Universal Design for Learning is Not Learning Styles

Icons representing universal design for learning
Icons from https://www.flaticon.com

Recently, I had a conversation at a conference with an educator, who claimed universal design for learning is learning styles, so we should use learning styles in instruction or training.

No, they are not the same.

Universal design for learning (UDL) facilitates the achievement of learning goals for individuals with learning differences and capabilities [1], as it provides a blueprint and framework to create instructional goals, content, and assessment that can suit everyone [2].

UDL consists of three main blocks tailored to the instructional environment [3] that addresses learning differences [4]. These are multiple means of:

1) Presentation: using a variety of ways to present the content to help learners acquire knowledge [3], e.g. text to speech [5]

2) Action and expression: encouraging learners to demonstrate their learning in a variety of ways, such as writing an essay, recording an audio response or creating a video [2]

3) Engagement: using a range of practices and adjustable levels of challenge to enhance learners’ motivation [6], e.g. TheReadingbar software that contains a volume control slider [5]

Considering learning differences and the pace of learning in different individuals, implementing UDL could help learners who cannot keep up with their peers, or have some learning disabilities. UDL does not just provide accessibility, but it eliminates barriers so every learner can succeed [6]. Organizations and instructional designers could use UDL in their learning design process. Extensive research has proven that the use of UDL supports strategic learning and enhance learners’ learning experience [3, 7, 8].

As you see, UDL is different than learning styles, which has been debunked due to not having any supporting evidence. In contrast, research on UDL has been widely replicated and grounded in learning sciences, neuroscience, and cognitive science. It is deeply rooted in Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD), scaffolding, and modeling.

If you are interested, learn more about UDL here.

 

References

(1) Trostle Brand, S., Favazza, A., & Dalton, E. (2012). Universal design for learning: A blueprint for success for all learners. Kappa Delta Pi Record, 48(3), 134-139.

(2) Tobin, T.J. (2014). Increase online student retention with universal design for learning. Quarterly Review of Distance Education, 15(3), p13-24. 12 pp.

(3) Schelly, C.L, Davies, P.L. & Spooner, C.L. (2011). Student perceptions of faculty implementation of universal design for learning. Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disability, 24(1), 17-30. Retrieved from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ941729.pdf

(4) CAST (2011). Universal design for learning guidelines.Retrieved from www.udlcenter.org

(5) Edyburn, D.L. (2005). Universal design for learning. Retrieved from http://www.ocali.org/up_doc/UDL_SETP7.pdf

(6) Novak, K. (2016). UDL now!: A teacher’s guide to applying universal design for learning in today’s classrooms. CAST Professional Publishing, 45, 237-238.

(7) Smith, F.G. (2012). Analyzing a Ccollege course that adheres to the universal design for learning (UDL) framework. Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 12(3), 31 – 61. Retrieved from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ992116.pdf

(8) Spencer, J. &Whittaker, C.R. (2017). UDL A Blueprint for Learning Success. Educational Leadership, 74(7), 59-63.

My Reflections on a Learning Event

Around a week ago, I was kindly invited to speak at TLCAsia Conference organized by Blackboard.

It was indeed a great conference with great speakers who each had invaluable experiences to share. The event coincided with my birthday, for which I felt this would truly be one memorable day for me as no gift is as precious as learning and sharing. Among learning events, I love conferences most, since I get to learn different viewpoints and connect with many people.

In my presentation, I shared my case study on course design following 3E Framework. I shared different strategies a learning designer should take in tackling learning design issues. (If PPT slides are not uploaded on the conference website, I’ll share mine with you on Slideshare.)

As usual, after the event, I did some reflections and reviewed my notes. Here I’d like to share my thoughts visually. The two-day conference covered technology adoption to enhance learning and made us see a more global view of it rather than only focus on learning design. In order to have a successful technology adoption, different factors as shown below from top to bottom should be considered. Continue reading My Reflections on a Learning Event

Effective Learning Design

Are we designing eLearning courses following a common practice?

I recently listened to Ethan Edward’s webinar on ‘10 ways to ruin your eLearning’, and it sparked some thoughts in me.

Here are the 10 ways mentioned by Ethan: Continue reading Effective Learning Design