The shock has passed, the sadness comes and goes, and the stretchy waistband pants are becoming a mainstay. Your college or university is staying online for the rest of this academic year, as well as summer, and you wonder about fall 2020.

While the trauma of the COVID-19 pandemic persists, it may be time to settle into an educational environment that will be more online than previously imagined.

Warning: You will not get through the same amount of content during this pandemic. Please do not try.

Related content: 10 ways to stay connected when going remote

The most important learning that your students/learners will remember right now is how the authority figures and teachers in their lives dealt with this adversity. Lots of communication, as much empathy as you can handle, and establishing the expectation that every person is doing their best is what students will remember. So, instead of hoping for teaching and learning as “normal,” and when you are ready, try something new.

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) can offer a unique lens or path toward a semblance of normalcy in this abnormal time.

UDL is essential in post-secondary pandemic learning

UDL comes from an educational framework first conceptualized in architecture with Universal Design – creating spaces that are accessible to all – and the challenges of special education, where learning and teaching based on the “average” student was not effective.

In this pandemic, nothing about schools or students is average. A framework that considers wide differences in human behavior and teaches to every student is critical now more than ever. UDL provides a framework to reach every student through online teaching by utilizing neuroscience for learning and following the 3 main principles of engagement, representation, and action and expression.

The first step for educators seeking to transition to an online and effectively teach all students is to start with the concept of engagement. There are a variety of ways people can begin teaching and learning online. But it is critical to start by addressing the sadness, anxiety, and destabilization that results from school closures and the loss of the in-person connections and community they create.

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About the Author:

Kimberly Coy, Ph.D., worked in a completely online public school for over seven years, kindergarten through high school, general and special education. She was part of developing the program and delivery. She holds a Ph.D. in digital learning and special education with an emphasis in Universal Design for Learning. She has done research and published extensively in this area.