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UDL Toolkit

This toolkit will provide ideas for adjustments to your teaching strategies to help you move closer to the ideal environment laid out in the principles of Universal Design for Learning. It’s nearly impossible to attain what one might think of as a 100% universally designed course. However, if you ask yourself "What’s one more way I can foster access and inclusion?," implement that one more thing, then repeat, you’ll get one step closer over and over again. This is called the "Plus One" mentality.

UDL is all about eliminating or lowering barriers to learning. These barriers, for courses, are typically seen in three areas of our instructional choices:

  • Educational Materials (books, articles, videos, etc.)
  • Teaching Methods in the classroom (lecture, discussion, etc.)
  • Learning Assessments (exams, projects, papers, etc.)

Barriers built into one's course design are often unintentional, but can result in students with disabilities and other limiting circumstances being less motivated, less engaged, less likely to learn what you're presenting, and less able to demonstrate what they have learned.

The UDL Principles are essentially split into 3 groups:

  • Multiple means of Engagement
    This ensures students with varying disabilities or circumstances have opportunities to meaningfully take part in the learning experience.
  • Multiple means of Representation (of information)
    This ensures students with varying disabilities or circumstances have opportunities to understand the information being presented.
  • Multiple means of Action/Expression (Assessment)
    This ensures students with varying disabilities or circumstances have opportunities to express their knowledge and display achievement of learning objectives.

Instructional Strategy Ideas
In the table below, you’ll find ideas for those "Plus One" opportunities for you to move closer to providing equal opportunities for your students. They are organized by relation materials, teaching methods, or assessments. We advise that when you use these strategies, go ahead and discuss them with your students to explain why you do it and how it’s meant to help them. For example, if you are recording your classes you ought to explain to the students that it's mean to be a study tool or an augment for their notes rather than an excuse to skip class and that you still have an attendance policy.

If you wish to discuss the implementation of any of the strategies below -- or if you have suggestions for additions or revisions (which we welcome!) -- please reach out to James and Marni. We look forward to hearing from you!

Educational Materials
Materials Strategy Likely Effort Level for Educator Relation to UDL Technology or Other Required Resources Impact for Diverse Learners and/or Students with Accommodations
Ensure your syllabus is clear and accessible and provides all critical information needed for understanding the course goals, expectations, assessment metrics and schedule of activities and assessments for the class. Low Representation and Engagement; The syllabus is often the cornerstone of the course. Making it readable and easily understood is a good way to begin solid engagement. Word

How to Create Inclusive and Accessible Syllabi and Moodle Pages document and checklist
Improved capacity for understanding of expectations and due dates; Greater likelihood of students completing work on time
Provide closed captions for videos. Low or High (see tech column) Representation; allows students to see the information along with hearing it (or not hearing it if they cannot for whatever reason) Panopto
If you have a student that ADS says MUST have ADA quality captions, we can have them professionally captioned.
If you do not, Panopto will automatically create captions that are about 80% accurate. You could then choose to edit them.
While this is a necessary accommodation for some students with a hearing impairment, many students with processing impairments would likely benefit
Provide descriptions of assignments in writing with essential information clearly delineated (with bullets, in bold, and underlined) Low Representation; Provides clarity of expectations, rather than having essential information buried in multiple paragraphs Word Eliminates the need to provide this as an accommodation for individual students
Make sure digital copies of reading materials are able to be used by a screen-reader and follow general accessibility guidelines. Low Representation; Allows students to use screen-readers and is visually easier to navigate. Use the conversion tool on the Dickinson College Assistive Technology Page if your file is not already accessible.
View this video for general accessibility help in Word and Moodle.
Fosters inclusion for non-native English speakers and those with reading challenges.
Eliminates the need for the accommodation of providing texts in accessible formats
Record audio file of someone reading required readings. Medium Representation; Allows students with reading difficulties to hear the reading with a human voice. Use a podcast room in the basement of Bosler Hall. Note: You could ask a student to record for you and give them some kind of extra credit. Same
Record a video-lecture providing an in-depth summary of required readings; possibly with slides to augment what’s being said. High Representation; Allows students with reading difficulties to learn the material through a video-lecture rather than reading. Use Panopto and PowerPoint. Particularly helpful for students with traumatic brain injuries

Teaching Methods in the Classroom and Beyond
Classroom Strategy Likely Effort Level for Educator Relation to UDL Technology or Other Required Resources Impact for Diverse Learners and/or Students with Accommodations
Set familiar class routines:
  • Start class by telling students what they’re about to learn and its relevance
  • Establish predictable routines
  • Organize your Moodle content clearly and consistently
Low Engagement; Knowing what to expect helps students focus on the lesson. Minimizes distractions. None (other than Moodle) Students with an array of challenges (anxiety, neurodivergence, executive functioning deficits, distractibility, etc.) will be better able to attend and engage.
Close doors, lower blinds, etc. to reduce distractions Low Engagement; lowering distractions helps students engage in the class. None (See above)
Post ppts and class notes for all students to access Low Engagement; Promotes inclusion for students who are unable to take notes while focusing on the presented lesson at the same time. PowerPoint, Word, Moodle All students can benefit from comparing their own notes to those of others. This would also eliminate the need for the accommodation having a peer note-taker
Wait time: silently count to 10 before calling on students after you’ve asked a question. Low Engagement; This allows students to think about the question long enough to have meaningful engagement with it. None This is particularly useful for non-native speakers, students with less exposure to the material, and those with processing impairments
Provide alternatives to cold-calling, such as students being able to turn in index cards with information they were too afraid to share aloud in class, or a cue (like putting their pen on their chin) to show readiness Low Engagement; Many students spend more time in class afraid of being called on than focused on what’s being presented. This would eliminate that. None Students with fears of being called on (or related accommodations) would still be able to demonstrate what they know
Face students when speaking Low General accessibility practice so students can best hear and understand you. None Helpful for students who may have difficulty with accents. Critical for students who lip read.
Supply or activate background information especially regarding vocabulary or discipline-specific jargon. Low Engagement; Students are coming from a vast array of high school experiences; some need reminders of what they’ve learned, other never learned it None Students with certain cognitive disabilities will especially benefit from being provided explicit connections between past and current work.
Record Class
Note: Do not use this if you’re teaching a course that often has sensitive discussions (e.g. sexual violence).
Low once you build it into your routine. Engagement; Knowing ahead of time there will be a recording made available, students can focus on the here and now. Classroom camera/microphone, Panopto May eliminate the need for the accommodation to record class themselves. Valuable for students with chronic medical conditions who may need to miss class.
Refrain from forcing leadership roles in group projects on students who do not desire one. Low Engagement; Maximizes comfort and trust None Students who would be anxious about the leadership role may not be able to focus on the work of the project.
Provide opportunities for students to reflect on what you’ve just taught and articulate it (called “think-pair-share") Low Presentation, Action/Expression, Engagement; This not only activates learning, it enables you to assess what is being grasped and how students are engaging None Students with memory impairments will better solidify information if it is broken up and activated
Provide choices for independent work rather than requiring students to pair up. (e.g., allow students to remain independent rather than pairing.) Low Engagement; If students are anxious about working with others, they may not be able to engage with the work. None Particularly helpful for neurodivergent students (particularly students on the autism spectrum and those with social anxiety)
Provide alternative way for students to express thoughts during class discussions if they are uncomfortable verbalizing them. Medium Action/Expression; students with the potential to make contributions to discussions but have trouble verbalizing could express those contributions another way. Digital whiteboard
Shared Word Document
(Take one of these and put it on your projector. Students that wish not to speak can put their ideas/contributions on what’s being projected in real-time.)
Particularly helpful for neurodivergent students (particularly students on the autism spectrum and those with social anxiety)
Provide timely & quality feedback so that students know how they’re doing and how to improve Depends on number of students Engagement; Supports students’ skill development and encourages perseverance None Students who struggle with mental health challenges tend to do better with regular feedback rather than feeling anxious about the unknown
Explain how current learning is transferrable (or useful) to other courses or life situations. Low Engagement; Students are more likely to be engaged in their work if they know it will help them long-term. None Relevance has a direct impact on motivation and tenacity

Learning Assessments
Assessment Strategy Likely Effort Level for Educator Relation to UDL Technology
or Other Required Resources
Impact for Diverse Learners and/or Students with Accommodations
Consult pedagogical resources or experts in your department to ensure that the volume of what you’re asking students to do in their exams, quizzes, projects, assignments, etc. is manageable in the timeframe given. Low Engagement; It’s not uncommon for assessments to better measure test-taking skills rather than content knowledge. Campus colleagues This will help students persist and remain engaged with the course without being overwhelmed.
Eliminate or minimize timed tests or else ensue that adequate time is allotted Low Action & Expression, Engagement; Timed-tests often better reveal test-taking skills than accurately capturing aptitude. Students who feel better able to show what they know are more engaged and motivated to learn. None Many smart, capable students without accommodations are not fast test-takers. This could eliminate the need for students’ accommodation to have extended time on tests.
Allow online tests to be taken when a student chooses Low Action & Expression, Engagement; Some students have back-to-back classes, work several jobs, or do better at certain times of the day. Moodle Students with chronic migraines, sleep disorders, or who rely on prescription medication for their functionality would benefit from choosing when to take their tests.
Provide distraction-reduced test-taking environments Depends on your classroom Engagement; Students who are distracted may not be able to engage with the exam or quiz. Allow desks to face the wall
Trifold cardboard privacy screens
May reduce the need for students to make use of the Proctoring Center
Collect digital copies of class notes so you can make sure students are taking good notes; you can then share quality notes with the class. Medium Engagement; This plays a part in monitoring levels of engagement as well as a way to monitor progress of your students. Moodle or Class Notebook (part of OneNote)  
Present a certain number of test questions and then tell students they need to answer all but 5 of them. Low Action & Expression, Engagement: This increases your ability to learn students’ areas of weakness and for them to have time to address them. None  
Divide long-term projects into short-term objectives. Offer feedback on the short-term work. Low Engagement; Helping your students to plan their work helps them engage with that work. None (although you could use tools like Microsoft Planner to help)  
Provide guidance for students to know when and how to ask for help.
Confirm students understand instructions before work begins.
Low Engagement: Helping your students know how you or staff offices can assist them will help them engage with their work None  
Use formative assessments to gauge student understanding.
Usefulness of formative assessment is increased when students are encouraged to ask follow-up questions.
Low Engagement and Action/Expression; Formative assessments keep students engaged and they inform you as the teacher as to how students are doing with their learning objectives. Pen and paper
Poll Everywhere, etc.
Provide alternative formats for various assignments -- big and small. If you assign a paper, perhaps allow a presentation or documentary to be made. High Action/Expression; Students for whom writing is a barrier may be able to display successful completion of learning objectives another way. Depends on the options available.  
Model multiple means of solving the same problem. Medium Action/Expression; We’re seeing this especially in the math field that various students succeed with various ways of getting to the same result. Modeling those various methods can help your students that need it. Use Panopto to record alternative ways to solve problems examined in class.  
Offer what you can to account for the increasingly high demands on student’s time. (e.g., offer several passes to turn things in late.) Low Engagement; Students who are not as stressed are more likely to have higher levels of engagement with their work. None  
Offer alternative grading or "ungrading" to alleviate the stressors associated with grades, particularly high-stakes grades. High Engagement; students who are not as stressed are more likely to have higher levels of engagement with their work. Center for Teaching Learning and Research can help with this.