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Information Technology and Universal Design for Learning

Our last few articles have introduced the three principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL). In this article, we explore how information technology can help educators use UDL in their physical or digital classrooms.

Information Technology and Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

Since the COVID-19 pandemic has required more online learning, teachers at all levels have been finding new ways to:

Students can access online courses from anywhere and interact with instructors and classmates in many ways, including:

  • Real-time video-conferences
  • Synchronous messaging
  • Email

Online platforms mean that school can continue even during a pandemic, with some creative thinking and some openness to change. In a similar way, information technology can help school staff at all levels, from classroom teachers to administration, design lessons that can reach the widest variety of students.

UDL and Online Learning

Instructors can create text-based lessons for students to read:

  • On a screen, with or without accessibility hardware or software
  • In hard-copy print

Instructors can also create audio or video recordings of their lessons for students to access on their own schedules. For instance, students can access lesson resources or recordings at times:

  • When they have most focus or energy
  • That do not conflict with other responsibilities at home or work

Students can also learn at a pace that works best for them, by reading, listening, or watching more quickly or slowly.

Moreover, instructors can also design lessons in real-time more universally, using information technology. For example, instructors can create documents with visuals and type their own alt-text, or display their speaking notes visually. Students can contribute to class discussions through video-conferencing, or write responses on an online discussion forum. Likewise, students can collaborate on group work in both ways.

In short, information technology makes UDL easier to implement than ever before. Furthermore, Information technology can compensate, to some degree, for physical inaccessibility. For example, a student may not be able to take an in-person course if it is offered in an inaccessible school building. However, the student can take the same course if it is offered through distance learning.

Our next article will explore how policies of Universal Design for Learning can support teachers using information technology to reach their students.