This week you will look at the students challenges you have in an online course you teach
What are the needs of your students? What are your students struggling with? After you reflect you will identify and set a goal to help your students.
When you design online activities, you want to create a learning environment that is flexible and allows for equal learning opportunities for all students. When you use Universal Design for Learning (UDL) your courses will be designed to reduce the barriers faced by your students.
- “The Why” relates to different student interests, backgrounds, experiences, and personalities. What’s engaging to one person may be boring or even overwhelming to others.Designing learning experiences that allow students to use their background knowledge and experiences to make emotional connections to new concepts.
- “The What” relates to how students demonstrate mastery of what they’ve learned. Many students are able to express themselves more skillfully in one medium than they can in another. We can help students by providing them with multiple means of action and expression or allowing them to express what they know in variety of ways.
- “The How” relates to the way students take in information. There is not an optimal way of presenting information to address the diverse needs of all students. Some prefer reading, others prefer listening or watching demonstrations. Providing multiple representations of information: auditory, text, visual, demonstrations, helps all students to learn better. If we teach in only one way, some students won’t learn.
Students have different interests, backgrounds, experiences, and personalities. What’s engaging to one person may be boring or even overwhelming to others.
Designing learning experiences that allow students to use their background knowledge and experiences to make emotional connections to new concepts.
We help students answer these questions.
- Why should I care about this?
- Why should I learn it?
- Why is this important to me?
Many factors may prevent students from becoming and staying engaged in learning.
- Students don’t understand the purpose of the lesson.
- The assignment is too easy or too difficult.
- The assignment has no value in the student’s life.
- Students may lack executive functions or coping strategies.
- Students may think the content is boring or irrelevant.
- Students may be embarrassed to ask questions.
- Students may have insufficient background knowledge.
Consider your learning environment, could any of these barriers be impacting your students’ motivation, engagement or persistence?
- Capturing interest
- Fostering self-regulation
- Sustaining effort and persistence
You can capture students’ interest by providing multiple access points so that all students can access the concepts or skill.
- Help students make connections to prior knowledge and experiences.
- Share the goal or purpose of the assignment or reading.
- Design material so it’s relevant to student needs and interests.
- Connect learning to the real world.
- Provide detailed directions, examples, rubrics, and options for assignments.
In order for students to stay engaged in the learning process, it’s important to help them develop strategies that support self-regulation.
- Require students to evaluate their work using the rubric as a guide.
- Ask them to assign themselves a grade for each criterion.
- Ask them to identify areas of strength and areas they need to improve upon.
- Provide students with opportunities to reflect on their learning, and their learning processes, to see what’s working and what isn’t.
Self-evaluation and reflection are both effective strategies to foster student self-regulation.
Sustaining Effort and Persistence
Capturing your students’ interest is a necessary first step, but it’s also important to help them sustain their effort and persistence so they can meet your learning goals.
- Provide opportunities for students to develop their work.
- Establish check-in-times so that students can receive feedback on their work.
- Require students to submit drafts of their work.
- Provide developmental feedback and require students to incorporate the feedback into their final submission.
- Require students to conduct peer reviews and use the rubric to provide feedback to one another.
- Establish check-in-times so that students can receive feedback on their work.
- Encourage students to make and learn from their mistakes.
“The What” relates to how students demonstrate mastery of what they’ve learned. Many students are able to express themselves more skillfully in one medium than they can in another. We can help students by providing them with multiple means of action and expression or allowing them to express what they know in variety of ways.
Ask yourself these questions.
- How will my learners show me what they have learned?
- How will they demonstrate mastery of learning?
Many factors may prevent students from fully expressing what they have learned.
- Traditional Tests
- Text anxiety may cause students to perform poorly.
- Skipped questions may cause answers to be tracked incorrectly.
- Students may misunderstand the directions.
- Students may have poor recall of isolated facts, details, or concepts.
- Time constraints may cause students to perform poorly.
- Papers or Projects
- Students don’t know how/where to begin.
- Students don’t know how to organize information.
- Students may not have a clear understanding of the task/grading criteria.
Often students who struggle with tests or writing, excel at other types of assessments. In order to provide opportunities for all students, it’s important to consider and include a variety of assessments types.
Consider your learning environment, could any of these barriers be impacting your students’ ability to demonstrate their understanding?
- Provide Choices
- Provide Support
When you are able, provide students with a choice of the way they express mastery of learning. As long as the grading criteria focuses on the learning goals, and not the format, one rubric can be used to assess a variety of options.
- Graphic Organizers
When you can’t offer choices in the way students express what they’ve learned (and even when you can) you can also provide support. Support might include:
- Practice Opportunities
- Developmental Feedback
- Practice Quizzes
When designing assessments, ask yourself, “What is the goal of this assignment and how can it be modified to provide choices and/or support.
“The How” relates to the way students take in information. There is not an optimal way of presenting information to address the diverse needs of all students. Some prefer reading, others prefer listening or watching demonstrations. Providing multiple representations of information: auditory, text, visual, demonstrations, helps all students to learn better. If we teach in only one way, some students won’t learn.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- What information or skills am I focusing on?
- What strategies can I use to help students make sense of this information?
Many factors may make it difficult for students to take in new information.
- Poor vision
- Inability to decode text
- Poor reading comprehension
- Slow reading
- Lack of background knowledge
- Difficulty understanding the vocabulary
- Unfamiliar with the symbols or acronyms being used
- Reading level of text is too difficult
- Text structure is difficult to follow
- Unclear purpose for reading
Lectures and Videos
- Hearing impairment
- Attention issues
- Poor memory
- Lack of background knowledge
- Unfamiliar vocabulary or subject matter terms
- English as a second language – translation difficulty
- Unclear purpose for viewing
Consider your course or learning environment. Are any of these barriers impacting your students’ ability to take in and comprehend information?
- Language, Mathematical Expression, and Symbols
It’s important to provide options for how learners perceive information. Consider how you can provide options for your learners.
When you are providing textual information, offer different reading levels and structures. All texts are not created equal. The reading level and structure of a textbook is different from the reading level and layout of a website, journal or news article. Word clouds are great conversation starters because they include all of the key characteristics of a concept.
Text Options Include:
- Journal articles
- News articles
- Text versions of lectures
- Word Clouds
Non-Text Options Include:
- Graphic Organizers
Language, Mathematical Expression, and Symbols
Just as students vary in the ways they best take in information, they also vary in their familiarity with vocabulary, acronyms, mathematical expressions and symbols. Provide text alternatives to familiarize them with these concepts.
- Pre-teach vocabulary
- Provide alternative text descriptions for graphic information
- Preteach and highlight mathematical expressions or equations
- Accompany symbols with text support
Another way that you can address how students take in information is providing comprehension support.
Strategies for improving text comprehension include providing:
- A purpose for reading
- An introduction to establish context
- Guided questions to focus learners on important points and concepts
- Reading or viewing guides
- Graphic organizers for notetaking
- E-versions of texts so students can customize according to their preferences
Strategies for readings, lectures, or videos include:
- Activating background knowledge
- Clarifying misconceptions
- Highlighting relationships and critical features
- Connecting new ideas to existing understandings
You can also improve comprehension by supporting vocabulary development. Strategies for vocabulary development include:
- Providing new terms ahead of time
- Directing learners toward resources like glossaries
- Telling learners why it’s important to be familiar with discipline specific terms
- Creating “check your understanding” quizzes
Next, we look at the ways in which learning goals can be constructed through the lens of Universal Design for Learning. Within instructional design, goals are expectations for knowledge, skills, or outcomes. These expectations can be communicated as performance goals — which focus on proving ability — or as learning goals (also known as mastery goals), which emphasize developing and improving an ability.
Why Learning Goals?
Why is this important in higher education? Learners at all stages benefit from being aware of their own goals and the goals instructors and institutions hold for them.2 Some instructional circumstances call for performance goals; but learning goals, oriented towards growth, are more likely to support course completion, persistence through challenging transitions, and change in deeply-held conceptions.3
Clear Learning Goals
Consider how goals are articulated and communicated: goals that unnecessarily prescribe narrow means of achievement will inadvertently privilege, exclude, and under-engage learners.4 Clear goals are the cornerstone of well-designed curricula, as only through clarification of what learners are expected to accomplish, and by when, can instructors begin to consider which assessments, methods and materials will be most effective.
UDL Learning Goals
In the UDL model, goals move beyond their traditional role in curriculum planning as mere content or performance markers. A UDL approach seeks to create clear learning goals and support the development of expert, lifelong learners that are strategic, resourceful, and motivated.5 A UDL approach to effective learning goals in postsecondary settings consists of three key components:
- separating the means from the ends
- addressing variability in learning
- providing UDL options in the materials, methods, and assessments
Separating the Means from the Ends
From a UDL perspective, goals and objectives should be attainable by different learners in different ways. In some instances, linking a goal with the means for achievement may be intentional; however, often times we unintentionally embed the means of achievement into a goal, thereby restricting the pathways students can take to meet it.
The following sample curricular goal is articulated as: “Write a paragraph about how the circulatory system works.” What are the barriers this goal might pose for students?
Writing a paragraph is an additional task layered over mastery of the content knowledge that you want your students to attain. Rephrasing this goal into something like, “Describe a complete cycle in the circulatory system” is more explicit about what students should be able to explain, and allows flexibility in terms of how students convey their knowledge (create a diagram, label an image, write out the steps in the process, make a short video explaining an image, etc.). It is also more of a learning goal than a performance goal in that it invites students to demonstrate the fullest extent of their understanding – rather than asking them to prove that they can write a paragraph.
In your College Writing Seminar, the learning goal (learning how to write strong essays) is frequently linked to the production means (writing essays). Given the wide variability of writing abilities in the classroom, you want to be sure that your students first get a strong understanding of the concept of a thesis statement first before adding the additional challenge of writing one.
In the case of this learning objective, the desired outcome is that students understand the concept of a strong thesis statement–perhaps as a prerequisite to writing one. Therefore, the means by which students demonstrate this ability can be more flexible, since the concept of a thesis statement and the ability to write one are not always one in the same. Students could write a thesis statement, but they could also put forward a video with a narrative, or some sort of visual. Requiring that students fulfill this objective through only one modality would, for some students, add task-irrelevant demands that pose a barrier to their fundamental understanding of a thesis statement.
Goals need to be relevant to students. Especially at the postsecondary level — where there is a focus on functioning independently in professions or life after school — educators must consider that “students will never use knowledge they don’t care about, nor will they practice or apply skills they don’t find valuable.”6
Before you Begin
Google@UH Consumer Apps
Under an agreement with Google, the University of Hawaii (UH) offers two types of Google applications through Google@UH:
Core Apps include Gmail, Calendar, Drive, Sites, Groups (UH-only account collaboration), Contacts, and Talk. These applications are governed by a master agreement between UH and Google, and are available through Google@UH to all UH accounts.
Consumer Apps include applications such as Blogger, Google Bookmarks, Google Maps, Google Groups (all account collaboration), Google+, Picasa Web Albums, Google Analytics and YouTube.
Turn on Consumer Apps
- To use the Consumer Apps with your Google@UH account, you must first turn on the Consumer Apps at http://www.hawaii.edu/google/extra.
Instructions to turn on the Consumer Apps are at http://www.hawaii.edu/askus/1649.
Join the Google+ Community
Quick rundown on how to use Google+
- Click on ‘Home’ to view your home stream – here you’ll see posts based on your interests and what/who you follow.
- Click on ‘Collections’ to see and share posts based on topics you’re interested in.
- Click on ‘Communities’ to have conversations with other people who share your interests.
- Click on ‘Profile’ to see your own posts.
- Click on ‘People’ to find people to follow, see who you are currently following (that’s where you manage your circles as well), or who follows you.
- Click on ‘Circle Streams’ to see streams (posts) from specific circles you’ve created. (NOTE: if you don’t see this option, go to Settings, scroll down to Advanced Settings, and turn on ‘Enable circle stream in navigation’.)
- In ‘Settings’ you can fine-tuned a few profile features, as well as your notifications.
Earn Your Badge
First- Introduce Yourself
Click on >Introduce yourself
The link above takes you to the Introduction section UDL Online Activity Challenge. Please take a moment and tell us who you are and why you are here. Click on to post your introduction.
Follow the steps below to complete your action plan this week.
1Dweck, C. S. (1986). Motivational processes affecting learning. American Psychologist, 41(10), 1040; Rusk, N., Tamir, M., & Rothbaum, F. (2011). Performance and learning goals for emotion regulation. Motivation and Emotion, 35(4), 444-460. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11031-011-9229-6
2Simon, B., & Taylor, J. (2009). What is the value of course-specific learning goals. Journal of College Science Teaching, 39(2), 52-57. https://testwww2.bc.edu/maya-tamir/download/rusk%20et%20al_201
3Yeager, D. S., & Dweck, C. S. (2012). Mindsets that promote resilience: When students believe that personal characteristics can be developed. Educational Psychologist, 47(4), 302-314; Ranellucci, J., Muis, K. R., Duffy, M., Wang, X., Sampasivam, L., & Franco, G. M. (2013). To master or perform? Exploring relations between achievement goals and conceptual change learning. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 83(3), 431-451.http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23822530
4Meyer, A., Rose, D. H., & Gordon, D. (2014). Universal design for learning: Theory and practice. Wakefield MA:CAST Professional Publishing. http://udltheorypractice.cast.org/login
6Rose, D. H., Harbour, W. S., Johnston, C. S., Daley, S. G., & Abarbanell, L. (2006). Universal Design for Learning in Postsecondary Education: Reflections on Principles and their Application. Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disability, 19(2), 135-151. http://www.udlcenter.org/sites/udlcenter.org/files/UDLinPostsecondary.pdf
Original content from “Accessibility: Designing and Teaching Courses for All Learners” by , Innovative Instruction Technology Grant (IITG) , State University of New York (SUNY) is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0