UDL to lower barriers for challenging learning interactions;
  • transfer UDL principles specifically to writing-based activities and assignments in your courses; and * create multimodal learning interactions to increase learners' engagement, access to information, and/or choice for action & expression.  

Workshop Progression

Introductions, expectations, & the accessible universe

Activity 1: what learner interactions don't go as you want them to? What's the gap? Identifying barriers The concept of UDL: 3 brain networks, why/what/how, access vs. accessibility, +1 Addressing the gaps through design

Activity 2: how variable are your learners? Ability, schedule, level of preparedness, data connection types How to applied UDL in the online curriculum, specific how-to examples

Activity 3: Apply some +1 thinking to one of your own learning interactions.

Participant report-outs and sharing

Share your 1 biggest take-away from the work you’ve done and seen others do today. What idea, question, or practice will you bring back and do, share, or try?