Universal design for learning: 3 aces up our IT sleeves

[Editor’s note: This article is reprinted with permission of the author and the publisher. “Universal Design for Learning: Three Aces Up Our IT Sleeves” was originally published in EDUCAUSE Review on February 4, 2019.]

A very short digression about cards

To become top-ranked poker players, aspiring superstars need to develop a core group of card-playing skills that go way beyond “know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em.” Experts learn the various combinations of cards that rank higher or lower, as well as how rarely such combinations occur in the game. They understand how various factors influence their confidence in the cards they have been dealt—the number of players at the table, the number of cards that have already been played, how other players are betting, checking, raising, and calling. They can bluff and indicate that they have great cards when really they don’t. All of these ideas and tactics are part of playing the game at an expert level.

Another strategy that you’ve probably seen in movies about the Old West is to hide aces—the best cards—up your sleeve and hope that no one else sees you employ them to put together winning hands. Of course, that’s cheating, and it could get you beat up (or worse).…Read More

How to create engaging online assignments with universal design in mind

With the rapid growth of distance learning technologies over the past decade, education has become available to more students than ever. More than 6.3 million American students took at least one online course in fall 2016, a number that continues to increase annually.

Virtual classrooms offer the flexibility to complete assignments around diverse schedules, allowing non-traditional students and working professionals to obtain degrees. However, digital learning environments offer so much more than convenience for learners; they eliminate physical barriers for impaired students who may have difficulty attending class in person.

For example, deaf students may require an interpreter to translate content into American Sign Language for in-person classes. This may lead them to miss interactions or questions from peers while watching the interpreter. However, if videos in online courses include captions or transcripts, they allow hearing-impaired students to receive the same content without needing an accommodation. There are also various tools and technologies available to assist students who may have visual, physical, or cognitive impairments in online courses.…Read More